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Is Cereal a Soup? The Big Controversy!

Is Cereal a Soup? The Big Controversy!

There have been many controversies that tear the Internet apart, but perhaps none so divisive as whether or not cereal is considered a soup.

No matter what you read here, there will be many chefs and cooks who will dispute our findings.

Cereal, with milk, is considered a soup, according to the definition of soup in major English language dictionaries.

Is Cereal a Soup?

Cereal with milk is considered a soup, albeit a cold soup, according to the definition of soup in the Oxford English Dictionary and other major dictionaries of the English language. Soup is given a two-part definition. Cereal as soup would fall under the second part of the definition, where a substance is the equivalent of the soup described in the first part of the definition.

The Definition and Changing Nature of Soup

Soup is an English word, but it derived originally from “sup” the Proto-Germanic language. All it meant was “eat something liquid.”

This morphed into the Vulgar (meaning common) Latin word suppa. That did not mean soup as we think of it today. 

Suppa was a broth poured over toasted bread and eaten that way. Suppa eventually became, by linguistic twists and turns, into the French word soupe.

Many of the culinary terms in English derive from the French. Soup itself was not invented by the French, just the usual meaning of soup that we have today.

For the French, soup was a dish best served hot. There were broths made of clear liquid or cream-based.

You did not have to pour the soup over bread, but you could use bread to accompany the soup and wipe up the bowl to get every last drop.

English itself has changed considerably in the centuries since it started to be written down.

Not only has the spelling and pronunciation of words changed, but so have the words themselves.

For example, that old word “sup” now means (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) “a small quantity of liquid such as can be taken into the mouth at one time; a mouthful; a sip.”

Quite a change from the original meaning.

Dictionary Definition of Soup

Chefs and cooks are not known for sharing a consensus on anything. The definition of one cooking term by one cook could mean something else by another.

This is because all cooks and chefs are human and humans are very opinionated.

In order to figure out if cereal with milk qualifies as soup, we decided to use the definitions of soup, an English word, as given by the major dictionaries of the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Their job is to come up with standard definitions for all words in English, whether we personally agree with the definitions or not. They have the last word.

The Oxford English Dictionary has this definition for soup, which falls into two parts:

  1. A liquid dish, typically made by boiling meat, fish, vegetables, etc. in stock or water.
  2. A substance or mixture perceived to resemble soup in appearance or consistency.

Merriam-Webster adds this tidbit:

Something (such as a heavy fog or nitroglycerine) having or suggesting the consistency or nutrient qualities of soup.

Granted, there are also slang meanings to the word “soup”, but we’re not going to go into that here.

Now, it could be argued that the second meaning of the word soup is using the word soup as a metaphor and not something else that really is soup, such as cereal in milk.

However, the use as a metaphor is not specific in the definitions.

The first part of the definition states that soup is a liquid dish and then states how it is typically made.

This infers that there are atypical ways to make it. Cereal and milk would certainly fall under this category.

The Case of Gazpacho Soup

Another atypical way of making soup would be cold soup. Cold soups are nothing new. They’ve been around for centuries. The king of them all is arguably gazpacho, a Spanish dish.

It’s not just that it’s served cold which makes it different from what we usually think of as soup. It’s not made with broth or stock.

It’s basically blended vegetables, oil, vinegar, water, spices like garlic and chunks of stale bread.

We think of it as cold tomato soup, but tomatoes were not added until the 16th century, because that is when the first tomatoes arrived from the New World to Spain.

The point is that gazpacho is very un-souplike in many ways, yet it is considered soup. If gazpacho can be considered soup, why not cereal in milk?

Nutrition Level of Cereal

Another part of the soup definition states that a soup could be something having the nutrient qualities of soup. In that respect, cereal with milk matches or even does better than soup.

Most commercially available breakfast cereals, even the ones with loads of sugar, are usually fortified with vitamins and minerals.

For example, one serving of Total cereal has 100% of the iron recommended that adults need in a day. A cup of Progresso chicken noodle soup has only about 2% iron.

Having cereal with milk certainly ups your calcium intake. Even non-dairy milk like almond or cashew milk has up to 50% of the recommended daily dose of calcium. A cup of chicken noodle soup has 0% calcium.

Not the Final Word

Although we have looked in depth as to why cereal with milk could be considered a soup, this is based on the definition of soup by the major dictionaries of the English language.

Should those definitions change, then perhaps cereal with milk would not be considered soup. Only one thing is certain – the cereal as soup debate will go on.

Frequently Asked Questions about Is Cereal a Soup

Is Chowder a Soup?

Chowder is a special kind of soup, but still a soup, since it’s base is liquid. It’s a thick soup with chunks of solid food, like vegetables and meat. The word chowder is an English corruption of the French word “chaudiere.”

Is Chili a Soup?

Although there is such a thing as chili soup, stereotypical chili is too thick to be considered a soup, even a chowder. It’s more like a stew, which is in itself too thick to be considered a soup.

Is Melted Ice Cream a Soup?

Although melted ice cream can be eaten like a soup, it’s often still too thick to be considered soup. It does not equal the nutritional equivalent of soup, so it does not fall under the second part of major English dictionaries.


The Least You Need to Know

According to the definition of the noun “soup” by the Oxford English Dictionary, cereal with milk does fall under the classification of soup, because anything that resembles soup in appearance or consistency is soup.

Merriam-Webster goes on to classify soup as anything with the nutritional equivalent of soup. Cereal and milk often contain more vitamins and minerals than soup.