Campbell’s Soup Saves The World From The Coronavirus Apocalypse!

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I recently bought thirty-three cans of Campbell’s Condensed Soup.  And just in time, it appears.  They say that even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and it appears that my life (which has largely been lived out-of-phase from most popular trends) has managed to sync with today’s need for emergency preparedness.  So “No soup for you!” is not something that will be uttered in our abode for quite some time.

You probably figured that I was not stocking up to wait out the Coronavirus, although this has turned out to be a fortunate side effect.  I bought them at the behest of Mrs. JPC who saw them on sale at a local store – buy ten for a dollar each and get the eleventh for free.  But what better time to celebrate this quintessential American (processed) food product.

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Did you know that there was canned Campbell’s soup being manufactured and sold before 1900?  In fact, the company can trace its roots back to 1869 when fruit-merchant Joseph Campbell teamed up with an icebox manufacturer to offer canned fruits and other foods from a manufacturing plant in Camden, New Jersey.

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Joseph Campbell retired in 1894 and was succeeded by Arthur Dorrance as president, and the Dorrance family has owned the company ever since.  In 1897, Arthur’s son John figured out how to remove half of the water from the ready-to-eat canned soups the company had introduced two years earlier. Getting rid of that easily-replaceable water cut weight and costs all through the manufacturing, shipping and selling process.  All the home cook had to do was add her own water back into the soup as it came from the can, and there we were – American life as modern and up to date as the most recent John Phillip Sousa march played in the local park.  Which was the only way to listen to it because Edison would not perfect his Home Phonograph for another eleven years.

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The red and white labeling was applied in 1898 and the little gold medallion on those labels was added to represent the prize won by the company’s soups at the 1900 Paris Exposition.  American canned soup winning a prize in Paris – OK, I’m sold.  And there we are – everything was in place for corporate America to feed the Twentieth Century.  OK, maybe not until 1911 when the company achieved national distribution of this Philly and New Jersey staple.

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John T. Dorrance took over from Arthur in 1914.  We can think of him as sort of the Henry Ford of soup who tirelessly worked out the kinks in production and distribution efficiency, putting his family’s canned soups into pretty much every American kitchen.  His only son, Jack Dorrance, was eleven years old at the time of John T’s 1930 death, but grew up to maintain family control of a business that remains one of very few of its size with so much control from the family of the one who built it.  That family control has not been without controversy or disagreement in recent years (as in allegations that they take too much money out and have not invested enough back into the company), but that family ownership and control remains.

Did I ever mention that I once had dinner with Jack Dorrence?  I was visiting my grandmother in the old Philadelphia Main Line suburbs and we all went out for a meal.  If pressed, I would have to admit that my grandmother and I were at one table while Mr. Dorrence and someone else were at a different table several feet away from us.  But it was in the same room and at the same time.  So, yeah – and why do you have to be so picky about it?

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But back (in)to the soup.  By 1933 they were up to a 21-soup menu with such tasty varieties as Mock Turtle, Mutton and Mulligatawny which were chucked into the Delaware River long ago.

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Chicken Noodle and Cream of Mushroom expanded on the 21-soup menu in 1934, and it is difficult to imagine life without them.  Difficult for me, at least.

As an aside, it is difficult to remember a blog topic that was more awash in old advertising for use as illustrations.  Being able to be picky about which of the old ads will be lucky enough to be included here is a true luxury, one that I almost never get to experience.

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The American Thanksgiving table would certainly be different if someone from the Campbell’s test kitchen had not concocted that green bean casserole out of the company’s cream of mushroom soup in 1955.

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One of my earliest memories of a family meal was Campbell’s soup.  It must have been a busy day for Mom because that was dinner – My father and little sister shared a potful of Beef (with vegetables and barley) soup while my mother and I feasted on Bean with Bacon.  Bean & Bacon soup became a favorite of mine, as long as there was about a half-sleeve of saltine crackers to crunch up into it, making sort of a Bean & Bacon-flavored masonry mortar, which would probably be favored by bricklayers everywhere.  It would certainly smell better than the regular stuff.

Given my experience with my mother’s homemade soup, is it any wonder I developed a fondness for the kind from the red and white cans?  And no, the advertisement above does not really depict the relationship between my parents in the years before their divorce.

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Campbell’s has saved my bacon more than once during Lent with its classic Tomato soup.  Although it has also started some disagreements at home about whether it should be made with milk, cream, or water.  However it may be mixed up, just add a grilled cheese sandwich and who the heck needs fish?

