Monday, December 2, 2013

Campbell's Cream of Celery Soup: the Conundrum of Thanksgiving Traditions

The paper is beginning to look aged and food spotted; it contains the recipe for an amazing squash recipe shared with me by my lovely Tennessee 'mama'.  The ingredients are fairly simple, but the taste is comfort to the core and each time I eat it (only during the holidays) I can visualize sitting in the basement in Nashville, TN, crowded between friends, laughing, sharing and enjoying mounds of food and blissful company.

Cream of Celery Soup

This year as I stood in the grocery aisle and picked up the Campbell's Cream of Celery soup can I begin to question holiday traditional recipes and the ingredients we use for them.  If I alter the recipe will I be altering 'perfection'?  Will I be scoffing at tradition?

I read the ingredients...
  • Water
  • Celery
  • Chicken stock
  • Wheat flour
  • Modified food starch
  • Contains less than 2% of: vegetable oil (corn, cottonseed, canola, and/or soybean), salt, cream (milk), soy protein concentrate, monosodium glutamate, flavoring, potassium chloride, mustard flour, chicken fat, dehydrated onions, yeast extract, beta carotene for color, xantham gum, soy lecithin.

Then I read the nutrition facts...
  • Nutrition Facts*
  • Amount Per Serving (serving size) = 1/2 cup condensed
  • Calories 100
    Fat Calories 60
    Total Fat 7g
    Sat. Fat 1g
    Trans Fat 0g
    Polyunsat. Fat 3.5g
    Monounsat. Fat 1.5g
    Cholesterol < 5mg
    Sodium 850mg
    Total Carb. 9g
    Dietary Fiber 3g
    Sugars 1g
    Protein 1g
    Potassium 100mg
  • % Daily Values**
    Vitamin A 10%
    Vitamin C 0%
    Calcium 2%
    Iron 0%

    * The nutrition information contained in this list of Nutrition Facts is based on our current data. However, because the data may change from time to time, this information may not always be identical to the nutritional label information of products on shelf.

    ** % Daily Values (DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
I put the can back on the shelf and perused the rest of the soup aisle looking for an alternative with less sodium and 'real food' ingredients.  No luck...

I went back and picked up the can again and placed it in my cart.  When I got home I was asking myself if I could cook with this product after the work I had just spent the last year doing with the Yes on 522 campaign and my beliefs surrounding cooking with whole food ingredients as much as possible?  

"Campbell Soup Company is a growing global food company with annual sales of more than $8 billion and powerful brands in three core categories: Soup & Simple Meals, Snacks and Healthy Beverages. After almost 150 years, we are still focused on delighting consumers with great-tasting foods and beverages that meet their evolving preferences, needs and desires" ( If you visit their website you can see the timeline of their 150 years as a company and you can see the list of fifteen other brands they own.  My perception is companies, such as Campbell's paint themselves as a family owned company who strives to meet customer demands and satisfaction.  However, they are large corporations, hiding behind their labels, owning numerous companies under one banner name, and using ingredients that are more chemistry than whole food.

Yes, celery is there on the ingredients list...
However, the majority of the ingredients are corn derived products; many of which are nearly impossible to pronounce or unidentifiable.  This fact does not align with my belief in using whole food products to cook with as much as possible.
The fact that Campbell Soup Company supported the No on I-522 side and has contributed large amounts of money against the labeling of products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) made my purchase of this can of soup very disturbing to me as well.

Cream of Celery Soup Recipe
Homemade Celery Soup

After arriving home I continued to search my conscience to see if I could continue to make this beloved recipe with the called for can of cream of celery soup.  I came to the conclusion that I was not going to be able to follow the recipe to the letter and needed to find a substitute.  After some recipe searching I discovered a lovely recipe containing whole food ingredients and fairly simple to make.

No, I did not follow the traditional recipe handed over to me. Yes, I experienced some guilt at altering the recipe.  However, the squash casserole I made this year aligned with the beliefs I have about cooking; the food I want to share with my friends and family; and it still tasted amazing!

I recognize that I have the privilege of choosing to use whole food ingredients in my holiday cooking and I can choose to alter my recipe to align more with my food journey and I realize that many do not have this choice.  I am extremely blessed to be on the food journey I am and to make the choices I want surrounding the food I eat.  During this holiday season, I want to keep traditions alive, but I also want to celebrate the creation of my own traditions and my passion for eating whole, local and sustainable food.  I believe we can keep our traditions alive while also making healthier choices.

I wish each of you a blessed, sensationally taste-filled holiday season from my table to yours!

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