Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Power of Soup

We hosted our first "soup night" in December, 2007.  At the time, we were looking for a way to create more community among our family, friends, and neighbors -- to unify some of the disparate groups that make up our circle of acquaintances. And we thought a casual Sunday evening affair would accomplish our goal nicely.
Soup night wouldn't be a complicated matter. In fact, the concept was beyond easy. One Sunday evening a month, we'd make up a few pots of soup. We'd invite just about everyone we knew, and guests would show up at will. Nobody was required to RSVP, guests were welcome, and the only rule was "no worries". People could bring something to pass (bread, crackers, dessert)... or not. Strangers would meet and mingle.  And we could all enjoy a casual night of nourishment and conversation.

We hosted four soup nights that year. And they were an absolute blast.  We had a great time, and we vowed to hold soup nights for years to come.  Unfortunately, in fall of 2008, Peef lost his job.  Afraid (amid other things) that we'd have to start asking the guests to bring the soup, we put a hold on the festivities. After a year's break, we both wondered if we'd have the nerve to start things up again.

2009 came and went. The economy tanked. Despite dismal odds, Peef acquired gainful employment. We watched as friends and neighbors alike pulled in the reigns on their spending. Ultimately, we found that we saw some of our friends even less often than in the years before. The timing seemed perfect for bringing back soup night. So, we sent out a few invites and got to work on our soup.

We hosted our first soup night of 2010 this past Sunday.  And gosh, it was like coming home. The regulars came back with a vengeance -- colleagues from Peef's old workplace, friends we haven't seen in weeks (and even months), family we don't get together with nearly often enough.  And we had a few amazing new-comers this year.  We were privileged to meet fellow food blogger (and "common soul"), Rebecca, from CakeWalk. She brought her friend Sasa, another local foodie; and we had a great time chatting about food like old friends.  Bryan, who we met through his work with Jen Ehr Farm, brought his wife,  Mrs. Jen Peters, and their son, Oliver, who happens to be the same age as my niece, Reagan. The adults talked, and the kids became fast friends -- playing with Elmo the cat, unlocking hidden treasure, and bringing plenty of boundless 2-year-old energy to the party.
Seems so strange to give the food a back seat to everything else.  But, in this case, it's more than appropriate. The three soups -- a Cuban inspired black bean, a southwestern corn chowder (with poblanos and applewood smoked corn), and a pork and black-eyed pea chili -- were warm and delicious.  The corn chowder was the clear favorite, disappearing well before the last of the guests even arrived.  And we got a request or two for the "Cowboy Chili" recipe. But... eh...

Despite its name, soup night is really far more about the company than the soup. It's about that feeling you get when you're surrounded by the people who really count. When all the turmoil outside doesn't seem to matter so much inside. And those times when life is... well... just plain good.

I know it's simple. But, I can't help from thinking... maybe all the world REALLY needs is another soup night.

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26 comments:

  1. When I told my friend E about Soup Night, she was so excited: "what a great idea!" I think were her exact words, and I could mentally see a lightbulb ignighting above her head. She's in Boston, and a fledgling group of Soup Nighters are about to emerge there, I think.

    I was so happy to meet you, and that I actually left my comfort zone a bit to show up on your doorstep! I wouldn't say that I'm introverted, but the power of Soup Night is not to be taken lightly...

    People tend not to get together as much it seems, especially when we can live quite comfortably behind closed doors and computer screens. I agree we all can benefit from a good Soup Night! Especially ones with excellent eats!

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  2. What a fun way to get people together. Soup just seems to bring people together. Once a year my neighbor hosts a Stone Soup party where everyone brings something to go in the soup pot & its the only time we get together with people in the neighborhood

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  3. What an excellent idea. Man, I wish I lived in Wisconsin so that *I* could attend a soup night, because -
    a) your soups look delicious
    b) what a fun way to spend Sunday!!
    c) what a great way to get everyone together

    I think of my friends and family who are so compartmentalized in my life, and really respect that you had the enthusiasm (and courage!!) to do something like this. Again, just a great idea all around!!

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  4. Very cool idea. Glad it turned out so well and the company was good!

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  5. I'm planning on making a new recipe this week that has black beans and sweet potatoes (and corn and salsa) and I must admit that I was a little nervous about mixing those flavors until I saw your picture of the Cuban inspired soup. I think those are sweet potatoes, right? Thanks for boosting my confidence!

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  6. Kim - Yes, those are sweet potatoes in the black bean soup, and they add a wonderful sweet note to the soup! Definitely give it a try.

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  7. It's a wonderful that I know people love. I'm so glad you got to relive the fun!

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  8. Lo, I'm glad things are better for you and Peef and I agree with RCakeWalk, "What a great idea!" Thank you for being so transparent in your process, and for the corn chowder recipe. That's the first one I'm going to make for my first Soup Night. I've been thinking about starting a new support group using ideas from The Mind Body FX Lifestyle book by Melonie Dodaro and Soup Night will be a perfect introduction! Thanks!

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  9. MMM, soup. I love soup that filled with chunky goodness. And even better when it brings people together. And much more inviting than a salad.

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  10. Can I come over someday for soup night? :)

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  11. A soup night sounds like so much fun and super delicious too!

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  12. Your soup nights sound like a wonderful way to entertain friends in a low-key, casual way. No pressure to make anything special, -just make the soup down-home delicious. Love it! Thanks for the idea.

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  13. oh, soup night! how perfect, fun and delicious. please invite me next time?

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  14. Kate - thanks for the happys. Good luck with your Soup Night and be sure to let keep us updated on your results.

    Julia - I'll shoot you an email with the details.

    G. - You're welcome to join us anytime!

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  15. I tried to read this post 3 times and kept coming back to it and getting interuppted. I'm glad I finally was able to read it through!

    All of those soups look terrific and are a great way to celebrate good friends and good fortune in tough economic times.

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  16. Great concept, what a great way to share a meal with friends and family.

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  17. What a great story! Love your attitude and your soup.

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  18. I like this idea of soup night! :)

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  19. So simple. And yet...so genius. We host a game night once a month at our house and it's mucho fun-o. I love absolutely love this idea of adding different soups to the mix. And perfect for the winter months.

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  20. Soup is one of my favorite thing to eat!

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  21. thanks again for hosting! we all had so much fun, and the soups were so good - i couldn't pick a favorite. can't wait for the next one!

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  22. i love this idea! i will have to host my own soup night next winter...ohhhh...wouldn't that be fun on the farm??

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  23. Great idea...soup party! Specially in this cold weather...

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  24. I love soup nights, especially in the winter. They all looking so yummy.

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  25. Sounds like an awesome way to get together with friends - soup is always good!

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  26. I love the idea of soup night. Soup is so easy. Guess what I made recently? Yep, potato and pea shoot-sprout soup. lol!

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