Extraordinary Stories

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

The "Remembering Spelling My Name With Alphabet Soup?" Story

Some of my favorites while growing up!
It was an ordinary day.  Just had a bowl of Campbell's Tomato Bisque soup for lunch with my wife.  We like to mix it with milk while the regular Tomato soup we mix with water.  Goes good with a grilled cheese, just like when we were kids living at home with mom and dad.  Yesterday Carol made a Shepard's Pie casserole using Campbell's Vegetarian Vegetable Soup as the base for the casserole.  We got to talking about the other Campbell's soups we enjoy and remembered back to when we used to see how many words we could spell when we ate Campbell's Alphabet Soup.  Alphabet soup seems to be part of our history since Campbell's canned the soup in the early 1950s.  
Did you enjoy making letters when
a bowl of alphabet soup was placed
in front of you?
But, alphabet soup is much older than that  One legend says that about 85 years ago a noodle factory had an accident and a piece came out looking like the letter "C".  A factory supervisor saw that and decided alphabet noodles would be a hit.  Whether he made it into a soup at that time is unknown.  Another story says that in the 1930s Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal programs created an entire new menagerie of letters.  Both parties called the letters "Alphabet Soup" which became a linguistic phenomenon. FDR's "Alphabet Soup" went from novelty to an actual staple thanks to the Nation's Politics.  But, even before that, in 1922, Alphabet Soup manufacturers organized a convention to decide how to tell a comma from an apostrophe when it floated in their bowl of soup.  Over time it was said that alphabet soup, no matter who the manufacturer may be, actually increased literacy while people ate their words.  And, the earliest mention of alphabet soup being used for something other than eating was in 1908 when people were said to send messages to one another by means of their alphabet soup.  
Communicating in 1908 through soup!
In 1900 alphabet soup was sold in pound packages which cost about 25 cents.  Fourteen years before that a newspaper published a tutorial on macaroni and included alphabet pasta in that list.  But, the earliest date I can find when alphabet pasta was mentioned was shortly after the Civil War in 1867 when a South Carolina newspaper mentioned ... "the latest culinary novelty is alphabetical soup.  Instead of the usual cylindric and star shaped morsels of macaroni which have hitherto given body to our broth, the letters of the alphabet have been substituted.  These letters of past preserve their forms in passing through the pot."  
Andy Warhol's famous silkscreened Campbell Soup cans.
Once again, it was said the inventor of the letters wanted to improve literacy through the pasta.  So, it can be said that alphabet soup has been around longer than anyone reading this story.  As for who might have sold alphabet soup first, Knorr claims to have sold it in 1910 in Europe.  In 1915 Campbell's added alphabet letters to their soup in the USA and a similar product sold in 1930 in the United States, by H.J. Heinz.  On January 7, 2009 Colin Nissan set a new world record when he opened a can of Campbell's Alphabet Soup and spelled out PANTYHOSE in 1 minute, 25.77 seconds.  
An old game of Alphabet Soup I found
on eBay.  Not sure how much it brought.
While I was "Googling" alphabet soup I came across a link to eBay where I found what looked like a can of Campbell's Alphabet Soup, but found it to be a game you can play.  The game is played by 2 to 4 players and you shake the can filled with what look to be pasta letters.  You "pour" the letters into a small yellow bowl (included in the game) and scoop the letters out with a plastic spoon.  Idea is to spell as many words as you can with the spoonful of letters.  Most words wins.  My story ends with a note to tell you that I sent an email to Campbell Soup Corporate Archives and asked them how many of each letter are there in a can of soup.  As of this date, I still have no answer.  I guess they are still trying to determine how crazy I am.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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