I sit with this extra-large mug of instant tomato soup half-eaten in front of me. The steam still rises from it, and I find it fitting to the moment, this odd combination of water, powdered tomato by-product, and crumbled Townhouse crackers. It's past 2 a.m., and I can hear my roommate stirring in her sleep. And I ponder the question: whose idea was it to put crackers in soup? Did it start as a spinoff of bread dipping? If so, did the bread dippers have a war with the cracker crumblers over which was best for soup? I can picture it: an old man sits with a bowl of steaming vegetable stew, made from scratch, dipping bread, glaring at his grandson who is eating instant Campbell's and crumbling crackers. The grandson stands up angrily, shouting at his grandfather that he just doesn't understand the new generation. Naturally the grandfather claims that he would never want to understand the new generation if they made instant soup and crumbled crackers into it. And somewhere, far off, an old-timer is eating crackers with his soup, a young person has bread with his, and an understanding is reached.

The night is young, I'm in a poetic mood, and I have too many crackers left. I need more soup.

To muddy the waters, in New England, we have oyster crackers which add crunch to chowder. Also, bread crumbs used to be used to thicken soups while cooking. Be that as it may, a bowl of consomme with a saltine floating weakly in it was once the cliche first course....

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