Souptastic.

Confession: sometimes I eat soup from a can.

Not a can of soupish contents that I dump into a pan and add water or milk to…I’m talking straight from the can itself.

Like, stick a spoon in and go for it. But not all soups are created equal. There’s only one soup that I’ll do this with: cream of mushroom.

When I was younger, say, 7 or 8, I’d add the customary half a can of milk and half a can of water to my condensed goodness, heat it up, then let it cool so that I could dump it into a large cup and suck it all through a straw. It was delicious, and somehow I didn’t mind that the bits of mushroom generally caused many a blockage. People were repulsed by this; it made me want to do it more often.

In my 20s, I started cooking with the stuff. I’d bake some chicken and dump a can over everything towards the end, and I’d always marvel at how the soup turned into a magical, sumptuous gravy by the time everything was ready. Good eatin’.

About a year ago, I had an uncanny craving for soup. I wasn’t sure if I was in the mood for clam chowder, split pea or cream of mushroom, canned or homemade, so I set out for Ralphs. The mushroom caught my eye first, and it happened to be a can of Healthy Request from Campbell’s. Or maybe it was a low-sodium option. It might’ve even been both. Regardless, I bought a few cans and had every intention of bringing it home and having a grilled something-or-other sandwich alongside it.

Didn’t happen. I pulled the pop-top lid off and couldn’t resist sticking a spoon in, just for a taste, of course. The taste turned into a few spoonfuls, and before I knew it I was rinsing out the empty can and tossing it into the recycling bag.

Lacking a sophisticated palate? On occasion. Trying to recycle whenever I can? You bet.

I’ve tried to replicate that first delicious, non-mixed can experience a few times, and I can vouch for the fact that not all condensed soups are on equal footing. For example, if my can dining wasn’t bad enough, I saw Walmart’s generic brand of cream of mushroom soup and thought I’d try to sit down for a feast that was cheaper than the first. It was cheap, alright. The taste was horrible.

It was plain ol’ condensed soup; I imagined it being from a botched batch that Campbell’s had discarded and sold to a needy, er, soupery. Nothing healthy about it, nothing else that had been requested of it. It was a weird gelatinous mess of incredibly salty, lumpy albino matter. Thumbs down. Note to self: peanut butter is no longer the only thing I will buy with a brand name…soup is now on the list, too.

That said, it was still considered food and still had the ability to provide nourishment. So what can a can of unmixed soup teach you? Even a can that provides less than ideal eats? That eating can be cheap when you need it to be. That the can you’re holding in your hand is, sadly, a whole can more than what many people have in this country. Where some go hungry, who are we to turn our noses up at food of any sort — even if it’s food that isn’t eaten in its usual way?

Tonight I am thankful for having plenty, for a life where I’ve never wanted for anything and for the awareness and appreciation for all that I have.

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