What’s the Difference Between Soup and Stew?

Tatiana Volgutova/iStock via Getty Images
Tatiana Volgutova/iStock via Getty Images

Whenever there’s even the slightest chill in the air, it's not hard to find yourself daydreaming about tucking into a big bowl of hearty soup or stew. And though either will certainly warm (and fill) you up, they’re not exactly the same.

Soup and stew are both liquid-based dishes that can contain any number of ingredients, including vegetables, meat, fish, starchy foods, and more; in fact, they can actually contain the exact same ingredients. So what sets your trademark beef stew with potatoes, carrots, and peas apart from your best friend’s trademark beef soup with potatoes, carrots and peas? Mainly, the amount of liquid required to make it.

According to The Kitchn, you usually submerge your soup ingredients completely in water or stock, while stews are just barely covered in liquid. Since you use less liquid for stew, it thickens during the cooking process, giving it a gravy-like consistency and making the solid ingredients the focus of the dish. Some recipes even call for flour or a roux (a mixture of fat and flour) to make the stew even thicker. And because stews aren’t as watery as soups, it’s more common to see them served over noodles, rice, or another grain.

The cooking process itself often differs between soups and stews, too: Some soups can be made in as little as 20 minutes, but stews always require more time to, well, stew. This explains why some stew recipes suggest using a slow cooker, while many soups are just made in an uncovered pot on the stove. It might also explain why stew ingredients are often cut larger than those in soups—because they have more time to cook.

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What Happens to Leftover Campaign Funds When a Candidate Drops Out?

After nearly one year of campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, Kamala Harris has officially bowed out of the 2020 election. She's not the only would-be president to call it quits so far. So what happens to all the leftover campaign funds when a candidate drops out?

One thing's for sure: Upset candidates can't console themselves by putting the dough toward a new yacht and sailing off to recuperate. The Federal Election Commission has strict rules about what federal candidates can and can't do with leftover campaign money, and the biggest directive is that they can't pocket it for personal use.

Here's what a campaign committee is allowed to do with any lingering cash: it can donate the funds to charities or political parties; it can contribute $2000 per election to other candidates; and it can save the money in case the candidate chooses to run again. However, those regulations don't apply to the relatively new super PACs (Political Action Committees); this is only the third election where they have played a role, and there are currently no rules to stipulate what happens to that money beyond that it cannot go to fund another federal candidate. Much of that money tends to be returned to its original donors, used to wrap up the failed campaign, or donated to back a state-level candidate. The goal, however, is always to spend all of that money.

Running a campaign is an expensive proposition—Barack Obama spent nearly $750 million on his 2008 White House bid, and in 2012 he spent $985 million on reelection while challenger Mitt Romney spent $992 million—and insufficient cash is often a reason campaigns go belly up.

As for winning (or sometimes losing) politicians, they'll often put their leftover funds toward their next race. If they choose not to run, they have to abide by the same FEC rules. Wonder why this law is in effect? Until 1993, U.S. Representatives who took office before January 8, 1980, were allowed to keep any leftover campaign cash when they retired, but a study showed that a third of Congress kept and spent millions in campaign donations on personal items like clothing, jewelry, artwork, personal travel, and dry cleaning. Embarrassed, Congress passed a law negating this custom for the House; the Senate already had provisions in place so this wouldn't happen.

In reality though, officials can usually find a way to make that cash still work for them (and state laws differ from federal ones). After Chris Christie won reelection as New Jersey's governor in 2014, his campaign was granted permission to use some of its remaining war chest to cover the legal fees Christie incurred during the Bridgegate scandal. And this was well before he dropped $26.7 million on his failed 2016 presidential bid.

An earlier version of this article originally ran in 2012.

Why Does Advent Calendar Chocolate Taste Different?

iStock
iStock

By Sarah Dobbs

If there’s one thing that can make a dark, cold, miserable December morning more bearable, it’s chocolate. Specifically: a tiny square of chocolate that you’ve had to spend five minutes prying out of the grip of the plastic mold inside your Advent calendar. Somehow, there’s something different about Advent calendar chocolate. Technically, you could just break off a chunk of a Hershey Bar every day, but the ritual of finding the right door, carefully opening it, and savoring your prize makes Advent calendar chocolate special.

Is it actually different from normal chocolate, though? Well, that depends on the calendar.

If you buy a branded calendar from a chocolate manufacturer, like Cadbury or Lindt, then you can expect the chocolate to taste pretty similar to the candymaker's regular fare, even if the size and shape of the treat might be different.

Advent calendar chocolate is usually pretty thin, and generally comes as a square with rounded corners and an embossed shape on its surface. That means it will melt quickly when you put it on your tongue, and the relatively large surface area means your taste buds are getting a pretty intense chocolate hit. And while you might typically take another bite or reach for another sweet quite quickly, with Advent calendar chocolate you know you only get one piece per day, so most people will take their time to savor it a little longer.

Basically, it tastes different because you’re paying more attention to it.

If you’ve got a more generic calendar, though, you might be getting a kind of chocolate you don’t often eat.

Cheap chocolate often isn’t "real" chocolate at all: it’s something called compound chocolate, which means that instead of being made with cocoa butter, it’s made with cheaper fats. In all likelihood, it’s made with palm kernel oil, or possibly coconut oil. That gives it a different flavor than true chocolate, and can also give it a slightly different texture, making it seem slightly waxy or a bit oily. Compound chocolate is actually easier to work with and to mold into shapes, and that, along with the lower price point, means it is ideal for Advent calendars.

So yes, you might find that the chocolate in your Advent calendar tastes nothing like the chocolate you plan on serving at your holiday party. Whether you prefer it or not comes down to your own personal taste—plus a healthy dose of nostalgia. If you have fond memories of tucking into Advent calendar chocolate in the lead-up to idyllic childhood Christmases past, it probably tastes like pure joy.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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