friday feast: a soup poem for starters

“My greatest strength is common sense. I’m really a standard brand — like Campbell’s Tomato Soup or Baker’s Chocolate.” ~ Katherine Hepburn

1946-ad-tomato-soup-campbells (2)

For my first Poetry Friday post of 2013, the best first course I can think of is a warm, comforting bowl of tomato soup. It’s pretty iconic as soups go — simple and undemanding, it hits the spot on snowy wintry days, has the power to transport us to childhood lunchrooms, and loves to tango with a good grilled cheese sandwich. It became our official soup because of its deep color and accommodating thickness, providing the perfect cushy bed for alphabet pasta. 🙂

Back in 2007 when I first polled fellow writers about their favorite soup, tomato was the clear winner. Nothing like a mom-approved bowl of certainty to ward off loneliness and self doubt. A very good reason to put on your favorite bib today and enjoy Mark Irwin’s savory, minimally seasoned poem. Thank goodness for something basic we can count on!

tomato soup two 500

by Mark Irwin

The simplicity of unadorned taste:
tomatoes, flour, salt. Unceremonious
and so unlike an English stew.

No hidden bones, chunks of meat.
No skeletons in our closet,
Can of soup, can of water.

You eat it after doing simple things:
skating, skiing, or just taking a walk
down a street of look-alike homes.

No iron kettle to hide ingredients.
A stainless steel pot on an electric range
works best. Do not add salt or pepper.

The simplicity of unadorned taste.
We love it the way the Italians
love tomato sauce with basil:

as a stronghold of culture,
a stubborn remembrance of revolution,
of green vines tied to stakes
and the pendulous warm red fruit.

~ from Quick, Now, Always (BOA Editions, 1996), first appeared in Atlantic Monthly

tomato plant
via dbesa

Tasty, no? Okay, you’re all set. Sally forth and have the best year ever — and Happy National Soup Month!


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poetryfriday180The inimitable, infinitely talented, Yeats-loving Renée LaTulippe is hosting today’s Roundup at No Water River. She is probably, at this very moment, lapping up some of the aforementioned tomato sauce with basil in her cozy Italian hideaway. I’m dreaming of an Italian Grilled Cheese-n-Tomato Sandwich to go with my tomato soup: bring on the olive oil, garlic, and smoked mozzarella! Enjoy all the poems, have a delicious weekend, and Buon Appetito!

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♥ Don’t forget to take my Soup Month Poll in the sidebar! Do you have a favorite tomato soup memory?

♥ Famous Tomato Soup lovers: Mariah Carey, British golfer Nick Faldo, Steve Forbes, actress Melissa Joan Hart, British newspaper magnate Lord Beaverbrook.



Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

34 thoughts on “friday feast: a soup poem for starters

  1. Great poem! And I would love to join you and Renee for some soup and sandwiches with lots of garlic and smoked mozzarella- and maybe even a glass of chianti!


  2. I love the way the poem pushes on the rightness of “unadorned”. I still have one pan that my mother cooked in, & it is the soup pan! Yes, we did have tomato soup & grilled cheese sandwiches, cold winter Saturdays after sledding. My granddaughter has been introduced, but (she’s 3 1/2) prefers ‘yellow’ soup to red. Her mother makes a terrific squash soup, & that’s the yellow! Lovely to make memories, & that bunting is adorable!


    1. There is much to be said for the “unadorned” in our spoiled, materialistic culture. I hope to make some “yellow” soup this winter with butternut squash. And perhaps my word for the year should be “simplify.”

      Love that you still have your mother’s soup pan — I have one of Len’s mother’s small enamel pots, perfect for warming up canned soup. 🙂


  3. Great quote, Jama. I love thinking of Katherine Hepburn as a Hershey KISS. Will eating chocolate make one a better writer?
    Have a great weekend. Thanks for a good post.


    1. Is the Pope Catholic? Of course eating chocolate will make you a better writer!! 😀 (Not that I need an excuse to keep eating more of it.)


  4. HAPPY NEW YEAR, Jama! What a perfect poem for January. Love:

    “No skeletons in our closet,
    Can of soup, can of water.”

    Mmmm, mmm good.

    [Now I really want some tomato soup and a grilled cheese! It’s dreary and gray here today. And thanks for sneaking in another artsyletters offering over on the sidebar… ;0) ]


      1. Thanks, Jama! My husband and I both work from home. He came up for lunch and asked what we should have… ;0) I thought we had a can or two in the cupboard, but no. So he made a little pot of tomato soup from scratch, and I got my grilled cheese sandwich too. All because of this post today! Yum.


  5. Very back-to-basic post with the unadorned tomato soup – served with neither salt nor pepper – just ‘can of soup, can of water’ – whipped up with love’s creamy thickness, and the flushed red of a new romance. Tomato soup. Only you can serve it with such panache. And of course Mark Irwin. 🙂 Lovelovelove this. Happy New Year beautiful!


    1. “love’s creamy thickness”, “flushed red of a new romance” = my, but you have such a poet’s soul, Myra! In your case, tomato soup is not just tomato soup!!


  6. I went out and bought tomato soup (Campbells, of course!) after reading this. I’ll sample the taste and the mood in a day or two after I finish my homemade veggie soup. Clever poem, Mr. Irwin.


    1. If you don’t like the taste of this canned soup by itself, you can always use it to clean copper pots — it’s also very versatile to use in casseroles, goulash, etc.


  7. My new favorite kind of grilled cheese sandwich to eat with tomato soup: crusty bread, brown mustard, sharp-sharp cheddar cheese and…wait for it…pepperoni! YUM!


  8. I just love how poetry can be about anything and everything. Your soup post makes me feel all cozy inside and, believe it or not, hungry for a bowl of Campbell’s made with milk and served with crackers (Saltines). Thanks!


  9. So awesome that there is a poem for my favorite soup! Oh, for a bowl of “the pendulous warm red fruit” on a wintry day when the spirit just might be low. Thank you, Jama!.


  10. I really like tomato soup. I would even go so far as to say it is my favorite soup and this tomato soup is one of the best I have ever eaten. Better than the tomato soup at Bread , better than the tomato soup at Nordstrom Cafe (which is surprisingly good for a department store restaurant), better than any I know. It is relatively easy to make and comes together quickly. I make this pretty regularly during the winter and never get tired of it. Let it offer you some comfort on a cold snowy day (it is 4° F in Chicago right now). It is particularly nice with some Parmesan toasts to dunk into it. Or maybe some mozzarella melted on top. Some fresh chives? Feel free to improvise.


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