HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >

Discussion

Soup Man Al Yeganeh Published a Cookbook??

Am I the only person unaware that Al Yeganeh, the Soup Man, had a cookbook out in 1996? no ratings on amazon, no used copies anywhere, I never heard of it....I know St. Martins doesn't have much flair for marketing, but, geez, what happened?
http://www.amazon.com/Soup-You-Americ...

As a bonus, here's a very interesting page:
http://www.iranian.com/Mar96/Features...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. So many potential jokes, none of which would make it past the mods.. sigh.

    1 Reply
    1. Jim

      It is a real book as you can see from the Library of Congress Website

      http://catalog.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebre...

      It does not appear that anyone sells is currently

      http://www.alldiscountbooks.net/Compa...

      1 Reply
      1. re: jfood

        That link to the Library of Congress indicates only that an ISBN was applied for, not that the book was ever printed or published.

        I agree with others who say it's improbable, nay, impossible, that the book could have been published and there are no copies available anywhere at any price.

      2. And did the cover look like an armoire?

        1 Reply
        1. Aside from the gags, guys, this guy made awesome soup. And I understood there was huge frenetic interest in his getting a book deal. So where's the book? Anyone have a copy? did he really spill secrets? how come I never heard about it?

          7 Replies
          1. re: Jim Leff

            The soup was good but I think, over hyped due to the whole 'trendy' Seinfeld connection. I think my sister has or had the book given to her due to her rabid Seinfeld addiction. I'll have to ask her. :-}

            1. re: Tay

              I used to walk all the way from Park Ave. to buy his soup when I lived in NYC. Well before Seinfeld. It is that good, and his soup program with restaurants is equally good. I would kill for a bowl of the shrimp bisque right now.

              1. re: Pete Oldtown

                Good grief! I wouldn't walk that far to see the Pope let alone for soup, but I respect those that would. At least you worked up an appetite and burned some calories :-}

                1. re: Tay

                  There were days I just hadda get outta the place, when everyone was screeching at each other. A nice long walk, delicious soup and bread, and of course, just walking in NYC is entertainment. The women at my company turned me on to that place...exercise and a theoretically low-cal meal (hahahaha) was the motivation.

                  His soups probably had 2,000 calories a pop.

            2. re: Jim Leff

              jim

              please tell jfood you are not referring to the current incarnation in the stores. The soup in the stores is awful. there is so much sodium it could conduct electricity.

              1. re: jfood

                No, he literally sold out. Per the link I included in my OP, he immediately cashed in his stock in this foul fetid new company and moved back to Iran.

                His soup, by which I mean, uh, his soup, was freakin' great. Especially before the Seinfeld thing messed up his head.

                1. re: Jim Leff

                  I live in lower Manhattan and I see Al the soup guy at both locations periodically. He told me he still oversees the making of the soup..Just not in little batches.

            3. There are only three libraries worldwide who own the book, the Library of Congress and two locations of Baker and Taylor. What the heck?

              I'd seen some "Top Secret" versions of his soups online, but never heard of a cookbook.

              4 Replies
              1. re: amyzan

                I'm not sure if it was actually published/sold but once a book goes to press, some copies always end up floating around...

                1. re: Tay

                  Look, he could not have possibly done this book without a SERIOUS advance. So what, did St. Martins burn all copies? This is INSANE. It vanished without a trace. My crappy little eclectic guide, from the past century, rife with closed and highly damaged restaurants from another era, remains available. So wtf??

                  I'd imagine their rarity would make them valuable. But I can't discern a market. Or any other trace. It's majorly weird.

                  1. re: Jim Leff

                    St. Martin's give a serious advance? Please. Their advances are the publishing-world equivalent of the change you find beneath the cushions of an old couch.

                    1. re: condiment

                      Oh, I know, believe me. But the guy was a seriously hot property, editors and agents were vying for him...if he signed with St. martin, they must have come up with SOME sort of cash as a special loss leader case. Which I guess he gave all back. Perhaps right around the time he had the big buyout, and decided he didn't need the aggravation.

              2. I am sure that this book went to press, but maybe only for one limited printing. I would swear that I saw it when it was released, and I kind of wish that I had bought it now.
                I only had his soup once (at his soup kitchen), and honestly don't remember too many details, except that my friends and I carried those hot cups all the way over to the park. But I think we enjoyed them.

