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Speaking Volumes: Several books to consider for national soup month and national tea month

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Sacramento Bee video journalist Hector Amezcua shares his passion for menudo, a red stew with hominy, tripe and pork in a spicy broth.
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Sacramento Bee video journalist Hector Amezcua shares his passion for menudo, a red stew with hominy, tripe and pork in a spicy broth.

What better way to spend a chilly January day than warming up with a nice bowl of soup or a hot cup of tea?

January is national soup month as well as national tea month.

Historical evidence of soup dates to 20,000 B.C., when water was boiled over hot rocks inside clay vessels or water-proof baskets lined with animal hides.

In the 19th century, the advent of canning made soup a convenient ready-to-eat option. The Campbell Soup Company was founded almost 150 years ago in 1869, and in 1897 chemist John T. Dorrance invented condensed soup, which could be packaged in smaller cans and sold at a lower price.

Your local Manatee County library has some delicious soup-centric books.

“Cooks Illustrated: All Time Best Soups” (2016) by the editors of America’s Test Kitchen is full of hearty broths, rustic stews, elegant purees, and examples of the tastiest soups from around the globe.

“The Pho Cookbook: Easy to Adventurous Recipes for Vietnam’s Favorite Soup and Noodles” (2017) by Andrea Ouynhgiao Nguyen won a 2018 James Beard Foundation Award. Pronounced “Fuh” and not “Fo,” Pho is a nourishing and fragrant Vietnamese noodle soup that is perfect for the cooler months, but also refreshing in warmer months.

“Broth: Nature’s Cure-All for Health and Nutrition” (2016) is available as an e-book and contains delicious recipes for broths and stocks, the basis for all good soups, stews and risottos.

Winning chefs at a recent Biloxi Seafood Festival talk about what makes their gumbo recipes special.

Some people drink tea as an alternative to coffee, but tea has been the drink of choice for thousands of years, originating in China.

An ancient Chinese proverb says, “Water is the mother of tea, a teapot its father, and fire the teacher.”

In British culture, tea is a symbol of sophistication and for some people is nearly synonymous with what it means to be British.

Southern Americans live for iced tea, which was first introduced at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, as an accident. Tea merchant Richard Blechynden had intended on giving away free samples of his hot teas, but a heat wave had set in and no one was interested. To save his investment, the merchant dumped ice into his brewed tea, and his iced tea samples were a hit.

Most teas, not just green teas, have medicinal qualities and contain “polyphenols,” antioxidants that repair cells and help our bodies fight off diseases and cancers. Some also argue that many teas provide caffeine without the crash of coffee or sodas.

To learn more about the history and cultural significance of tea, readers might enjoy “Tea: the Drink that Changed the World” (2007) by John Griffiths, a world-wide history through the past 4,500 years of tea trade.

Similarly, “The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide” (2007) by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss takes readers through the Chinese forests where tea cultivation originated, to Buddhist temples in Japan, to the tea gardens of India and beyond, while also providing brewing and tasting advice.

Looking for an enthusiast’s guide? Check out “The Art and Craft of Tea” (2015) by Joseph Uhl, available in print at your local library, which includes a plethora of history and information, as well as recipes for crafting your own tea blends and tea cocktails.

Kaitlin Crockett is a librarian II and assistant supervisor at the Palmetto Library. Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday in the Bradenton Herald.

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