Sometimes it feels like the rules of food are arbitrary. I recently learned that brunch has a delineated start and end time, and don't even get me started on breakfast foods. What makes a scone different from a crumpet, and where do biscuits fit in? Soup is another one of those foods that seems to defy explanation. It can be made of basically anything, and it can be cold or hot. This brings us to the question of the day- is cereal considered a soup?
Cereal is Cereal, Soup is Soup
Well, they're both mostly liquid and are served in a bowl, so why not? I looked up the definition of soup at dictionary.com, and this cleared up some confusion. Soup is "a liquid food made by boiling or simmering meat, fish, or vegetables with various added ingredients." So, to answer this burning question, based on dictionary.com, cereal does not count as a soup. Unless you eat your cereal full of boiled meat, fish, or vegetables, that is.
Using this perspective, soup is mostly defined by its preparation. From tomato soup to chowder to chicken noodle soup, soup is made from boiling solid foods in liquid. The liquid can be water, cream or chicken stock, and it seems like the solid ingredients can be any meat, fish or vegetables.
However, this definition doesn't account for gazpacho, a cold soup from Spain that is made by pureeing veggies, chilling and serving. It never gets simmered or boiled, and yet it is most definitely a soup! There are also sweet soups that are never boiled, for instance Chè Thái, a Vietnamese sweet soup that is considered a dessert, a soup, and a fruit cocktail at the same time. It seems that this topic needs more investigation...
If you check the Merriam-Webster dictionary, soup is defined as "a liquid food especially with a meat, fish, or vegetable stock as a base and often containing pieces of solid food." In this definition, a bowl of soup doesn't necessarily have meat, fish or vegetable stock as a base. Based on this, any liquid food with pieces of solid food would be considered a soup, so cereal would count!
I'm trying to sleep but I need to know this first, is cereal a soup?
— ?¿?💉🩸TripleQ Vtuber (@TripleQ_VT) September 16, 2021
This definition really opens up the possibilities for soup, leading us to question every liquid dish that contains solid food in it. Is a bloody mary a soup? What about a root beer float? Where does it end? In this school of thought, maybe a hot dog is a sandwich and ketchup is a smoothie.
Using this assessment, the milk in your cereal is akin to the broth in a soup, and the cereal pieces themselves are the solid food. In this case, no matter which cereal grains you choose, your cereal is breakfast soup. The cheerios, corn flakes or lucky charms in your bowl of cereal are floating in milk broth, making up a cereal soup!
Listen to Your Heart
The more we research this absurd question, the more complicated it seems to get. Wikipedia lists different kinds of soup, and "cold soup" is shown as a variety. However, in the list of specific soups, breakfast cereal is not mentioned. So where does this leave us?
It seems to me that, like many things in life, there's no right answer. This is a question you must answer within yourself, based on the definition of soup that you most resonate with. If it feels right to accept cereal into the food group of soups, do it! Your breakfast experience will be forever changed. However, if you feel that it would be a disservice to either cereal or soup to combine their identities, keeping them separate is equally respectable.
This post was originally published on November 5, 2020.