Kids’ Corner: "soup, glorious soup!"

During the First Empire, roughly four in of five French people lived in villages or small towns. Many worked as farm labourers, craftsmen, merchants or doctors. Some were rich, and lived comfortably, whilst some were forced to live “hand-to-mouth” because their fields were too small to produce enough food to sustain them and their families.
For hundreds of years, the most common and popular dish eaten in the countryside was soup. Families would often eat nothing but soup, as it could serve as a main meal for everyone.
Cooks would first of all make up a stock by boiling some meat in lots of water. The meat would then be removed to be served separately, and the stock used as the base for the week's soups. A large variety of vegetables, either picked from the garden or bought at the market – including leeks, carrots, turnips, cabbage, lentils, corn, beans, peas, chestnuts – were then added. To thicken the soup, lard, rice or small pasta was used. Unlike the smooth blended soups of today, however, soup during the First Empire contained large lumps of vegetables and meat. There was still one more thing to put in though. Chunks of bread, the essential foodstuff in the French diet, still needed to be added. To get an idea of just how important bread was to the average Frenchman, here's a statistic: on average during the period, a working adult would eat the equivalent of at least four whole baguettes a day, whilst a child would eat about two baguettes a day.
There were two ways of eating your bread and soup. One way was to pour your soup onto huge thick slices cut (often with an axe!) from a “miche de pain” – a large round loaf of bread. Another way was to drop lumps of bread into the soup itself, like big croutons.
And don't forget that the soup would be eaten three times a day, at every meal: breakfast, lunch and dinner!


Period Recipe

 A recipe book from the First Empire offered this advice when making soup: Soup "au naturel"Take care, when preparing your bread chunks, to put them in the soup pan and to pour enough stock over the top to soak them. The bread must be swimming in the stock. If so desired, you can add vegetables to this.C.P. (tr. H.D.W.)

Type of Recipe