I Made Three of Andy Warhol’s Weirdest Soup Flavors
Vegetarian Vegetable, Hot Dog Bean, Scotch Broth: what we can learn from these bizarre icons.
I was an art kid in high school, and I spent a lot of time in my senior year in the art classroom painting or drawing or really just dicking around. I liked Andy Warhol’s work the first time I saw it because of the bright colors and simple designs—it seemed like something I could do, or at least understand, even at the age of 15.
I first saw Warhol’s work in real life on a field trip I took with a group of my peers from rural Alberta to New York City. I remember rounding the corner in the Museum of Modern Art and seeing the infamous soup cans for myself. They were bigger than I expected—and there were way more flavors than I expected.
Warhol produced the 32-canvas piece Campbell’s Soup Cans in 1962. Warhol’s inspiration was apparently quite simple: as Robert Indiana once said, “The reason he painted soup cans is that he liked soup.” Specifically, he painted the 32 types of soup Campbell’s produced at the time.
But to the modern soup consumer, many are unfamiliar or outdated. Hot Dog Bean Soup? No thank you. Scotch Broth? What even is that? Cheddar Cheese? Oyster Stew?! What appeal did these soups hold at the time? What has been lost? And what can I learn about Andy Warhol from making them?
I had to know. So I made three.
Campbell’s Vegetarian Vegetable
Believe it or not, Campbell’s still produces Vegetarian Vegetable, describing it as “perfect for those who live the vegetarian lifestyle.” According to the brand’s site, it mostly seems available in big box retailers whose shelves’ redundancy might mirror Warhol’s composition. My approach to this was maximalist. Where much of Warhol’s art communicates complex ideas through simplicity and repetition, my approach to the vegetarian vegetable was simple: “too much.”
I raided the produce section of my local grocery store, pulling a colorful smorgasbord of veggies. These included broccoli, zucchini, sweet potato, green peas, celery, onions carrots, and tomatoes. In place of the “alphabet soup” aspect described on Warhol’s painting, I tossed in some lentil for good measure. For seasoning, I opted for a curry-style soup, adding in curry powder, tandoori spices, and salt and pepper. And, of course, several cloves of garlic and a hearty dose of veggies stock—this is soup, after all.
I figured some serious slow cooker action would be best to adequately turn these veggies from their solid state into soupy goodness. What I did not anticipate was the power of a slow cooker left on for 10 hours.
I opened the lid to reveal a steaming vat of vegetable. Not vegetables plural, but the singular vegetable. It was beautiful. It was delicious. Countless ingredients combined into one beguiling singular image. I feel like Warhol would approve of its utilitarian simplicity.
Campbell’s Scotch Broth Soup (A Hearty Soup)
Scotch Broth disappeared from American soup shelves around 2011. Did I think Scotch Broth was soup with scotch whisky in it? Maybe.
Upon realizing that scotch broth is actually a hearty Scottish soup with barley—Warhol’s painting does say “a hearty soup”—I’ll admit I was a touch disappointed.
My spirits turned when I set out to make the heartiest soup I could. I immediately abandoned the premise of this creation as a soup.This was to be a stew if ever I saw one. Cube-cut stewing beef, potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper all found their way into the slow cooker alongside a healthy dose of chicken stock. In the spirit of original Scotch Broth, I added a generous dose of barley.
I wanted to toss in a splash of scotch whisky. But upon reading that Warhol’s favorite beverage was Jack Daniel’s, I opted for to pour one out for ol’ Andy.
After a few hours in the slow cooker, the stew was as hearty as could be. While there wasn’t any broth in sight, there were plenty of carbs and ample heartiness. Warhol, who loved McDonald’s, would have given it a “Gee, that’s great.”
Campbell’s Hot Dog Bean Soup (Tender Beans and Little Frankfurter Slices)
I was excited about this one, which appeared in Warhol’s 1969 Campbell’s Soup Cans II and, as a soup, has little history available online (perhaps at some point it morphed into Tomato, Sausage, and Bean?).
I, an adult woman in her mid-twenties, have a fondness for hot dogs that the world will never truly understand. This soup was to be a vessel for that fondness.
I also feel it is the truest vessel for Warhol’s Pop art obsession. Nothing is more mundane, more general, or more proletarian than the noble hot dog. The hot dog is the food of the people, of street corners across North America. The hot dog is the Pop art of foods. It deserves all of the best treatment.
To recreate and renew the concept of Hot Dog Bean soup, I opted for a Tex-Mex vibe. After slicing the hot dogs into perfect little meat discs, I tossed them into a sauce pan with some tomato paste, corn beans, and stock. I seasoned with a touch of fresh chili alongside chili powder, salt, pepper and garlic.
After about a half hour of stewing, the hot dogs seemed cooked, the beans warm, and the broth constituted. The contents of the saucepan fell into the bowl with a satisfying “plop.”
To garnish, I added crisp Cool Ranch Doritos, second only to hot dogs as the food of the people. I kissed my fingers like an Italian chef. This was truly my masterpiece.
Andy Warhol once said, “An artist is somebody who produces things that people don't need to have.”
The six bags of soup now in my freezer after this exercise? Now that’s art at its finest.