My friend Lorraine has a golden soul. She’s the type of person who surprises you with coffee deliveries at that exact hour of need, who sends supportive texts throughout the day, who drops off mountains of groceries when you are recovering from illness. There’s a special place in heaven waiting for her, I am sure of it.
Yesterday she brought soups, and right at that hour when I needed a hot bowl of comfort. “Where did you buy this?” I asked her as I sipped a savory spoonful of shrimp wonton soup ($5.89 for 22 ounces at Ralphs). It featured bok choy, scallion, nice sesame flavor, and firm shrimp. It was the kind of soup that brings comfort right down to your toes when you’re not feeling your best. “Ralphs downtown on Market and G Street; it has an awesome Asian section,” said Lorraine. Mental note: start shopping at the downtown Ralphs. “I also like Bear Creek Country Kitchen dry soups [Walmart, $3.48 for a 9.3-ounce package that makes a half-gallon of soup]. And takeout from Souplantation — the chicken noodle is the best [$6.99 for a quart].”
I’d never heard such detailed opinions about soups. At least I’d certainly never formed any. I can whip up a mean chicken-noodle soup when my people need it. But some days I’m the one who needs it, and I’m not making it. In such cases, it’s nice to run out — better yet, send my man out — to grab a pre-made store-bought option. And I began to think that Lorraine can’t be my only friend with opinions on the matter. A few Facebook posts, emails, and texts later, and my new iPhone was a repository of soup information.
Friend Ella was another fan of soups from downtown Ralphs. “The miso soup is delicious. I like the crunch of the green onion. And the soup leaves a bit of salt on your lips and a citrusy tang with also a smoky quality. Three comforting flavors all at once [$5.89 for 22 ounces].”
“I like Amy’s Organic Thai Coconut soup,” said Kelly. “Delicious plain, but also good when you add chicken to it and make it hearty [$3.99 for 14.1-ounce can at Smart & Final].”
“I use a brand of soup called Pacific Natural Foods,” MaryAnn offered. “The Thai Sweet Potato is especially good. I dump it into a Crockpot with some chicken thighs and serve the slosh over couscous [$3.59 for 17 ounces at Sprouts].”
“Vons has a good selection of fresh soups in their deli section,” replied Cherie. “I like their Signature Cafe Fiesta Chicken Tortilla soup. It’s not broth-based but tomato-y [$4.49 for 24 ounces].”
“The organic tomato soup from Costco is the bomb,” exclaimed Sarah, who doesn’t mind dating herself with ’90s lingo. (Harry’s Organic Creamy Tomato Basil Soup is $9.99 for two 30-ounce cartons at Costco.) “I usually buy it when there is a coupon for it. Serve it with toasted pretzel rolls with melted cheese on top. The kids love to dip the rolls in the soup. Our second favorite is the chicken noodle from Costco. With a little French bread for dipping...yum!” (Rotisserie Chicken Noodle Soup is $9.99 for 64 ounces at Costco.)
“I like the potato soup from Smart & Final,” said Monica. “And the whole family likes it, which is an added bonus.” (Harry’s Loaded Baked Potato Soup is $8.59 for two 30-ounce tubs at Smart & Final.)
“I love three soups from Trader Joe’s,” offered Nancy. “The Butternut Squash soup [$2.99 for 32-ounce carton], the Organic Creamy Tomato soup [$2.69 for 32-ounce carton], and the Garlic Rice Noodle soup [99¢ for a 2.85-ounce bowl]. Those are faves in our home.”
Roisin also touted the Trader Joe’s Creamy Tomato Soup. “The kids really like it. It’s really creamy, and I love creamy soups. I have used it to make different dishes, so it is pretty versatile.”
Sande favored its spicy cousin. “Trader Joe’s Roasted Red Pepper,” she said. “It has just a little kick to it. I prefer a bit of spice.”