                1. I doubt very much that the book was ever published. Books are listed on Amazon that have never been published all the time, as they work from advance catalogs supplied by publishers. My guess is that the book was pulled out for some reason and never republished.

                  If it isn't available on Amazon, Abe, or Half, it probably was never published.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Dave Feldman

                    Dave, makes sense. Al probably withered at the task of finding a way to translate what he does for home chefs. Decided he had enough money in the bank, and didn't need to go through the horrendous process authors go through (it sounds so clean and natural to just "write a book", but you discover it's sort of like performing a Caesarian on yourself).

                    1. re: Jim Leff

                      Ask your representative in Congress to check the book out of the Lib of Congress. Its not like they are actually getting anything done up on the hill - they should have time to get you the copy.

                      1. re: Jim Leff

                        Jim,
                        I found his email address from 2005, and sent him a note last night. Who knows if anything will come of it, but I figured it's worth a shot.

                    2. If you're indeed looking for one of his recipe's, he has one in a Molly O'neill cookbook of New York restaurants. I know this because I'm one of the people standing in line in the photograph that's associated with the recipe. My son said, "wait a minute, you said you won't wait at a restaurant for a table, but you stood on line all that time?" Yes, his soups were incredible, espcially the simple vegetable and chicken soups. Yes, I always received my bread, my chocolate and my fruit. I followed directions.

                      1. I just contacted a friend who was in sales at St. Martin's throughout the 90s. Here is his response:

                        "I remember when it was signed up: "No
                        soup for you" was an office joke entirely too many times.

                        "Then I never remember it being published."

                        But he didn't remember any details about why it fell apart.

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: Dave Feldman

                          I think the publicity, hype, and "nazi" jokes really got to him. He's probably retired and living off his Soup Man $$$ in a Persian palace :) Good for him.
                          I actually interned at St. Martin's (the Flatiron Building) during the summer of '96. Maybe that's why I have such a distinct recollection of seeing the book? Bummer.

                          1. re: vvvindaloo

                            OK.. So I called my sister and asked about whether or not she had this fabled book. There was a 20 second silence followed by:. "What the H*ll is wrong with you!!? Don't say anything to anyone or you'll get _________ (Our Cousin's name ) in trouble". Since this cousin was a Literary Agent/Attorney,( Though for another Publisher), I'm thinking it exists in some form, and was uhhh..."borrowed" by people who had access...
                            Apparently, my sister thinks I pay attention to her so I'll just have to ransack her bookshelves the next time I visit and report back if I find anything. :-}

                            1. re: Tay

                              Please ransack. I, too, have a sibling, and we've pillaged each other's wares for far less important things. Sometimes we just gotta do what we gotta do. I say it is your moral obligation as a CHer to share this info.

                              1. re: vvvindaloo

                                Yeah. Tay, consider google books. Own a scanner?

                                1. re: Jim Leff

                                  OK.... I cornered my B-I-L on the phone. He said something about recipies having been 'submitted' and copies being, uhh... sort of, kind of,(Ahem!) "Borrowed" from the original submission He then said something about my sister strangling him and that was all he'd say. Now I'm really REALLY going to randsack their bookshelves!
                                  Is it possible that the recipies were submitted to the publisher and then the deal fell through? Is it possible that someone else, like a worker or family member had copies of the original recipies and 'black marketed' them? Now I want to call my cousin and seee what she has to say. Of course then my sister will strangle ME! If I come up with anything on this, I'll post.

                                  1. re: Tay

                                    The author had to have had a proposal for the cookbook and that proposal was probably submitted to a number of publishers. Almost certainly, that proposal contained at least a few recipes, so it wouldn’t be surprising if there are a number of people out there who managed to get their hands on that proposal and thereby have a few Soup Man recipes.

                                    My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that at some point, after the book contract was signed but before a manuscript was fully written or delivered, someone made Yeganeh an offer he couldn’t refuse: we’ll finance a franchise operation, but we’ll only do that if you cancel the book contract. Your name and your recipes are what we’re buying, and if you publish a book and anyone who buys it can make your soups, it will devalue the franchise potential. So, the book or franchising? Take your pick.

