Modernistic Tomato Soup

vintage ad for a canning kettling

Canned tomato soup has its charms. Or at least so believes Wayland Gladstone Hier, who, in The Manufacture of Tomato Products: Including Whole Tomato Pulp or Puree, Tomato Catsup, Chili Sauce, Tomato Soup, Trimming Pulp (1919), tells us that “canned tomato soup is a commodity which is increasing in favor with the housewife.” She is lured, Hier explains, by its easy modernity. “How much more convenient the modern way is,” he writes, “and when the quality is just as good and often better than can be obtained the long troublesome way, it is natural that canned tomato soup should become increasingly popular.” Canned tomato soup, Hier concludes, “is also cheaper than buying the canned tomatoes and making the soup from them.”

If you too find canned tomato soup an alluring food, but think it too insipid for the dinner table, try the following “modernistic” recipe for tomato soup with stock from Jessie Marie De Both’s Modernistic Recipe-Menu Book of the DeBoth Homemaker’s Cooking School (1929). It’s economical and avant-garde (by early-twentieth-century standards, that is).

Tomato Soup with Stock

1 chopped onion… 2 whole cloves… 1/2 teaspoon celery seed… 6 each peppercorns and tomatoes, or 1 qt canned tomatoes… 1 tablespoon flour… 1 tablespoon shortening

Take bones and trimmings from roast beef or steak. Cover with cold water, twice as much as the meat, add seasonings and cook slowly 2 1/2 hours. Skim off fat, add tomatoes (cook 1/2 hour if fresh tomatoes are used). Skim out bones and meat, and strain liquor through a puree strainer, rubbing all the pulp through. Heat, thicken with flour cooked with the shortening. Serves 8


Baumgarthuber, Christine. Fermented Foods: The History and Science of a Microbiological Wonder. Reaktion Books, 2021.

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