The USA is definitely weaker on the prepared soups game. The small selection that exists is either brothy like chicken noodle soup or ‘Italian wedding’, or excessively, gelatinously, cream-based like baked potato soup.
This lack of enthusiasm for soups is reflected in a non-existence of prepared soup mixes. Many of the required vegetables may already be prepared here and perhaps an avid soup maker could use these rather than feeling prescribed to by the retailer to have butternut squash with chilli?
In the centre of the store on prepared vegetables currently, and featuring increased merchandising, are prepared ‘base pots’. There are finely diced onions, diced celery, diced celery and onion, diced green pepper and onion, diced green peppers and Mirepoix (carrot, onion and celery).
The pots are 7oz or 200g, and priced at two for $5. The onset of winter means more comfort food and home cooking. The holiday season, which covers Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas, also means more entertaining. Many of these items are used as bases in stuffings to accompany turkey. The terms ‘stuffing’ and ‘casserole’ in the US provide a much wider breadth than the UK.
The base pots could just as easily be used for stews, casseroles, chillis or bologneses. The rise of meal prep home delivery kits is well documented in our industry on both sides of the Atlantic, but ‘meal prep’ groups (or ‘squads’ as they are known here) have had a parallel growth in the US for both social and convenience drivers.
Aiming to economise on time, like the online option, the groups give you the opportunity to try ‘Julie’s poppyseed chicken’ without having to commit to buying a jar of poppyseeds/all the other spices yourself. It is demographically hitting an older group than home delivery, as the younger cash rich doesn’t want to devote a few hours on a Sunday for 40 freezer meals. The busy mum or empty nester will. Particularly as they also get to chat, and have a glass of wine. They are a fascinating DIY parallel.
Before I leave you thinking that home cooking isn’t dead in the US and all faith isn’t lost, I was asked by my American host to bring a vegetable side dish to Thanksgiving to go with the roast: a ‘traditional’ sweet potato and brown sugar casserole with mashmallow topping. I’ll just leave that vision with you.