There's big money in every bowl. What national soup month means to you
Among other distinctions, including being one of the coldest months and home to the Chinese New Year, January is National Soup Month in the U.S. So here's a deeper look at some of the most likely reasons soup is so celebrated and what you can do to cash in on soup's "souper" powers.
Big money in every bowl
Restaurateurs love when customers order soup. Some estimate that soup can boost profit margins on the average restaurant tab by as much as 60%. Considering the average bowl costs about $.75 to make and sells for an average $3.50, that's definitely cause to add a bowl or two to the menu.
Of course, soup can get pretty pricey. A bowl of The Original Soup Man's soup will set you back anywhere from $3.99 to $10.99, depending on the type. Of course, you'd better order properly and be sure to move to the extreme left. Otherwise, "no soup for you!"
While soup has always been a popular dish, the recession may have led to a cooling of America's love affair with this meal in a bowl. Soup giant Campbell's saw a loss in net earnings in 2009, reporting $736 million vs. $1.1 billion in 2008, despite the fact that some of their soups cost nearly as much as a bowl out -- a can of Campbell's Select Harvest Vegetable Medley soup costs nearly $3.
The healing powers of soup
No matter how fiscally profitable soup is, health experts say every bowl or ladle really could be packed with healing powers. Here are a few varieties you might want to check out this month:
Chicken Noodle. Don't save this bowl of liquid goodness for days when you or your kiddies have the sniffles. Annie Neuendorf, MPH, a registered and licensed dietician at Northwestern Memorial's Wellness Institute in Chicago, says, "The zinc, which supports a healthy immune system, in chicken enhances the absorption of the vitamin A, which is needed for healthy bones, teeth and eyes, [found] in carrots." That means eating a bowl of chicken noodle can help your body better fend off -- or fight -- a winter cold.
Tomato Bisque. Packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, one bowl of tomato bisque can provide as much as a full day's serving of both lycopene and vitamin C. Neuendorf says all that C and other vitamins will help maintain your overall health. But the lycopene, studies have found, can also keep your ticker going strong and help you fend off cancer, too. Plus, this is one soup that goes great with warm, crusty bread.
Beef Vegetable. When all that fiber from the beans mixes with the protein in the beef, you've got a meal that's as good for your waistline as it is for your body. And since obesity is quickly on it's way to becoming the most expensive, health-related medical condition, eating something that tastes good and won't spend a lifetime on your love handles is good for your pocket, too.
The last drop
No matter what flavor you favor, the eating of soup has been a subject much talked about by etiquette mavens for decades.
Bennet Cerf, a 20th century American humorist, once said, "Good manners: the noise you don't make when you're eating soup."
And don't crumble your crackers, either. Mistress of manners Amy Vanderbilt once said, "Larger soda crackers should not be crumbled into the soup and are best kept on the plate and eaten with the soup. The exception to this would be when eating chowder. In this case, the water biscuits served with it are meant to be crumbled into the soup." Now if only I had a packet of water biscuits handy.
Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance journalist specializing in health, celebrity and consumer issues.