Did Andy Warhol ever think this would happen when he painted his soup cans?
Bonus: Social commentary and recipes.
This post has been on the backburner for a while, largely due to this earlier entry which was posted in its place, which you should read. I think enough time has passed to make today's post not come off as insensitive, so here goes.
Yes, you heard right. A soup that is meant to replicate the experience of eating a cheeseburger. Only in America. It’s hard to think of a situation in which one would readily forego the experience of having a cheeseburger but instead have it in soup form, but here it is.
Being the foreign exchange student exploring all that this wonderful country has to offer, it would be remiss of me not to give it a taste test. So yesterday, under the watchful and bemused eye of my roommate Jack, I cracked open a can of the stuff and cooked it.
The colour was a lurid yellow-orange. Almost luminescent. This isn’t actually unusual for American cheeses, but it was distinctly unappetising. It was also very much a soup, with chunks floating in a mass of liquid. The consistency itself is like runny Chile con Queso (a cheese dip that is popular in Tex-Mex cuisine). The “burgers” themselves were tiny slabs of processed meat, about two centimetres wide. Most of the bulk came from chunks of potatoes.
It took a few minutes on the stove, but then it started bubbling away like a pool of lava. Eventually it came time to put it into a bowl, serve up some toast alongside and give it a taste.
In short: pickles and failure.
To be fair, it did kind of taste remotely like a cheeseburger, just one that had been overloaded with pickles and mustard. But the pickleness of it was dominant to the point of being overwhelming. The “burgers” were flavourless, and the cheese without any bite.
It was a struggle to get through the whole bowl. Immediately after the first spoonful I could feel a headache coming on, and by the time I got to the end I felt nauseous. This was a disgusting experience.
On a Serious Note
There’s actually a roundabout point to all this, that ties in with the post that displaced this one last year.
This soup was terrible, without nutrition, flavour or comfort.
And sadly, it’s crap like this that actually ends up on the shelves of food banks, being reluctantly handed out to struggling families across America. There are so many better options available, even in the world of canned soup. Quite frankly, donating cheeseburger soup to a food bank is not far removed from kicking a family in the teeth.
Thankfully, not all the food in food banks is this terrible (the thousands of cans of vegetables supplied in the Cox School of Business MBA canned food drive last year went some way to making sure of that). Moreover, many food banks are becoming more specific about what they will accept. And yet, some people still think that cheeseburger soup is appropriate to donate to those who can’t afford to eat.
A Better Option
Rather than leave you on a preachy, bitter note, I though I’d at least demonstrate that it is possible to make something tastier, more nutritious and, dare I say it, cheaper than canned soup, using ingredients that are either available from food banks or can be substituted for such.
In order to balance out the terror wreaked upon my body by lunch yesterday, for dinner I made up a bowl of broccoli pasta. It’s a highly adaptable, quick and tasty meal:
Get a pot of water boiling. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, pour in the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Once the water’s boiling, throw in the pasta. Mash the tomatoes up with a fork or spoon and add the broccoli/vegetables. Cook the pasta according to the packet directions, and drain once cooked. Add a dash of olive oil to the sauce and stir through pasta. Serves 4 (or two if you’re me).
(If you only have one pot, make the sauce first and put aside in a covered bowl, then stir through the pasta once it’s cooked over a low heat.)
Cost per serving: $0.60
By comparison, a single serve of cheeseburger soup will set you back $0.85. With the money saved, you can make a basic green salad to go with the pasta.
So there you are, a cheaper, healthier alternative to canned soup. Better yet, the variations on the recipe are virtually infinite, depending on your taste and what’s available. On the subject of tasty food, it would be wrong of me not to give a shout out to another place to go for recipes that won’t blow the budget. My wonderful friend Emma Robinson’s column in Lip Magazine, “A Yummy Substitute for Maccas”, is worth the read.
If you want to help out those who are unable to get food on the table, your local food bank is always looking for support. In Dallas, you can donate or volunteer at the North Texas Food Bank.
Observations on music, coffee, and the occasional controversial thought.
Copyright © Gerard Atkinson 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the owner is strictly prohibited.