Soup isn't food. It's a lot of other things, though

Caleb Walsh illustration

Soup is what your garbage disposal makes when you put soggy hash browns along with the pan film left behind by some eggs down the drain and run water over it. Soup is what happens when you drink beer before liquor. Soup is ruined pieces of once-good food submerged in liquid.

Soup is a job killer for inner mouth and jaw muscles. Soup is what you find at the bottom of your vegetable crisper after you let all your vegetables go bad. Soup can be prepared ahead of time and allowed to coagulate before tossing into the trash can.

Soup is an old wives tale you pretend to believe because it's easier than arguing with your aunt who is convinced her particular recipe is a cure-all. Soup is what a hot dog is before being rolled into hot dog shape. Soup is a publicly acceptable cry for help.

Soup is what you burp up and swallow a second time. Soup is what collects under your grandma's kitchen sink in big glass jars that nobody will explain to you. Soup is a marketing tool used by the tin can industry to manipulate you into buying more tin. Soup is a symbol of existential soggy nothingness.

Soup can be used under the eyes to reduce puffiness. Soup is what happens in a fish tank if you don't clean it. Soup is a vehicle for soup-borne disease. Soup is a vehicle for crackers, cheese, thick slices of French bread, bread sticks, and more cheese. Soup makes a lasting impression — but is it the impression you want to make?

Soup is neither a solid nor a liquid. Soup is the only reason for the existence of all these goddamned spoons. Soup is a very minor contributor to climate change, but one that should be taken seriously.

Soup is what collects in garbage cans right before airport security. Soup is an economic burden on this country. Soup causes soup breath. Soup is a known catalyst of preventable emotional outbreaks. Soup is what causes those misleading aromatic smells in cafeterias.

Soup is leftovers that have been left out in the rain. Soup is a valid reason to dread the winter months. Soup would be a pretty name for a girl. Manipulating soup with one's hands has become a YouTube sensation. Soup is a cosmic portal to the most boring iteration of yourself that can be imagined.

Soup is what worms make, and worms can also be an ingredient in soup. Soup can be used in your hot water bottle as a substitute for water if you don't want to waste water. Soup is the visual symbol of a lifetime of disappointment. Soup picks up where paste left off.

Soup is a misappropriation of precious resources. Soup is what you swish around in your mouth before the dental hygienist tells you to spit. Soup is conceptual art meant to provoke feelings of abandonment.

Soup can (and will!) make you feel bad about yourself somehow. Soup is on the menu purely as a psychological test. Soup can be used in sound effect studios to heighten the realism of sloppy sex scenes. Soup is, on its best day, goo. But soup isn't food. ♦

Chelsea Martin is the Spokane-based author of five books, including Caca Dolce: Essays from a Lowbrow Life. Her website is

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