Once-upon-a-time, in a land far far away I worked one summer in a Norwegian restaurant which had its home in Norway House. Norway House was located on Shandwick Place, in Edinburgh, just a stones throw from Atholl Crescent where the Edinburgh College of Domestic Science was based before it became Queen Margaret University and moved to the outskirts.
In 1942 Norway House was set up as a residential club for Norwegians.’Why?’ I can hear you ask, ‘was a residential club needed for Norwegians.’ Well, remember that Unst, in the Shetland archipelago, is Scotland’s most northerly inhabited island and only 200 miles from the coast of Norway (while London is 821 miles away). So there are lots of connections – historical, cultural and economic between the two countries. In 1966, at Norway House, the founding meeting of the Norwegian Scottish Association took place. The aim of was to foster ‘evolving friendships through the auspices of a formal and forward-looking association’. The premises, at that time, were owned by the retailer Mr Helge Weibye, and included The Norwegian Restaurant, in which I worked.
To be honest I remember little about the restaurant apart from the slightly-odd, chain-smoking chef who made a soup at the beginning of the week which was adapted each day with the addition of new ingredients and served under different names until it became ‘soup du jour’ on the last day of the week. And this is how I came to be thinking about Fruktsuppe (Norwegian), Fruktsoppa (Swedish) and Sødsuppe (Danish), or Fruit Soup, if you speak English. I had never come across fruit soup till I worked for The Norwegian Restaurant, and, if I remember correctly, this was Monday’s soup.
If you examine any classification of soups you will be very hard pressed to find a category into which Fruit Soup will fit. The word soup comes from the French word ‘soupe’ or broth, which comes from the Latin word ‘Suppa’ (bread soaked in broth). ‘The origin dates back to about 6000BC and the first commercial soup was eaten in France in the 16th century’ (Shivesh’s Kitchen).
There are various classifications of soup. Escoffier’s classification covers clear, purees, coulis, bisques, veloute, cream, ‘special’, vegetable and National/Foreign. A modern classification, such as the above, adds the overarching categories of thick, thin, cold as well as National/Special soups. All rely on a broth which has an animal, vegetable or fish origin. There are ‘savoury’ soups which have a large amount of fruit in them such as the Iranian dish, Ash-e-Meeveh and Eliza Acton’s apple soup which has a mutton broth base, so fruit can play an important role in soups which would not normally be called fruit soup (Oxford Companion to Food, p332).
Perhaps the only place a fruit soup would find a home is under the category National/Special/Foreign Soup. Shivesh tells us that special soups are ‘those that are made with unusual ingredients and are prepared by a distinctive method. So they are termed as National Soups’. There are numerous varieties of international soups such as cold, hot, thin or thick etc. However, when you look at the countries and soups included in a listing then, again, there is no mention of Fruit Soup, Scandinavian or otherwise. Fruit soups are essentially sweet dishes, no matter at what point in a meal they are served.
A fruit soup can be served hot or cold, for breakfast, lunch or dinner; as an appetiser, main dish or dessert and as part of a smorgasbord. It can be a holiday dish, a celebration dish or a nutritious present for a new mother. It really does sound like a wonder dish. And perhaps that is why my chef used it as the base for his week’s offerings.
Although many Scandinavian dishes are popular among emigres to other countries (think lefse, or lutefisk) fruit soup is thought to be a forgotten dish for those Scandinavian descent. It is held to be an old world soup which may have been a staple in immigrant households but has lost ground over the years. Some are of the opinion that it is even hard to find a fruit soup on a menu in Norway today and so must be considered a dying dish in Norwegian cuisine. According to Norwegian gourmet food magazine, Aperitif, this classic was a regular dessert on Norwegian tables at least once a week as late as the 1960s during the winter months. Up to the 1960s fresh fruits were a luxury and this soup was traditionally made with dried fruits. It can still, however, be found today in many households, if not in many restaurants.
Different Scandinavian countries have their own versions. Finns use cinnamon, prunes, apricots, and raisins or other dried fruits. Norwegians claim that Swedes make their fruit or sweet soups from “lighter” ingredients – golden raisins, pears, peaches, and so forth – while the Norse version calls for prunes, black raisins, and other darker fruits. It is said, rather disparagingly I think, that the Danish toss any fruit in the household into their sodsuppe: home-canned, dried, store-bought, without distinction.
There are LOTS of recipes for Fruit Soup, some contain the traditional large tapioca, some use (and discard) rice, others use cornflour, or arrowroot as their thickener. Not all will use dried fruit (think fresh berries); some will use lemon juice, others will use grape juice; tart apples will appear or not and berry juice or cherry juice may make an appearance. But since the prompt for this post was Norway House then I think this week’s recipe must be a very traditional (and light/pale) chunky Norwegian Fruit Soup.