                                    If you look at the book’s announced publication date and the first appearances of the franchises, this seems a very likely scenario.

                                    1. re: JoanN

                                      JoanN
                                      "at some point, after the book contract was signed but before a manuscript was fully written or delivered, someone made Yeganeh an offer he couldn’t refuse: we’ll finance a franchise operation, but we’ll only do that if you cancel the book contract. Your name and your recipes are what we’re buying, and if you publish a book and anyone who buys it can make your soups, it will devalue the franchise potential"
                                      After my last post I thought about it and came to the same conclusion. It's the only thing that would make sense.If he published his recipes it would have had an asdverse effect on the whole franchise idea.

                                      1. re: Tay

                                        I seriously doubt that this was the scenario for a couple of different reasons.

                                        First of all, he had a book in mind long before the franchise started, and he expressed to me real doubts about revealing his recipes. He had in mind much more than a cookbook.

                                        Secondly, I couldn't imagine that a franchiser wouldn't want him to have a successful book. His soups were labor intensive, involving lots of herbs and spices and superior fresh ingredients. Debbi Fields didn't think it was a bad idea to write several cookie recipe books. The same argument could be made for any restaurant whose chef issues a cookbook.

                                        1. re: Dave Feldman

                                          You may well be right. As I said, pure speculation on my part. Never saw the proposal. Don’t know the man. Don’t know what he had in mind.

                                          But there’s a significant difference between a book by Thomas Keller, Alice Waters, Mario Batali, Judy Rogers, etc., who have restaurants that comparatively few will be able to visit and a book that contains the recipes for a food outlet that has aspirations to be in shopping malls throughout the country.

                                          As for Debbie Fields, she didn’t write her books until her company was in financial trouble and she was beginning to close many of her stores. Even then, her books never contained the “real” recipes. She said specifically that the cookies that were sold in her shops required commercial equipment and couldn’t be duplicated at home. I recall it causing a bit of a brouhaha when people discovered that the cookies made from recipes in the book were nothing like the cookies they had been buying at the stores.

                                          1. re: JoanN

                                            And I don't want to imply that I was Al's best friend, either. But I assure you there is no way that Al would have given away his real recipes. He had a deep, intellectual interest in the role of soup in different cultures, and unless he way lying to me, did travel in places other than Iran on his summer vacation. The book idea he described to me included this kind of cultural discussion.

                                            Al would refuse to discuss his nationality. I remember visiting Adrianna's Bazaar (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage...) for the first time and was shocked that it carried Al's soups (famously, Al yanked the soup away from his brother, who owned a David's Cookies franchise in Brooklyn Heights, because he saw one of the soups on display past the boiling point). Finally, I remember thinking, I'll find out more about Al's personal life. I professed amazement that Al trusted her to carry his soup, but Ms. Zabarkes looked at me like I was crazy. "I'm afraid to ask him anything about himself." As longtime fans of Al's, I understood immediately.

                                            What is hard for me to reconcile is how Al got into the situation he is in now, where the soup is vastly inferior to his old product. He resisted many entreaties to "sell out," and even when he tried, such his disastrous New Year's Eve appearance on QVC, when he told the host that the soups he was selling (post-Seinfeld) weren't as good as they used to be. He was so honest and dedicated that he couldn't hype his own product.

                              2. re: Tay

                                I doubt it. In most cases of busted books, the manuscript is never finished. If the book was submitted in full and rejected, I think my friend would have remembered.

                                Let's look at it this way. Clearly, Al needed a collaborator/ghostwriter. What do you think the odds are of a felicitous relationship between the two?

                                1. re: Dave Feldman

                                  You were as friendly with Al as anyone, Dave. You could have bailed him out of this one had you known. Ah, the road not traveled....

                            1. re: karmalaw

                              Same link as in my original posting! :)

                              1. re: Jim Leff

                                exactly -- I guess I should have written it as: This IS interesting...

                                the inflection gets lost here....

                                Love the part where he's "italian".

                                1. re: karmalaw

                                  Yes, it IS. I read in a NY Post article (from the recent past) that the two brothers haven't spoken in years. Indeed, it was "Paul Fox" who began working in the restaurant business in the '70s and was supplying muffins across the city way before Seinfeld was even on the air.