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Soup Meagre

Watch our historic foodways staff cook this recipe, then try it at home

This soup was made with Lent in mind as there is no meat. Almost as thick as a chowder, this wholesome dish is wonderfully aromatic and pleasing to the eye in any season.

18th Century

Take a half a pound of butter, put it into a deep stew pan, shake it about, and let it stand till it is done making a noise; then have ready six middling onions peeled and cut small, throw them in and shake them about; take a bunch of celery clean washed and picked, cut it into pieces half as long as your finger, a large handful of spinach clean washed and picked, good lettuce clean washed, if you have it, and cut small, a little bundle of parsley chopped fine; shake all this together well in the pan for a quarter of an hour, then shake in a little flour, stir altogether, and pour into the stew pan two quarts of boiling water; take a handful of hard dry crust, throw in a teaspoonful of beaten pepper, three blades of mace beat fine, stir altogether, and let it boil softly for half an hour; then take it off the fire, and beat up the yolks of two eggs and stir in, and one spoonful of vinegar; pour it into the soup dish and send it to table. If you have any green peas, boil half a pint in the soup for change.

— Glasse, Hannah, “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy”

21st Century


  • ½ lb. butter
  • 5 to 6 small onions chopped fine
  • 5 medium celery stalks cut into 1 to 2 inch lengths
  • A good handful of spinach leaves with stems removed
  • A small head of lettuce, such as Romaine, chopped fine
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of finely chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 quarts of boiling water
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. ground mace
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp. white vinegar


  1. Put your butter into a large stew pan over medium high heat to melt it. It will start to cook and sizzle. Do not burn it.
  2. After a couple minutes of this, add your onions to the butter and stir them, reduce heat to medium, and start cooking them for another two to three minutes.
  3. Add the celery, spinach, lettuce and parsley to the butter and onions. Stir them and let them cook for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Shake in the flour and stir it in well. Add the 2 quarts of boiling water and stir well to blend the ingredients.
  5. Add the bread crumbs, pepper and mace, and stir well again.
  6. Let the soup slowly cook over medium heat for close to half an hour, then remove from heat.
  7. In a small bowl, whip the egg yolks with the vinegar. Slowly, not too fast, drizzle this into the soup as you stir. Keep stirring all the while until the yolks are all added in. Stir for a little while longer to blend well.
  8. Pour into a soup tureen and serve.

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