For centuries, people have been trying to produce the perpetual motion machine, or the nuclear fusion process that will produce more fuel than it consumes.

Well, last night Charles and I pulled off the holiday equivalent. We had a small throng over (small because we sort of forgot to invite anyone, and only our most clairvoyant friends and family members showed up), and we received more alcohol than we served. Bottles of wine, beautifully boxed bottles of champagne, a bottle of 20-year-old Port, a bottle of bourbon – are you hearing me? This is the Holy Grail of party-giving. The party that pays for itself – and then some.

So, in the first place, I wanted to share some of that good cheer and wish you a very merry Christmas.

I’d also like to point out that the days are getting longer – have you noticed that? Well, they are. (Still 24 hours, but you know what I mean.) Can Spring be far behind?

But what I’d really like to do is extend this notion of produces-more-than-it-consumes to your own life, by calling to your attention Campbell’s Select 18.6-ounce can of ready-to-serve CHICKEN WITH EGG NOODLES soup in the convenient pop-top can.

It is, quite possibly, the perfect food.

* In the first place, for those of you under the weather, it is chicken soup. Need I say more?

* For those of you concerned with convenience, it is prepared thus:

1. Pop top.
2. Pour into bowl.
3. Microwave a minute or two.
4. Drink. (Or eat, but that requires a utensil.)

In the summer, you could just drink it cold, skipping steps #2 and #3. (In any season, some cracked pepper and coarse salt add zest, though this will kick the sodium content up even with Utah’s largest lake.)

* For those of you concerned with diet, other than the sodium, you’re talking just 200 calories and 5 grams of fat in the whole 18.6 ounce can. Only Roasted White Meat is used in this soup – and ‘50% more chicken*’ (‘*than our previous formula’ reads the explanatory footnote – leaving me, I will admit it, just a tiny bit wary, as I prefer foods that result from recipes to foods that result from formulas).

Will you gain weight drinking this soup? Yes. About 18 ounces. But not for long.

* For those of you concerned with economy – and here’s the beauty part – the soup cost us $2.59, but peel off the label and you are left with a handsome ribbed canister that would surely fetch $3 on eBay or at the Pottery barn if attractively photographed and imaginatively merchandised. A pencil holder! A can to drop your spare change into (or other’s spare change if you’ve been downsized). Cans to fill with dirt with votive candles pressed into the top – use them to line your walk for parties. Cans to weld together into a sculpture or a small shiny dwelling.

Everyone’s so focused on the soup, they miss the hidden asset – Campbell’s doesn’t even brag on it – and it makes all the difference in the world. You paid $2.59, you got the soup, the chicken, the 50% extra chicken, and an attractive $3 multi-purpose art deco canister. It’s as if they paid you 41 cents to have lunch.

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