Is Cereal a Soup?
If you have an opinion on the cereal-soup debate, it's probably a strong one.
When it comes to great food debates, “Is cereal a soup?” ranks right up there with “Is a hot dog a sandwich?” And while you may not have given it much thought before now, we can practically guarantee you’ll be mulling over the question all day. After all, you eat cereal from a bowl with a spoon…you know, just like soup.
Then again, cereal is eaten cold in the morning, often with red cap milk. So it’s not soup, right? Well, soups like gazpacho are served cold. And some soups have grains in them, like cereal.
It’s enough to make your head spin. Whatever side you’re on, the “is cereal a soup?” debate definitely qualifies as food facts trivia. Here are some other points to consider when making your argument.
What is soup?
Um, hot liquid that you slurp with a spoon? Correct, but if you’re looking for an official definition, you’ll have to consult Merriam-Webster. According to the dictionary, soup is “a liquid food especially with a meat, fish, or vegetable stock as a base and often containing pieces of solid food.”
Dictionary.com, however, goes one step further and says that soup is “a liquid food made by boiling or simmering meat, fish, or vegetables with various added ingredients.”
Why do some people think cereal isn’t a soup?
People who consider Merriam-Webster the authority on defining things point out that cereal doesn’t meet the dictionary’s definition of soup. While it qualifies as a liquid food when eaten with milk, and it does contain pieces of solid food, it doesn’t contain meat, fish, or vegetable stock. Cereal doesn’t fit Dictionary.com’s interpretation either. Most cereal isn’t boiled, is it?
Other people point to the temperature of the things. While there are a couple of popular cold soups (including that aforementioned gazpacho), soup is usually equated with a hot meal. Most cereal is not consumed hot—unless you count oatmeal, which sparks a whole other debate.
And then there’s the sweet-savory divide. Soups are generally savory and often have an umami flavor, while cereal tends to fall into the sweet category, even if you’re opting for something healthy like Raisin Bran.
Plus, a lot of melding of flavors, culinary techniques, and food interactions need to occur in order for a potful of ingredients to become soup. Yet simply adding milk to a bowl of dry cereal is still a tasty breakfast. And even when eaten dry, cereal is still considered cereal.
Why do some people think cereal is a soup?
Aside from the fact that it’s eaten in a similar fashion to traditional soup, people who have given this fascinating topic a lot of brain space argue that soup doesn’t need to be hot to qualify as soup. Yes, there’s gazpacho, but there’s also cold cucumber soup, chilled avocado soup, and more. Soup isn’t bound by temperature, they say, which means cereal isn’t discounted from the definition.
But what of the base? People who answer “is cereal a soup?” with a resounding “yes!” point to cream-based soups. Potato soup, clam chowder, broccoli cheddar—all use milk as a base, just like cereal does. So in this case, cereal milk could be considered a broth. (Though we’ll point out that those soups also use a stock of some sort.)
If all this talk of cereal and milk has you hungry, pour yourself a bowl of your go-to grain, then top it with your milk of choice (but first find out how long milk lasts).
Is cereal a stew?
To find out whether soup’s chunkier cousin describes cereal, we’ll need to consult the dictionary once again. Merriam-Webster defines stew as a “fish or meat usually with vegetables prepared by stewing.” (In case you were wondering, stewing is “to boil slowly or with simmering heat.”) So clearly there’s a difference between soup and stew.
Since you probably aren’t cooking your Corn Flakes, and since stew isn’t served cold, cereal seems to be much closer to a soup. At least that’s settled!
Should we agree to disagree?
Probably. Whether you insist you’re eating soup for breakfast each time you pour a bowl of Cheerios or are adamantly against classifying the sweet stuff as a soup, you’re not wrong. In fact, there is no right answer to the question “Is cereal a soup?” But there is comfort in a bowl waiting for you, whatever you choose to call it.