Soup Magic

The Set Up

Question: What’s the difference between a “bowl” of soup and a “cup” of soup? Answer: About two dollars.

Twenty-plus years ago I was joking with a waitress and asked that question. The older woman with dozens of years waiting tables and dealing with table clowns like me left the table and returned with two empty bowls: A typical soup cup, and a standard low profile soup bowl.

The bowl was low and shallow, the cup short and squat. To the untrained eye the bowl easily would hold about twice, if not more the volume of soup than the cup. I said “untrained eye” for a reason.

The Test

Our well-seasoned waitress then poured the water from a glass into the bowl filling it neatly to the rim. Then, she lifted that bowl and poured the contents into the soup cup. It filled the cup perfectly. Lesson learned? The difference between a cup of soup and a bowl of soup is about two dollars.

Sitting at the Red Lobster restaurant in Sherman I stared at my bowl of New England Clam Chowder. I didn’t want to take a single spoonful from it— I was anxious to again test what I had learned from that waitress. I asked our Red Lobster waitress to bring me a empty soup cup.

As diners at neighboring tables looked on and my dinner guest sat watching in humiliation, I poured the liquid from the bowl into the cup. It fit perfectly. The laws of science don’t change.

The Prestige

“Wow, I would have never guessed that.” Our young waitress at the Red Lobster was flustered and embarrassed. I felt like some kind of magician having just made the elephant disappear. “Voila!”

The Explanation

The manager on duty, Saeid Tajik, suggested that the experiment was somehow flawed. “The portion control for soup is approximately six ounces for a cup and double that for a bowl,” he explained. So, what happened to my soup? “On any given day, depending on who is working in the kitchen, there can be a mistake in the serving size.” But that does not really explain how the liquid from the bowl fits so neatly into the cup.

Make your own decision on what to order the next time around. By if you’re looking for more soup I suggest you save your money and just order the cup.