This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
The 60up question is one, again, of "gas-tronomical education." The general pub-He, as we know it by hotel contact, demands thick soup, and all thin soups, clear soups, consommes, are repelled as insults to a good appetite, as signs of stinginess, as "dishwater." But writers like Sir Henry Thompson, author of "Food and Feeding," are opposed to thick soups, especially to cream soups, at least as preliminary to a dinner, because they take the appetite away. And yet thick soups are very good indeed, and among the best things which the best cooks can produce, and the cream soups are the prime favorites; it is not the soup, but the proper use of it which should be considered. An impecunious or frugal-minded man with fifteen cents in his pocket may step into a Chicago restaurant in the proper season and obtain for that sum a bowl of genuine turtle soup, of more than a pint, thick with meat, and a plate of bread accompanying it, and of that he makes a meal, a good wholesome meal, and walks out unburdened by over-feeding and in good trim for business or labor.
But if, after the soup, even though in small quantity, he should seriously set himself to consume his share of a complete hotel dinner he would do himself an injury, and if the dinner were his primary object he should take only a thin soup, the thinner the better.
The human stomach will hold but a quart of semi-solid food, but liquids are absorbed and out of the way immediately. Doctor Andrew Coombe, himself a victim of hereditary dyspepsia, some forty years ago went to a French watering-place to study the subject of the "Stomach and its Difficulties," and seeing how some patients would drink as much as ten pints of spring water before breakfast and then without any diminution of appetite would straightway go and eat a full meal, understood that the water was immediately absorbed through the coats of the stomach and did not interfere with its capacity to hold solid food. People who are gastronomically educated act upon such knowledge, and take only a small quantity of clear soup or consomme, which is sufficiently thin to be soon absorbed, as a preparation of the stomach for a full meal to follow, or else, if they take a thick soup, they make a meal of that, at least in part. The hotel table, well provided, offers two soups, a thick and a thin one, and the diners choose as they please.
The mistaken "notion should not be entertained, however, that the thin soup is cheap; as it is made by the best cooks it is quite expensive, partly because it is a strong essence of meat, a sort of beef tea with all solid particles removed from it, and partly because of the large amount of white eggs wasted in clarifying it to that very transparent and brandy-like thinness which so many of our patrons condemn it for. And, again, when there is no particular need of adding to the number of dishes merely for style, one soup is sufficient, and that should be a thick one, as the hotel table will gain the more credit for it. But hotel providers often run to extremes in this line, also, and serve abominable mixtures as thick as porridge, messes that can be taken up on a knife point. That is not what is meant by thick soups so much as is having soups with something in them; neatly cut pieces of meat or vegetables, of clams and potatoes, of fried crusts or sippets; not porridge, but soups with morsels to be found with the spoon and enjoyed because the appetite is then fresh and keen. That is the motive as well with clear soups, the consomme with green peas or asparagus tips.
If the soup is worth serving at all, there should be at least a third of a plateful, if not half; let the people leave a little if they will, but the mere spoonful that just covers the plate, as served in some places, affords no satisfaction to anybody, not even to the cook, who knows that there is not enough in such a portion to allow his efforts at a skillfull combination to be appreciated. But, of course, if your soup is bad the less you serve the better.