Competition

Spectator competition winners: ‘Why must it always be tomato soup?’

25 September 2021

9:00 AM

25 September 2021

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3217, you were invited to supply a poem that begins or ends with the line ‘Why must it always be tomato soup?’. In Katherine Mansfield’s short story ‘Bliss’, Eddie Warren, a poet, quotes this ‘incredibly beautiful line’ of poetry, which, it turns out, inspired an incredibly witty and well-made entry. Well done, all, and £20 to the winners.

‘Why must it always be tomato soup?’
said Andy. ‘It’s high time I made a change,
I’ll start to paint a comprehensive group
of every flavour in the Campbell’s range.’
 
He painted chicken, mushroom and split pea
with turkey noodle, pepper-pot and bean,
clam chowder, consommé and celery,
asparagus, with onion in between,
 
scotch broth, ‘a hearty soup’ the label states,
then chilli beef and minestrone — yes,
the liquid delicacy resonates
on every canvas — thirty two, no less.
 
‘It’s in the can, my future is assured,
I’ll churn out soup for ever and a day,’
he beamed, declaring, ‘Now at last I’ve scored
and I’ll be rich, Pop Art is here to stay!’ 
Sylvia Fairley

Why must it always be tomato soup
That splendid fruit deserves a kinder fate 
Than being macerated to a gloop 
Then sieved into a sad denatured state. 
Left either whole or halved then grilled or fried 
Until its skin slides off, it’s almost sweet 
And takes a place of culinary pride 
With egg and bacon as a breakfast treat. 
And better still, without the need for heat, 
The taste of fresh sliced fruit is one to savour: 
Fine oil and salt then make the dish complete 
Epitomising pure and simple flavour. 
But best of all it’s eaten from the vine, 
As firstling of a newly-ripened crop, 
When heady scent and lusciousness combine 
To purge all thought of sipping dull red slop. 
W.J. Webster

Why must it always be tomato soup? 
My crisp white shirt, the one I loved to wear, 
be-spattered in one clumsy final scoop. 
My jeans likewise; I’ve scuppered my best pair. 
Else it’s gazpacho, chowder, pea-and-ham, 
borscht, vichyssoise, bisque, laksa, consommé, 
my best coat coated: barley broth with lamb, 
my cashmere scarf smeared scarlet with purée, 
messed up by minestrone in my haste. 
Had it been cream-of-mushroom none could tell, 
I might be praised for fashion sense and taste, 
provided no one recognised the smell. 
Sod this. I’m tired of sloppiness, it’s rude. 
From now on I am eating in the nude. 
Janine Beacham

When I consider how my days are spent 
Waiting in darkness for a welcome meal 
I realise folk harbour good intent 
And want to ease the suffering I feel. 
They come and go with offerings for me 
And guide my fingers to a heated plate 
And in their touch there is sincerity 
Which this blind poet can appreciate. 
Each day I hope they offer something new 
That I can eat with heavenly delight; 
A leg of lamb perhaps, or Irish stew 
Or else a tasty chop for me to bite. 
But when I taste the meal my spirits droop. 
Why must it always be tomato soup? 
Max Ross

Why must it always be tomato soup 
They serve us in this final waiting room 
For old folk huddled in a silent group? 
 
Some nurse from Goa, Guam or Guadeloupe 
Brings us a snack to take away our gloom. 
Why must it always be tomato soup? 
 
Why do our servers crash about and swoop 
With noisy saucers, when this place spells doom 
For old folk huddled in a silent group? 
 
When they come round our weary faces droop 
As they serve food to see us to the tomb. 
Why must it always be tomato soup? 
 
We’d rather have some food that makes us whoop 
So that we kick like babies in the womb. 
Why must it always be tomato soup 
For old folk huddled in a silent group? 
Frank McDonald

Why not compare me to a baked bean can 
only more shiny and less flatulent? 
I could be piquant pasta in your pan, 
a ravioli for your ravishment. 
Make me the perfect topper that you toast, 
or logophilic alphabetti dream, 
the piccalilli notch cut in your post, 
still green in judgment under salad cream. 
Though I’m the zingy peri peri muse 
who puts the caper in your tartare sauce, 
with fifty-seven similes to choose 
somehow your sonnets only take one course. 
There’s squeezy mayo and spaghetti hoop — 
why must it always be tomato soup? 
Nick MacKinnon

I understand the rubber gammon ham, 
The rigid egg, the slew of broken peas, 
The laugh-lines in the hunk of cheddar cheese, 
The mildew in the pot of strawberry jam — 
 
I’ve learned to love the scent of sour milk, 
The rancid butter, spread a little thickly, 
The sweetened tea that’s verging on the sickly, 
The wizened cake, and others of its ilk — 
 
This café is my fulcrum and my pivot, 
My Northern Star. It gives me inner peace. 
Why should I moan about pervading grease, 
Or salad tasting like a grassy divot? 
 
The ice cream dries upon the rusty scoop? 
Well, I forgive it. Claridge’s it ain’t. 
But oh my soul, please hear my one complaint – 
Why must it always be tomato soup 
Bill Greenwell

No 3220: chapter and verse

You are invited to supply a newly discovered short story by a well-known 19th- or 20th-century poet (please specify). Please email entries (maximum 150 words) to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 6 October.

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