Eating Badly: The Grim Future of Keurig-Brewed Soup

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Last month, the Keurig machine in the Paste offices broke.

It wasn’t a particularly serious issue. Rather, the smallest possible component had failed—the little needle that punches through the bottom of our (wasteful and environmentally unfriendly) coffee pods had snapped off, rendering the machine inoperable. After reading online that Keurig will actually send you a free replacement part (this is true), I called the company up and it was soon in the mail. But the surprise was what they included with the part. The surprise was Campbell’s “fresh-brewed” Keurig soup.

Keurig-brewed soup, people. The same machine that dispenses thin streams of mediocre flavored coffee is now specializing in the delivery of reconstituted, powder-based chicken broth. You’d have to be mentally ill for that not to sound appetizing.

Obviously, it was clear that this was right in the wheelhouse of Eating Badly, so I laid immediately claim to the single package of soup that they sent us. As you can see in the photo above, a single serving constitutes both the broth-generating K-cup and a package of dehydrated noodle and vegetable bits. Here are the contents of said packet at the bottom of a Paste Spiegelau beer tulip:

campbells packet (Custom).jpg

GAH! Immediately, my primary question is what those little red-orange globules are supposed to be, exactly. They look like sun-dried tomato, but please keep in mind: This is Campbell’s we’re talking about. Turns out they’re microscopic bits of carrot. Together, their mass equals roughly one slice of frozen carrot—if you consumed 20 Campbell’s Keurig-brewed soups, you might actually draw somewhere near one full carrot’s worth of vegetable. But hey, there are green bits of “herbs” in there as well, so all is forgiven, right?

The above photo makes it seem like the contents of the package are far more plentiful than they really are, so here’s a side shot:

campbells side shot (Custom).jpg

Yeah. The sheer content of noodles is maybe 20 percent of what you’d get in a standard package of instant ramen. Maybe.

Eager to get this soup show on the road, I popped the pod into the machine and sat back to watch it work. What wept forth from the Keurig orifice was yellow-orange in color, a thick broth with the color and initial consistency of liquified butternut squash. That’s only for the first few seconds, however, before a stream of hot water tops things off. 30 seconds later, you’ve got a full glass of reconstituted quasi-soup. Here’s what it looks like immediately after being brewed:

campbells keurig hot (Custom).jpg

Oh joy. I admit, photographing it in this state probably isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, but in my defense, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a way to make the soup look good. Even after I stirred it up, the contents persistently floated back to the top, bobbing like the survivors of a boat disaster waiting for the sharks to move in and finish the job.

It tastes…like cheap chicken broth. The noodles never truly get tender, and instead float on the broth like a rubbery oil slick of vegetable flotsam and jetsam. They account for about 1 percent of the total volume of the glass, so in the end, the “noodles and vegetables” are really afterthoughts anyway. After a few bites they’re inevitably consumed, and what you’re left with is simply a bowl or mug full of hot chicken broth.

Which of course begs the question: Why is the Keurig even necessary for this? After all, the reason I might use a Keurig for coffee is that I only want to make one cup rather than a larger amount. Does that really apply to soup in any fashion? And if a hot cup of chicken broth really is the type of thing you’d like to have for lunch, wouldn’t it be easier to keep a quart of the stuff in the work fridge and simply heat it in the microwave? Or open a can and heat that in the microwave? Both of those things would take roughly the same amount of time as preparing a cup of Keurig soup, and—get this—they might even contain some actual chicken. No promises, but it’s more likely than real chicken coming out of a one-inch Keurig chicken dust pod.

Moreover, do we really want to voluntarily take the next step down the inexorable road to Soylent Green by regularly consuming a soup-like substance spit out of a repurposed coffee machine? How many years after the discovery of Keurig-brewed soup will it be until we’re taking our work lunches in the form of pills and injections directly into the femoral artery? “Man Fred, the quarterly presentations have been a real bear, hold on and let me just slip into the Sustenance Booth to get my lunch rations from the Soup Officer and I’ll follow up on those TPS reports.”

Don’t willingly pave the road to our dystopian soup future. Have some self-respect and eat a real soup. Your body and your coworkers will thank you.