I have watched in dismay as my old favorite red and white cans have slowly and steadily lost shelf space to other products.  And when the eleven-cans-for-ten-dollars promotion was conceived, I doubt that the Coronavirus was on anyone’s mind.  It certainly was not on mine as I scooped cans of Tomato, Chicken Noodle, Cream of Mushroom and others into my cart.  But what a time for them to be out of my Bean & Bacon!  Grumble.

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I was initially heartened to find Franco-American and Chef Boy-Ar-Dee products offered on the same terms.  Mrs. JPC, however, told me that I have no business eating that stuff.  So I passed on the Italian-But-Not-Really-fest that I had briefly (but mistakenly) seen in my future.  I realize that there is mighty little Italian left by the time those pasta dishes get crammed into those cans, but we must make allowances for convenience.

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So do your worst, Coronavirus.  We are all souped-up and ready for you.  We have thirty three cans of soup (plus what was already “in stock” in our pantry) and plenty of water.  So bring it!  M’m M’m! Good!

Photo credits:

Opening photo by Famartin, via Wikimedia Commons under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license

The rest is vintage Campbell’s advertising material, being used more or less as intended.

32 thoughts on “Campbell’s Soup Saves The World From The Coronavirus Apocalypse!

  1. Bean with Bacon? I did not know about that. Now I’m curious.

    My relationship with soup has been tumultuous, primarily due to my father making “soup” that was nothing but iffy-looking leftovers dumped into a pot together. Sorry, macaroni and cheese doesn’t belong in soup – especially when mixed with meatloaf, chow mien, and canned spinach. He called it soup, I did not. Mom always humored him with this but only in the last ten or so years have I been able to work past the trauma.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, my own mother’s attempts were not much better, which is why the red and white cans were a Godsend. The thing I can’t seem to reconcile is this: Out at any decent restaurant, soup is akin to an appetizer before the main course. At home with the just-add-water kind, it tends to be the entire meal. The idea of heating up a can of soup to go with a good homemade dinner has never crossed my mind even once.

      I am now reminded that the chili recipe that Mrs. JPC inherited from her mother has become obsolete and had to be replaced when Campbells discontinued its Chili Beef soup. I am also told that one of my departed mother-in-law’s early efforts at homemade spaghetti sauce started with Campbell’s tomato soup. No, she was not Italian – why do you ask? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We are not so well provisioned. I went and checked, and could only find one can of Campbells consomme in the cupboard. Mrs DougD was permanently scarred by her diet growing up and tries to avoid canned soup. Now soup in tetrapak boxes is apparently OK, we have several Campbells tomato coconut boxes.

    Back when I was a lad of about 10 helping my uncle fix his 1948 Mercury we had Campbells chicken noodle soup for lunch. For some reason my aunts and grandmother weren’t around so my grandfather uncle and I had soup together. Pretty strong memory, that was the only time just the three of us shared a meal.

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    • I have never ventured into the box soups, and this is the first I have heard of tomato-coconut. It sounds intriguing.

      The chicken noodle was always a staple of sick-at-home days. It was never my fave, but does hit the spot when I am home with the flu or something. We will see if it does the same thing for Coronavirus if I get unlucky.

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  3. I enjoyed several varieties of Campbell’s soup growing up, including Tomato, Vegetable, the now discontinued French Canadian Pea, Beef Barley, Chicken Noodle, Chicken and Rice, to name my favourites. We have probably six cans in our pantry, probably mostly tomato now, the others deliver too much sodium for my Mrs’ liking these days. I once enjoyed the Chef’s cooking, notably Ravioli and Beefaroni, but they never find their way to our home.

    Somehow when our kids were growing up my eldest came to enjoy Zoodles and Alpha-ghetti, the combined effect I coined the term for, “Goofy Ghetti”. I think he has finally eliminated that from his palate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “The Chef” – I like that description. There was always something really satisfying about a plate of hot canned ravioli with some bread and butter on the side to sop up the tomato sauce at the end.

      I once worked with a guy who spent some time working at a Chef Boyardee plant in northern Indiana. He said that they made one sauce and piped it to every one of their production lines no matter what shape the pasta was. I did not doubt him for a moment.

      I now wonder how some company called Franco-American got by with making Italian-ish food. I guess Spaghetti-Os had more potential than Escarg-Os?

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  4. Love the bean with bacon! 🙂 I also enjoy the Campbell’s Chunky version of it. And when I have an upset tummy, I always reach for the Beef Consumme 🙂 Glad you are well-provisioned for these crazy times.

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    • I’m seeing the beginnings of a bean with bacon fan club. I have not tried the chunky version. I cannot break free from sirloin burger and the steak and potato. I hope you avoid the need for any of the Consumme for the foreseeable future!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I actually did the 10 for 10 (11 for 10, actually) before we midwesterners had any idea of what we were looking at. Still regretting the lack of ravioli and Beefaroni in the pantry.

