Posted by: Buzz | August 1, 2016

Humphrey’s Beef Soup, Home Made

The major party presidential candidates named their running mates in July, so this month we are featuring a vice presidential recipe. It comes to us from Hubert Humphrey, who served from 1965-1969. Humphrey was a staunch supporter of civil rights, even when much of the Democratic Party’s support still came from southern racists. After sixteen years in the United States Senate, President Lyndon Johnson picked Humphreys as his running mate.

Dissatisfaction over the Vietnam war forced Johnson to withdrawn from the presidential race in 1968, and Humphrey replaced him as the candidate of the Democratic establishment. Robert Kennedy emerged as his closest rival, and there might have been a very contentious convention had Kennedy not been shot that summer. However, the media have always tended to overstate how close Kennedy came to getting the nod. It would have required a substantial number of nominal Humphrey supporters to defect for Kennedy to have carried it. In any case, Humphrey won the nomination, but his campaign was deeply wounded by the images of police facing off against antiwar protesters, and he lost narrowly to Richard Nixon.

Humphreys was the last strongly progressive Democrat to come close to winning the presidency until the 2000s. His loss has been seen by many political observers as a key development in a decades-long move to the right in American political culture. Humphrey’s strong support for civil rights marked the permanent end of the South as a Democratic stronghold in presidential elections (although the disappearance of the Dixiecrats from Congress and state government took far longer). The loss of southern whites from the New Deal coalition ended the progressive expansion of social programs that had been so important from the 1930s to the 1960s, beginning with the New Deal and culminating in the Great Society.

Humphreys was only fifty-seven when he lost the presidential election, and in 1971 he returned to the Senate. In a twist of irony, he replaced Eugene McCarthy, who had also sought the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1968. It was McCarthy’s strong showing in the New Hampshire primary that had forced President Johnson to withdraw from the race. McCarthy, having turned against the party establishment, stood little chance of being renominated for the 1970 Senate race, and practically none of being reelected, so he retired and Humphreys took his place. Humphreys served until his death in 1978, during which he was given the title of deputy president pro tempore, in honor of his previous service as Senate president.



1 1/2 lbs. stew beef or pieces of chuck
1 soup bone

Cover with cold water in heavy 3 quart sauce pan. Add salt, pepper and two bay leaves and heat to bubbly stage. Then turn the heat very low and add the following:

1/2 cup chopped donion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped cabbage
4 or 5 medium carrots, sliced
pinch of oregano

Simmer for at least 2 1/2 hours or until meat is very tender. Remove bone and bay leaves and cut pieces of meat into bite size. Then add:

1 #2 can of tomatoes (I prefer the Italian style if you can get them)
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 beef bouillon cube (if desired)

Simmer again for 1/2 hour or longer — until you are ready to eat.

This soup or stew is almost a full meal in itself. It is very thick and full of good vitamins and energy. Generally, a good fruit salad, saltines, coffee and dessert is all one needs for a wonderful supper.


This seems like a recipe aimed at people who already had a pretty good idea how to cook soup.


I’m never sure how much liquid to add when it says it’s supposed to be enough to cover the meat. Am I supposed to spread the meat out on the bottom of the pot, then cover it with just enough have it all submerged? (No, I know that’s not right, since I’ve tried doing it that way, and it was not nearly enough liquid.) This time, I dropped the stew beef and the rather bulky bone matter in adjacent heaps and added enough that they were about a centimeter underwater. Then the recipe calls for salt, but it doesn’t say how much. I don’t really know how much salt to add, and the question isn’t helped by my having only a rough idea how much water I just put in. So I added a little to start and kept putting more in as it cooked, until I could finally find the amount that tasted right near the end.


The vegetables went in and mostly disappeared under the water. I was getting anxious that there might be way too much liquid. Vice President Humphreys had said that this was supposed to be thick, almost like a stew.

It seemed silly to pull the meat out and cut it up, but the batch of stew meat we had used contained some unusually large chunks. Moreover, after two and a half ours on the stone, several long strips of meat had fallen completely off the soup bone. So I fished around for any hunk of meat that seemed uncomfortably large and hacked them down to bite-sized pieces. (There was also a lot of connective tissue in the strips from the bone, which were cut off and given to the dog.)


The recipe says “tomatoes,” and we already had canned diced tomatoes in the pantry, but we figured the recipe meant whole tomatoes. After plopping them in, it was obvious that this was the wrong decision. The whole tomatoes floated to the top like bloated red balls, clearly vastly too large for a single bite. So after they had simmered for about half an hour, and the whole soup was nearing completion, we pulled them all out and cut them up into bite-size pieces, just like we also had done for the stew beef.


In the end, it was almost like a stew, which was a surprise given how liquid the soup had seemed through almost all of its cooking time. The broth is rich and flavorful, the variety of vegetables all played well together, and it does indeed make a hearty centerpiece of a meal. The beef itself was somewhat bland, since it was not separately seasoned or browned or anything before being added to the soup.

This selection from Political Pot Luck: A Collection of Recipes from Men Only (1959) was shared online at The Awl.


  1. I enjoy your blog. Not to quibble, but as a native South Dakotan and adopted Minnesotan (just like Hubert!), I must point out that Hubert’s last name was Humphrey not Humphreys.

  2. Looking at your recipe I would agree that it resembles a stew more than a soup. And hearty soups like these make a great cold weather meal.

    I’d also like to add a few comments about trying to recreate an old recipe.
    They do tend to be vaguer than modern recipes, which I guess puts a lot of people off trying them.

    Beef or any kind of meat just does not have as much taste as it used to for various reasons. It takes less than half the time to raise cattle to slaughter. Back in the 1950’s 1960’s, it would take 3 years. Back then the meat may not have been as tender as it is today but it did have a lot more flavour.

    A so-called soup bone needs to be a bone that is full of marrow (and sawn into pieces) because its purpose is not only to add flavour but the marrow will also thicken the soup to some extent.

    This kind of broth-based soup will also need skimming occasionally once it begins to simmer and a scum (which is normal) begins to form on the top of the soup. If I was making this in a professional kitchen I would probably take the bones, brown them with vegetables in the oven and make the stock the day before. Even in good kitchens, beef bouillon is added to beef stocks to enrich the flavour because as I said at the beginning most farmed meat these days has a lot less taste. As for seasoning, a general rule for soup and sauces is to lightly season during the cooking process and then add a little more at the end, if needed.

    I do think soup is a wonderful flexible dish that is easy to make and can be made in less than an hour in most cases and is definitely worth the effort.

  3. I shall be trying this out tonight! Thanks!

  4. […] Humphrey’s Beef Soup, Home Made […]

  5. Are you folks okay? It’s been a long time.

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