Comedy //

Cereal: Soup or Not Soup?

Ann Ding doesn’t know how to write a think piece

top view of various kids cereals in colorful bowls on wooden table top view of various kids cereals in colorful bowls on wooden table

Before you spend an hour contemplating what differentiates a cup from a mug, or work yourself into a pit of despair over whether 1am is ‘morning’ or ‘night’, ask yourself this – is cereal soup?

Our immediate, knee-jerk reaction is probably to deny outright that cereal can ever be soup. After all, it’s served cold; it requires no cooking; it’s a breakfast food. And yet we find gazpacho; we find summer soups easily made without heat (and conversely, heathens who take their cereal warm); we find culinary quasi-deity Martha Stewart propounding ‘egg-and-miso’ soup for breakfast online.

But what of its constituent parts? Soup usually includes meat or vegetables, or both. But consider the humble beer soup, which needs neither, and yet is bestowed the title of soup by the soup gods without hesitation. As for soup’s historically savoury nature, I ask you here to look to the dessert soups that exist in many parts of Asia.

Let’s say, then, that cereal is a soup. Is oatmeal a soup? It must be. It satisfies so many of the canonical soup properties. It is warm, and served in a bowl, and eaten with a spoon. Is a smoothie in a bowl soup? It must be. What about smoothies in glasses? After all, soup can be served in a mug, and it is still soup.

So then, at what point does cereal become soup? Dry cereal certainly is not soup. It becomes soup when milk is added to it. Some people eat dry cereal by itself. Is cereal not a soup then? Perhaps it is a salad, and milk is the dressing. Or what if it’s a standalone dish, and milk is the garnish? Can garnishes be liquid? Do breakfast foods have garnishes? Is cereal a breakfast-only food?