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  5. The great 10 for 10 sale. I’m guessing Meijer? They used to include the individual red peppers. Jen uses 4 or 8 of those a week and then I would stock up on enough 2 liter sodas to make 11 items.

    I’m not a big soup fan, although Chicken Noodle is pretty good. On the other hand a grilled cheese sandwich with a side of Spaghetti-Os is a near weekly meal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oooh, grilled cheese with Spaghetti-Os sounds pretty good, actually. And yes, it was Meijer. About 2 weeks after that trip I was lucky enough to grab the very last loaf of any kind of bread in the whole store – how quickly everything turned around.

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  6. I love Campbell’s tomato soup and my mom always substituted a can of milk for the can of water – back in those days we always had whole milk, so it was extra tasty and creamy and more of an orangy-red color. It paired nicely with grilled cheese – no better comfort food, except perhaps mac-n-cheese. Mom would not buy the Campbell’s Tomato Rice, and just threw some rice in the pot when heating up the soup instead. I did that once and the rice was crunchy – must have been some secret to that. 🙂 When I lived in Canada we used to get Campbell’s Scotch Broth soup, but I don’t think we had it after moving here, and if we did, it was not for long. It was made with barley, vegetables; not a lot of meat in it though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are whole milk people still, so I understand the rich result you get with the tomato soup. I don’t remember tomato rice. It would be an interesting dig to find a list of every discontinued variety.

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      • I drink skim milk now but don’t like it at all. Tomato rice has white rice. If you use milk, not water – mmmm good. You should do a follow-up JP re: the discontinued soups and I’ll bet that Campbell’s would be happy to accommodate you, especially as their soup gains a resurgence with the pandemic.

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  7. I certainly grew up with Campbell’s Soup, especially Tomato on cold winter days (with saltines, or if Mom was feeling generous, grilled cheese), and Cream of Mushroom in tuna-noodle casseroles, but I don’t think I’ve had any for years. Every month or two I boil up all the leftover chicken bones in the freezer, for broth, and make soup from scratch. My last effort was pretty darn good, if I can say so myself, with chard, kale, leeks, garlic, sweet potato, onions, carrots, beets, and chicken plus a few other things I can’t remember. It was tasty, and it helped clean out quite a bit of leftovers from the fridge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think of real homemade soup and Campbell’s as the same thing at all. “Real” soup can be a real treat. Mrs. JPC makes a delicious ratatouille and an excellent chili. The cans are sort of a cross between nostalgia and convenience, sort of like those rare occasions when you hear a favorite old song on an AM radio. You know it should sound better but you enjoy it anyway.

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  8. I sure hate to be a party pooper among all you Campbell soup lovers—and JP, I know you’re ok in this regard because I’ve busy-bodily queried your dietary choices once before—but please consider this a public service announcement. If any of you have high blood pressure that may make you sensitive to salt, you may want to check the soup label’s sodium content before your daily intake. Or you could say, “Listen, we’re in the middle of a pandemic; if I want comfy Campbell’s soup, I’m gonna have it.” Your choice, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Good grief, you guys are paying way too much for your Campbell’s. I can get it for 54 cents a can here in Canada, so the next time it’s on sale and the border is open you might want to make a soup run! The exchange rate would make it even cheaper. Alas I only have 7 cans in the pantry, four vegetable, one cream of mushroom, one tomato and one of that sick day staple, chicken noodle. I haven’t had bean and bacon in years, thanks for the reminder. I enjoyed the history lesson and the old advertisements.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmmm, foreign trade shenanigans? I wonder if there are soup mules who smuggle your cheap soup into the US where it is sold on corners for maybe 80 cents? Your prices seems to me what the stuff ought to cost, but then I still think the mac and cheese in the blue box with the orange powder inside should still cost 19 cents.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I suspect the stores are using the 54c soup as a loss leader to get people into the stores so they fill their carts with everything else when all they went in for was the soup!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I had Campbell’s Soup quite often when I was little, but I haven’t bought it in years. The only canned soup I buy now is the CENTO brand; their Chicken Noodle and Pasta Bean varieties are the best I’ve found. Campbell’s is really not that good. Progresso is a small step up from Campbell’s.

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  11. To be honest, I’m not that fond of canned soups since my mother makes great soup. However, I do like Campbell’s Pork & Beans w/my hot dogs. I noticed that I haven’t seen Campbell’s beans on my local supermarket shelves for the past several weeks. I hope they didn’t stop making them.

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    • I think I read somewhere that Campbells started the pork & beans to use excess capacity when soup production was in a lull. We here in the midwest are fans of Van Camp’s Pork & Beans, part of the Stokely company (before it was bought up by Quaker Oats quite a few years ago).

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