As has been pointed out more than once (generally by me), you have a very smart mother.
And when it comes to serving soup at a formal dinner, I serve in the kitchen and allow (and by “allow” I mean conscript) guests to deliver filled bowls to the table.
Recently a Smart Young Man (who we shall hereafter refer to as SYM) was cheerfully helping (and by cheerfully, I do in this case mean cheerfully) and asked me why soup bowls have rims and why someone would design a fancy soup bowl that is the configuration most likely to spill. SYM may go on to be an engineer—I’m fairly certain he will not be a fashion designer if he continues to ask practical questions like that.
Since I adore answering interesting questions, I looked it up. (My original answer “because that’s the type of bowl that came with the china” didn’t seem sufficient.)
Guess what? My original answer is pretty darn close.
But because I’m that kind of mom, I’m filling in the blanks with lots of interesting soup bowl trivia.
And if that doesn’t make you happy, you should talk to the SYM who inspired this blog.
In general, the texture and temperature of the soup is what determines what kind of bowl should be used. For example, think about French Onion soup which is served in a lug soup bowl (if you want to know what a “lug soup bowl” is think about French Onion soup).
If you are ever going to appear on Jeopardy! you should probably be aware that there are 7 different kinds of soup bowls. (Not counting whatever kinds were used in The Tale of Despereaux.)
The exception to the texture/temperature rule is The Formal Meal at which one should only use the aforementioned easily spill-able soup plate. And soup plates always have rims. I repeat: Always. No one knows why. They just do. Let me know if your Foods teacher has anything useful to say on the subject.
The coupe soup (and isn’t that fun to say) bowl is a saucer-shaped bowl used only for informal dining. Because apparently one doesn’t want to spill on one’s informal clothes. I’m not saying it makes sense. The coupe soup bowl is also used when overthrowing governments.
The soup-cereal bowl is also used only at informal meals. This bowl is also known (at least in some circles) as the Oatmeal Bowl. Sometimes has a rim; sometimes is rimless. It’s the wild child of soup bowls.
The covered soup bowl is useful if your kitchen is several kilometers from the dining room. It is (stick with me now) a soup bowl with a cover. If you are ever served such a thing, the correct etiquette is to remove the lid (unless the waiter does it for you in which case you are not to wrestle it away from him) and place said lid, rim side down, on the side of the underplate (which I’ll get to momentarily). Then, before the soup course is cleared, you should be sure to replace the cover.
Do not ask me why one would have a waiter and a removable cover at anything other than a formal meal because frankly I don’t have a clue.
Moving along to number 6 (go count if you don’t believe me), we have the cream soup bowl (with saucer). The cream soup bowl (with saucer) is used to serve pureed and cream-based soups. It is bigger than the bouillon cup (and saucer) which is used to serve clear soups.
If you find yourself at an event where you are served clear soup in a bouillon cup (on its saucer), you must know that you are either to use a spoon or to drink from the cup but never, oh never, alternate because that’s just plain tacky.
A final note. Underplates are placed (are you still with me?) under the bowl of soup to help protect the table from heat and spillage. Also it looks better. Even bowls with saucers, go on an underplate. In my house, the underplate is just called a plate. But from now on maybe I’ll call it George.
You will note that the seven kinds of soup bowls can all be washed and therefore the bread bowl (yum) is not officially considered a type of soup bowl. Which I also don’t entirely understand.
Then there are bowls for miso soup and pho and all sorts of other things.
If I were you, I’d be very careful about answering soup bowl questions on Jeopardy!
Furthermore, this has nothing to do with the Orange Bowl and the Super Bowl. I’ll have to write another blog about the connection. Check back.
See what happens when you ask a question?