I didn’t mean to write about Campbell’s soup. You see, I started out pondering a super French soup recipe, Velouté aux Champignons. Somehow I ended up contemplating Campbell’s canned Cream of Mushroom Soup, definitely not one of Antonin Carême’s sauces mères or Mother Sauces (velouté, espagnole, allemande, béchamel)! Though you could argue that Campbell’s soups play the role of sauces in retro American cooking.
If you’ve ever eaten soup from those little red-and-white cans, you’re really taking in one of the most successful stories of American capitalism ever witnessed. Even Andy Warhol succumbed to the charm of the Campbell Kids and painted iconic cans that command top dollar among collectors.
And that little gold medal seal on the can? Campbell’s won a gold medal at the Paris Exposition in 1900; up until recently, a picture of the medal appeared on every label. The medal is no longer used.
As you might have guessed, Campbell’s has been around for a while. Joseph Campbell began his career as a fruit vendor. In 1869, he and a partner Abraham Anderson, an icebox manufacturer, founded the Anderson & Campbell Preserve Company in Camden, New Jersey. The company canned tomatoes, vegetables, jellies, condiments and mincemeat, taking full advantage of the improved technology for canning foods. In 1877, Campbell bought out Anderson and changed the company name to Joseph A. Campbell & Company. Dr. John T. Dorrance, a chemist working for the company for $7.50 a week (!), developed the process for making condensed soup in 1897. Each can sold for ten cents; later the price jumped to twelve cents a can and stayed there for years.
In 1916 the company produced its first recipe guide for consumers, “Helps for the Hostess.” And there followed an onslaught of advertising booklets and full-length books, including the 300+ page The International Cook (1980). Of course, the cute Campbell Kids helped to project the message of soup eating among millions of American children.
The Campbell Soup Company began producing “Cream of Mushroom Soup” in 1934. But it wasn’t until 1955 that Campbell’s hit on a sure-fire hit with a full-proof and witlessly easy recipe developed by a 29-year-old Campbell’s home economist named Dorcas Reilly: a green bean casserole that combined canned cream of mushroom soup, canned green beans, and canned French-fried onions.
And, as any American knows, that casserole means “traditional” Thanksgiving. Forty percent of Campbell’s sales of Cream of Mushroom Soup occur around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Dare I suggest that cream of mushroom soup conveniently surfaced when mushroom cultivation became firmly established, the threat of mushroom poisoning receding in the America’s mycophobic (mushroom-hating) culinary culture?
You may at any time access recipes with Cook with Campbells.
Joseph A. Campbell would say, “Mmm, mmm, good!”
Velouté aux Champignons
Adapted from a recipe by Marie-Pierre Moine’s Soups and Vegetables/Les Potages et Légumes (1994). This is not a true velouté, but more like an allemande, but not even that because of the lack of flour. The potato serves as a thickener.
1 pound brown button mushrooms (cremini), thinly sliced
2 shallots, finely minced
1 large waxy potato, peeled and diced
4 – 6 T. unsalted butter
1 quart homemade chicken stock
1 T. sherry or 2 t. brandy
1 egg yolk
4 T. (1/4 cup) heavy cream
1 T. finely snipped parsley or chives
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a sauté pan, melt half the butter over moderate heat. Stir in the mushrooms (reserve a handful for garnish), shallots, and potato, season with salt and pepper and cook gently for several minutes, until the shallots turn translucent.
Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer, stirring from time to time. Reduce the heat a little, cover, and cook gently for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring a few times. Meanwhile, in a small frying pan, sauté the reserved mushrooms in the half the remaining butter for a few minutes. Sprinkle with the sherry or brandy and set aside.
Leave the soup to cool for a few minutes, then process in a blender or food processor. Return to the pan and adjust the seasoning.
In a bowl, mix the egg yolk with the cream, then stir in a ladleful of soup. Pour this liaison into the pan, stir well over low heat until piping hot. Add the sautéed mushrooms. Adjust the seasoning. Whisk in the rest of the butter and, if you like, sprinkle with the snipped herbs. Serve piping hot.
Classic Green Bean Casserole
from Campbell’s Kitchen
NOTE: My family makes this with slivered almonds mixed in with the soup along with some grated cheddar cheese. The French-fried onions go on top after the casserole is bubbling and cooked for about 2 -3 more minutes. A version of the “amandine” or “almondine” method.
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell’s® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup (Regular 98% Fat Free)
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Dash ground black pepper
4 cups cooked cut green beans
1 1/3 cups French’s® French Fried Onions
1. Stir the soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions in a 1 1/2-quart casserole.
2. Bake at 350°F. for 25 minutes or until the bean mixture is hot and bubbling. Stir the bean mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining onions.
3. Bake for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.
For more about Campbell’s:
America’s Favorite Food: The Story of Campbell Soup Company, by Douglas Collins (1994)
Campbell Kids : A Souper Century by Aric Chen
Campbell Kids Alphabet Soup: An ABC Book, by Henry Abrams, Inc. (2004)
Campbell Soup Company (Images of America) by Martha Esposito Shea (2002)
Condensed Capitalism: Campbell Soup and the Pursuit of Cheap Production in the Twentieth Century, by Daniel Sidorick (2009)
© 2010, 2015 C. Bertelsen