Community Culture - Soup Club

You will need a bigger pot.

Last year I came across an article about a group of women in New York who had started a Soup Club, The basic premise being that each week one member would cook a big batch of soup for all the members of the club, taking turns around the group. I found this idea so charming and fun, I asked around until I finally found in my friend Sarah, someone who also had the desire to make it happen. Before long, being the great organizer that she is, we had 7 members in our little club and we set about delivering jars of soup to each others homes and texting back an forth to arrange soup delivery amongst our neighborhoods.  

Over time it occurred to us that we needed a central meeting place for our weekly soup exchange.  

We settled on Wednesday mornings in a central park, and that was when soup club really blossomed. 

Our children became fast friends, and what had once been a scattered grouping of rushed hellos on doorsteps became an epic weekly picnic of glorious proportions taking over one of the large tables in the middle of the park. Seasonal fruit, deviled eggs, lemon bars, brownies, brie, sourdough and homemade lemonade proliferated.  Soup was no longer the main attraction, although we did all enjoy the opportunity to flex our culinary muscles and broaden our creativity on a canvas of veggie broth, we also bonded to each other with a fierceness fueled by laughter, exhaustion, and sharing the big and small trials of everyday life over thermos' of coffee on foggy fall and winter mornings.

We did have some gorgeously artistic and classy soups and garnishes. This butternut squash, pear and ginger bisque (by Courtney) with arugula salad (by Hayley) was one of my personal favorite pairings.

Another favorite of mine was Sarah's butter braised root vegetable soup with sourdough croutons and lacey parmesan crisps. The golden color was so stunning! Other points for creativity definitely need to be awarded to Lacey's bright pink beet and pasta soup, it was very memorable and loved, I only wish I had snagged a photo. There were a few editions of tomato soup (Alice's was particularly nice), a couple variations of potato soup, and a few with noodles or beans. I'm so excited for next season of soup club, I think we all raised the bar on each other's cooking and introduced each other to new concepts of deliciousness we hadn't considered before.  

So, now you probably want to start your own soup club right? Here are my tips for success.

1. Choose at least 4 people that all have something in common, this makes it easier to meet up. Same neighborhood, same workplace, kids go to the same school, similar schedule. Ideally your lives can intersect on a weekly basis without a ton of additional scheduling to meet. Most of our group are homeschooling work at home moms, so we had the flexibility to meet on a weekday morning. If you can turn your soup exchange into a weekly playdate or gathering, I highly recommend it!

2. How will you communicate? Email? Group text? Facebook group? I like the idea of a facebook group because then you can have comment chains/replies to different topics and it's a fun way to share photos within your group.

3. Dietary restrictions? A few of our members are vegetarian or veggie leaning, so we had a vegetarian soup club. Make sure you are all on the same page so everyone enjoys the sharing experience. 

4. Get some big glass jars and a big pot! It's time to make some soup! 

I'm including my rough recipe for what I call "Lentil and Farro Soup" and what my kids simply call...

The Good Soup

Plan ahead when making a large quantity of soup. I make my own veggie broth simply by saving odds and ends of carrot, celery, and onion in a bag in my freezer. Once a month when its my turn to make soup, I put all my mirepoix scraps into my slow cooker and turn it on low over night. In the morning, strain and you have a rich homemade veggie broth. This is an affordable soup to make, and the key to the beauty of it is an ingredient that is free, time. What makes this peasant soup taste rich are 3 things: homemade broth, roasted garlic, and caramelized onions. It doesn't cost anything extra, but a bit of extra effort takes ordinary ingredients and makes them extraordinary. The other key to soup in large quantities is adequate seasoning. Never underestimate the importance salt and pepper, Never. 

To roast garlic: My favorite way to roast garlic is to cut the heads, place them in foil, drizzle with olive oil, and bake at 450 for about 30 minutes until the garlic cloves are soft and pop right out of the papery bulbs, It's not much work, and your house will smell like heaven, If you are going to roast one head of garlic, you might as well roast six, at least that's my opinion, but I digress. 

The Good Soup (A large quantity)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 cup red wine

4 onions, diced

4 carrots, diced

4 celery, diced

2 whole heads roasted garlic

6 quarts homemade veggie stock

2 15 oz cans diced tomato

2 cups red lentils

2 cups pearled farro, barley, or bulgur.

pinches of fresh rosemary, thyme,marjoram,oregano, and 2 bay leaf. 

Take time to slowly caramelize your diced onions in the 1/2 cup of olive oil, this can take up to 35 minute, so listen to some good music, have a glass of wine and be happy while making your soup! I like to chop my carrot and celery while I'm waiting for my onions to slowly caramelize into sweet smelling heaven. When they are lovely golden and juicy, deglaze the pot with your red wine. Let the wine simmer down into a syrupy consistency and then its time to go in with the carrots and celery, plenty (plenty! a handful!) of salt and pepper, and let the mirepoix get soft just for a bit sprinkling in all your beautiful roasted garlic and fresh herbs and stirring about with an old wooden spoon. Next it's time to put in your tomato and let it get acquainted with your other veggies for a moment. When this all has a sizzle going, add your veggie broth, plenty more salt and pepper, and your lentils and grains. Red lentils and pearled grains both only take between 15-20 minutes to cook, but it will take a while for your big soup pot to come up to a boil. Make sure to test your soup for seasoning and adjust as needed. If the flavors just don't seem to pop, you often just need more salt and pepper. You can easily pare this recipe down, but it's worth making a big batch because it holds up so well and is so economical, it's a weekly staple at our house. Sometimes I add a bit of small diced potato along with the other veggies and it's very nice, it is also lovely to add ribbons of greens towards the end of cooking time. It's endlessly adaptable, I hope you'll make it your own!

With Love, Bonnie

A Declaration of Food Sharing

We declare that soup shall be Shared.

Why soup? Soup scales up and Travels well.

Soup is economical, basic, and Nondenominational.

Soup Club is A State of Being, not a monthly meeting.

We are not limited to Special Occasion soup for holidays, births, moving or grief.

Salt your soup. Embrace crushed red pepper.

A black belt is a white belt who Never Quit. Make your soup.

Never Apologize for your soup.

Make soup with Abandon.

Remember, it’s just Soup.