First, a disclaimer: Soup is good. Soup is sometimes great. Homemade chicken noodle on a cold winter day? Wonderful. A bowl of Italian wedding that you saw on the specials board at a diner and ordered on a whim? Probably a great decision. Hell, I’ve had clam chowders that I still think about frequently, even today, years after I scraped (and debated licking) the bottom of the bowl, restaurant etiquette be damned. No one here is saying soup is bad. Let’s make that clear.
But let’s also make this next part clear, too, now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way: Soup — all soup, any soup — is the saddest lunch.
I think a hypothetical will help explain.
Okay, picture this: You walk into a restaurant for lunch. It’s mostly empty, just a few business people at a table in the center discussing the meeting they’re going to or coming from, and one old man over in the corner, sitting by himself. You sit down and peruse the menu. Everything looks pretty good. Maybe you’ll have the Reuben. Yes, you will definitely have the Reuben. You’ve earned it. As the waitress walks over to take your order, you spy, out of the corner of your eye, the old man pulling his spoon out of his soup bowl and blowing on it to cool it off. He moves the spoon to his mouth and takes a kind of slurping bite, then removes it to start the process again.
If you are like me, you are devastated by this, for him. I’m not even sure why. The thing about him sitting alone probably has something to do with it (I admittedly pressed my thumb on the scale a bit there), as that is something that always looks a little sad to other people, even if there’s something liberating about eating by yourself in a restaurant if you can quiet the internal voice telling you it’s weird. (It’s even kind of a power move, if you play it right.) But now run through the same hypothetical with other foods. They’re all less sad, right? Examples:
Sandwich – Eating a sandwich is not sad, in company or alone, because sandwiches are eaten on the go. That old man is too busy for utensils, what with his exciting personal and professional responsibilities. No, he only has time for something he can eat with you hands. “Who’s that high achiever?,” people will say when they see him. “Is he the CEO of Google?” Nope, just a hungry person eating lunch with his hands.
Cheeseburger – Cheeseburgers are never sad. Look at this girl. Her cheeseburger looks like a gross homemade Big Mac and she loves it.
Big freakin steak and a slice of pie – Have you ever seen someone sit down at a restaurant and order a big freakin steak and a slice of pie for lunch, by themselves? It is fascinating. I’ve only ever seen old people do it. I just want to run up to them and start asking them questions. What else do you have going on today that you can eat all that at noon? Are you taking a nap? What do you eat for dinner if you ate a big freakin steak and a piece of pie for lunch? Another big freakin steak and piece of pie? What is your blood pressure right now? Infinity over infinity? Have you been eating huge lunches like this your whole life? How are you so skinny? What is your secret? Are you a wizard? Can you conjure away my student loan debt? I’ll bring you more pie if you do.
Garden salad – Even salad is more uplifting than soup, because salad implies a health conscious person who could be going to or from the gym. Why, I bet that fit grandpa is wearing an Under Armour tank top under his jacket. I bet he’s got those wiry old man muscles. He probably won the Golden Gloves in the 50s. I bet he’s secretly way into mixed martial arts and has taken out a mugger as recently as last week.
But soup? Nope. You know who eats soup before going to the gym? No one. It would be so weird. Like going to the gym in khakis. All that hot broth sloshing around in there. No, if you’re eating soup, you are telling the world you are done with strenuous activity for the day. You’re probably sick, too. Sick people eat soup. Get out of that restaurant and go to the doctor. You’re getting your germs on everything.
Maybe it’s the blowing on it that makes it so sad. It’s hard to look cool while you’re blowing on soup. Unfortunately, it’s even harder to look cool doing that silent scream where you close your mouth as the hot soup scalds your tongue, trying to breathe tiny breaths through your puckered lips to suck in cool air without dribbling chicken broth all over your shirt. There’s no winning with hot soup. Your only option is to sit there and stare at it until it relents and drops to an acceptable temperature. Or put an ice cube in it. But… is that even sadder than blowing on it? I think it might be.
(Quick, what’s the saddest soup? Don’t think, just shout out a name. Go. GO. Now. Did you say “minestrone”? I bet you did.)
And again, this is coming from a devoted soup lover. One who often eats lunch alone at home, in sweatpants, because I am apparently a stereotype of a blogger now. Last week I had a Mediterranean Lentil soup that blew me away. The week before I had my mom’s homemade split pea, which she throws a huge ham hock in and I will literally cut you over. I probably eat soup for lunch two or three days a week in the winter. I’m right there in the muck with you on this one.
But it is a fact, and when you heat up that soup in the break room and bring it back to your desk to eat a few days from now, please know that people are looking at you and thinking “Aww, poor…” whatever your name is. It might be subconsciously. Their brains might just take the information from their eyes and file it away without them realizing it. But one day, at some undetermined point in the future, it will crop back up and it will affect their treatment of you at some point in the future. They’ll pity you. That’s going to happen. There’s nothing you can do to info it.
Because, I repeat, soup is the saddest lunch.