It took a long time for me to realize I liked tomato soup. Growing up it was my least favorite school lunch item ever. I can still picture the watery bowl of “soup” they would serve us in elementary school sitting there, staring back at me. It was almost as if the lunch ladies had watered down a big pot of water with a small can of V8 and some red food coloring.
For years I would see tomato soup on menus and just cringe at the thought of having to eat that watery gruel. What was so confusing to me was that someone must like it for it to be on so many menus.
I remember my ideas about tomato soup starting to change around the time I had a garden full of ripe tomatoes and was somewhat at a loss for what to do with all of them. The issue I had at the time was my garden was at my family’s cabin, and I was only there on weekends during the gardening season, which meant all the tomatoes had to be dealt with at once.
What I found working with fresh, garden ripe tomatoes was how easy it was to develop sauces and eventually soups that had a deep tomato flavor and a great, chunky texture that you could sink your teeth into. I still love the aroma that lingers in the air and on your hands when you’re working with tomatoes straight from the garden. It’s almost as if a part of the garden followed you inside to see what you were doing with all of its work.
I also realized that if you start with tomatoes as your base ingredient, instead of water, you got a completely different type of soup.
Over time, I’ve come to love all sorts of tomato soups; I am particularly fond of making big batches of gazpacho to keep around the house during the summer. I’ve also found that an excellent way to keep people happy on fall days at the lake is to be able to throw together a hearty tomato soup, along with a big platter of grilled cheese sandwiches.
Whether I make tomato soup with fresh or canned tomatoes usually depends on the season and the condition of the garden. And while beautiful heirloom tomatoes can bring something extra to the soup, compared to good canned tomatoes, I find there is so little difference between the two that I usually save my garden tomatoes for fresh dishes and usually use canned tomatoes for soup. I suppose if I ever get better at gardening, which isn’t very likely, I’ll start using home canned tomatoes to make this soup.
To celebrate the culinary wasteland of my youth I’ve developed a Tomato Soup that is simple, quick, and full of fresh vegetables that brings interesting flavors and textures together in a hearty soup that is the antithesis of what I had growing up and pairs incredibly well with chilly fall days.
Editors Note: We use to call our Tomato Soup recipe Not Your School Lunch Tomato Soup in an attempt to be clever. Like most of our attempts to be clever this one just confused people, so we decided to rename the soup to give it a better chance to find its place in the world.