Homemade's the way to go if playing with your food appeals

  • Homemade Alphabet Soup is an excellent way to get kids and grownups, too, to eat their vegetables.

      Homemade Alphabet Soup is an excellent way to get kids and grownups, too, to eat their vegetables. M. Eileen Brown | Staff Photographer

  • Courtesy of the Ottumwa Semi-Weekly Herald

Posted9/6/2017 6:00 AM

My mother always told me not to play with my food.

Of course, that doesn't mean I listened -- or still do, even now. I am old enough to know better, but I can't eat an Oreo without twisting it apart first. I chomp the heads off chocolate Easter Bunnies, and I eat peanut butter out of the jar.


Oh, and I'm a sucker for alphabet soup. What's not to love about spelling and slurping, especially when you're diving into a steaming hot bowl of vegetable goodness?

But, no, that doesn't mean I am eating alphabet soup from a can. Homemade alphabet soup is as easy as making an excellent vegetable soup. The only trick is to make sure you cut all the veggies super small, so they don't overwhelm the alphabeto or alphabet-shaped pasta.

Basically, it's your standard mix of onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, peas and corn -- plus I added a sweet potato and a red pepper into the tomato based broth. It's a longtime favorite, but with a little twist with the whimsically-shaped pasta. This soup is also fairly bland for younger taste buds so feel free to perk it up with garlic and other spices.

Hard to believe, but alphabet soup has been around for a very long time. Just after the Civil War, the Raleigh's Tri-Weekly Standard reported:

The latest culinary novelty is alphabetical soup. Instead of the usual cylindric and star shaped morsels of macaroni which have hitherto given body to our broth, the letters of the alphabet have been substituted. These letters of paste preserve their forms in passing through the pot.

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Under President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, "alphabet soup" became a political term to describe all the different programs that were being rolled out.

It didn't become a household staple until Campbell's started selling its condensed version, where it became a lunchtime favorite for children growing up in the 1950s and '60s. It's still a perfect way to get the little ones to eat their vegetables -- and work on their spelling.

Today, the hardest part of making homemade alphabet soup is finding the gosh-darned pasta. If you can't find it, any small pasta will do. I admit I had to order it online, where there's a wide variety of choices. Make sure to read the reviews -- some of the pasta seems to disintegrate after cooking, making the letters illegible.

And that's the last thing you want when you are playing with your alphabet soup -- no matter what your age.

• M. Eileen Brown is the Daily Herald's director of strategic marketing and innovation and an incurable soup-a-holic. She specializes in vegetarian soups and blogs at soupalooza.com.

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