Soup has long been thought to have magical properties. It can cure a cold. It can turn a grilled cheese from a simple sandwich into a soup delivery vehicle. It can warm the hearts and souls of anyone coming inside from a chilly, blustery day. What most people don’t think about, though, is its ability to convince a child to try a new food. Now that’s a magic trick.
Kids are more accepting of new foods and new flavors when they come in a bowl. I can’t explain it, but I know it’s true. When I wrote “300 Sensational Soups,” there were plenty of unfamiliar and sometimes strange food combinations ladled out at my dinner table on a regular basis. What surprised me was that my kids seemed unusually open-minded to ingredients they’d either never tried before, or tried in the past and didn’t like.
Vietnamese pho, lima bean chowder and Sicilian fish soup were all met with, if not enthusiasm, then a certain curiosity, which led to the first sip, which led to the second and, well, you get the idea.
When introducing kids to new foods, success often rides on how a food smells, in addition to how it looks. That’s especially true of soup, given that so many of them look alike.
Perhaps that’s why peanut-based soups seem to work wonders when it comes to tempting children to take that first taste. The smell of peanut butter can be comforting to a child who loves it sandwiched between two pieces of bread — so much so that they’re often willing to look past the fact that they’re not used to seeing it in a bowl of steaming liquid.
In this Smoky Peanut Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup, a bit of peanut butter is swirled into a pot of cinnamon- and allspice-scented broth, studded with shreds of chicken and cubes of butternut squash. Chipotle chiles (smoked jalapeños) give the soup a subtle smokiness, along with a little heat. My family likes it on the hotter side, so I usually chop up two or even three for this recipe, but if you prefer it mild, one will certainly give the soup enough of its signature smoky flavor.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.