Friday, December 20, 2013

This Tastes Like Soup

Last week, I posted Scott's speech  from Dad's 60th birthday party and this week, I have posted my own speech from the evening.  It's not your typical speech/roast but rather the speech is in the form of a "book" that Dad wrote on the subject of soup.  I picked my way through the book and picked a few 'selections' and read them to the birthday crowd.  Here is the speech:

“This Tastes Like Soup – A Guide to the Perfect Bowl of Soup”
By Ralph Slingerland

Dedication – To my wife Elsie Slingerland – whose soup is no longer bland.

 Chapter 1 - Proper Soup Eating Attire

It is a scientific fact that soup tastes the best on Sunday.  I won’t explain the science behind this fact because you probably wouldn’t understand it anyway.  Chances are, you’ve made the critical and novice mistake of eating soup with your good Sunday dress shirt on.  Worse yet is eating soup with the top button done up and your tie on.  It pains me to see a good tie getting accidentally dipped into a good bowl of soup.  This ruins the tie and distracts the diner from fully experiencing the taste of soup due to the dagger-like glances coming from the wife.

Soup will raise your body temperature considerably, and if your neck is caught in the vice-like embrace of the top button, you are going to overheat and get the soup-sweats.  It’s not pretty.  Ventilation is important and should not be overlooked.  

Once the soup eating begins, splattering can happen.  A dropped meatball from you spoon can devastate your dress shirt.  Tomato soup does not easily come out of a white oxford.  Again, we want to avoid the dagger-like glances from our better halves while we are eating soup.

I always take off my dress shirt and put on something much more sensible – a well-worn waffle shirt.  A waffle shirt is like a bottle of wine – it only gets better with age.  You want to get you waffle shirts worn to the point that your chest hairs poke through.  This will indicate that the proper level of ventilation is achievable.  I would suggest getting a brown waffle shirt as well.  They fade to a nice dark beige colour – soup splatters will never be evident on a waffle shirt of this nature.  I emphasize the waffle shirt because not every pullover has been created equal.  My eldest son Derek mistakenly wore a thick felt hoodie to a Christmas dinner.  The result was not pretty – there was a lot of sweating, tugging at the neck and frequent outdoor excursions into the sub-zero temperatures.  Getting your waffle shirt to the proper worn stage will require you to wear the waffle shirt every day for months on end.  Your wife may not appreciate you wearing your waffle shirt every day (fact: most women don’t know what true fashion is) but she will appreciate not having to get soup splatters out of your dress shirt.

Chapter 3 – Proper Soup Eating Techniques

How we eat our soup is almost as important as the soup itself.  I prefer to sit at the head of the table.  Elsie sits to my left so that I can make various critical observations to her while eating.  She has come to enjoy and value my comments and suggestions.

A good slurp technique will allow you to eat piping hot soup without vaporizing your taste buds.  Your wife will probably not enjoy the slurping noises you are making but she will be pleased at your enthusiasm.

Keep your head low, ignore everyone around you and keep your mind focussed on the soup.  Don’t be distracted by the inane conversations that float around the table.  Don’t waste time dabbing your mouth with a napkin – you can clean up later.  Your wife will probably say something like “Wipe your mouth – you’ve got soup dripping down your chin.”  This is a good time to pass judgement on the soup.  Your comments will keep her mind occupied on how to improve the soup for next week and will leave you to enjoy your soup.

Chapter 10 – Proper Soup Eating Critiques

We must now tread lightly.  Critiquing soup can be a dangerous endeavour.  Many years ago, my wife remarked that I don’t compliment her enough.  The next Sunday, she had put together a great batch of soup and I decided I would compliment her soup.  “Good batch, Honey.  A lot better than the crap you made last week.”  Looking back, I can now see that this was probably not the best choice of words.   

You may from time to time experience a wave of nostalgia for your mom’s Sunday – especially if your wife’s soup happens to be particularly bland.  I can tell you from firsthand experience that your wife will not appreciate your suggestion to get the soup recipe from your mom.  Nor will she appreciate the suggestion that your mom can show her how to make soup properly.  

My critiques have become a lot more nuanced and subtle.  Sometimes I frame things as innocent questions.  One Sunday, I noticed that the soup had a plethora, or an overabundance of carrots in it.  How do you tell your wife that the carrots have tarnished a good batch of soup without hurting her feelings?  Try hinting at the problem in the form an innocent question.  I used this question in this particular situation: “Were carrots on sale this week?”  Notice how clever and subtle that critique was – mission accomplished.

Subtle questions are important.  Questions like – “Did you forget to add salt to the soup?” may be too direct and may not be appreciated.  If your wife asks you what you think of the soup and you are not at all impressed, I would also strongly advise that you refrain from making a grunting sound.


My wife has been making soup for over thirty years now.  She has generally mastered the art of making soup, but every now and again, I am needed to encourage, critique and suggest.  I have Elsie to thank for this book.  If it hadn’t been for the odd batch of poorly executed soup, this book would never have been written and I wouldn’t have been able to help countless families with their Sunday soup tradition.  If you’ve enjoyed this book, look for these other great titles by Ralph Slingerland:

101 Things to Know about Pork and Beans

The Perfect Boiled Potato

And coming out in 2014 – The Hot Dog Digest

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