I was a Campbell’s Soup Kid. Any time was soup time and I would have soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

When I was little, I always had a thermos of Campbell’s with me, but that’s because I was always either at the ice rink or going to or from the ice rink. I didn’t regulate heat very well, (still don’t) so the fastest thing to help raise my core temperature was a steaming bowl of soup.

My mom was a creature of habit, certain varieties were always served at certain times. Cream of mushroom was for early morning car rides to the rink. Chicken noodle with O’s was for after school sessions before I hit the ice. My favorite, Chicken with Stars, was usually saved for when I was sick.

In high school, I continued to be Campbell’s crazy. I’d sneak away at lunch to a friend’s house to whip up a quick batch. We were really into the creams at that time; celery, asparagus, chicken, broccoli and of course mushroom all made with milk whisked with a fork.

In grade 12, I was given this wonderful Christmas gift by my BFF:

I travelled with this mug and would only eat my Campbell’s in it.

Around that same time, I began going out with a guy that looked a lot like the kid on the right. I used to call him my “Campbell’s Soup Kid”. Not that he didn’t have the chubby cheeks of that kid, but when he saw my mug and what I was referring to, it wasn’t long before we were not going out anymore.

Throughout my university residence years, my love affair with the red and white cans continued and I started to get “creative” with my soup. I sprinkled tomato soup liberally with Kraft parmesan for added texture and saltiness. I poured cream of mushroom soup onto microwaved potatoes. I had a boyfriend in 3rd year who loved tuna casserole with cream of broccoli soup and rippled chips crumbled on top. I had more than my fair share of tuna casserole, but thankfully as my relationship with him ended, so did my foray into casseroles.

I still say I can eat soup every day, and I often do. And even though I always have a few cans of Campbell’s in my cupboard, I’ve graduated on to making my own from scratch. Most of my homemade soups take a fair bit of time to make and look nothing like anything I grew up eating. I would love to try the luxurious recipes I see for bisques and cream of… soups, because I’m somewhat conscious of creams and fats I don’t allow myself to make them. So I roast and blend and try to create soups as soothing to the soul as Campbell’s can be. I found a Jamie Oliver recipe for mushroom soup that looked like it might give my favourite label a run for its money. It was easy to make, fairly healthy and tasted marvelous. It was Campbell’s soup mug worthy… If only I still had that mug.

the real mushroom soup (from JamieOliver.com)

• a small handful of dried porcini
• olive oil
• 600g mixed fresh wild mushrooms, cleaned and sliced – I used chanterelles, portabello, shitake, and crimini
• 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
• 1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
• a knob of butter
• a handful of fresh thyme, leaves picked
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 liter chicken or vegetable stock, preferably organic
• a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
• 2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese – I didn’t bother with this
• 1 lemon
optional: truffle oil – I didn’t have this but had truffle salt with was a great addition

Place the porcini in a small dish, add boiling water just to cover, and leave to soak. Get a large casserole-type pan nice and hot, then add a good couple of lugs of olive oil and your fresh mushrooms. Stir around very quickly for a minute, then add your garlic, onion, butter and thyme and a small amount of seasoning. After about a minute you’ll probably notice moisture cooking out of the mushrooms and at this point add half of your porcini, chopped up, and the rest left whole. Strain the soaking liquid to remove any grit, and add it to the pan. Carry on cooking for about 20 minutes until most of the moisture disappears.

Season to taste, and add your stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for around 20 minutes. I usually remove half the soup from the pan and whiz it up to a purée at this point, then pour it back in, adding the parsley and mascarpone, and seasoning carefully to taste.

You can serve this soup as you like, but there are a few things to remember when finishing it off. Mix together a pinch of salt and pepper with the zest of one lemon and the juice of half of it, then spoon a little of this into the middle of the soup. When you go to eat it, stir it in and it gives a wonderful flavour. Other things you can consider are little slices of grilled crostini put into the bottom of the bowls before the soup is poured over. Or you could even quickly fry some nice-looking mushrooms – like girolles, chanterelles or oysters – and sprinkle these on top of the soup. If I was going to use truffle oil, then I would use it on its own – a few drips on the top just before serving.

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