When it comes to soup, the crusty bread garnish is impossible to deny, no matter how it crumbles.
For the umpteenth consecutive week, the leavened leviathan remains atop the PreGame’s Soup Garnish Power Rankings. In the last PreGame poll before the Lowcountry Soup Challenge — which is Sunday at The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa — there was some shakeup in the lower ranks, but nothing to dislodge the crusty bread out of the top spot.
The soup garnishes playing the best this week, as usual, in mostly particular order:
1. Crusty bread/bread bowl. It can have a tendency to fill you up, thus decreasing one’s Total Soup Quantity Rating, but that’s the only drawback to the crusty bread accompaniment (unless you have a gluten allergy). Whether used for dipping, to cleanse the palate or as a napkin, the crusty bread holds onto the top spot with authority.
2. Goldfish. All the fun of oyster crackers, except they taste like cheese and you get to pretend you’re a giant scooping delicious little fish out of a vast ocean of broth! Fee-fi-fo-fum!
3. Crispy Asian noodles. Up-and-comer brings the same texture as a cracker but with more character. Some predict sanctions if Ministry of the Chancellor of Soup (better known as the Soup Cabinet) ever gets around to answering the “How old are these?” question.
4. Chopped chives/onions. Ups the ante on presentation and adds a savory zest that works well in most soups. Some worry over potentially noxious afterbreath, but if your breath is rosy after eating soup without chives/onions, perhaps you need to be a little more adventurous?
5. Oyster crackers. Get the nod over saltines for durability, as even when a maverick oyster makes its way to the bottom of the bowl, it still maintains its form (though perhaps a little worse for wear). Bonus points for being the most geometric: The starchy little hexagons endear themselves in the heart of every mathematician.
6. Saltine crackers. Classic. Portable. Plain.
7. Shredded cheese. Riding high after an easy early-season soup schedule, cheese drops a few spots after a few embarrassing performances on the Asian Circuit and through the Gumbo District.
8. Crumbled bacon. An excellent way to add a bit of savory, smoky punch. Severely hindered by inconsistency in quality, especially in the preponderance of alleged “bits” sometimes served that keep this from moving any higher.
9. Fried Okra. A polarizing garnish, but a lot of Southern support coming out after its tour of the Gumbo District. With the right soup, it brings a lot to the table without taking much off of it. It knocks croutons off the list after their disappointing, mouth-cutting showing in the French Onion at the Souper Bowl.
10. Sour cream/whipped cream/chilled remoulade. The hot/cold juxtaposition these garnishes provide is one of my favorite things. Until it dissipates after 15 seconds or so, leaving a deflated, creamy dollop puddled at the top of a still-very-hot cup of soup.
Biggest rise: Crispy Asian noodles, up six spots after recent experimentation on non-Asian fare (hint: They hold up).
Biggest fall: Grilled cheese sandwich. When the Soup Cabinet ruled it “not actually a garnish” this melty treat dropped completely off the chart from the top position. There hasn’t been this great a soup controversy since the Ministry’s decision on Chili v. Soup.
Andy reminds everyone to protect the roofs of their mouths and practice safe spooning. Email him at email@example.com.