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Soup….Mmm, mmm good!

A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting. – Abraham Maslow

Soup can bring a family together at the dinner table or in the kitchen on a cold winter day. Soup can be delivered with love to someone who isn’t feeling well.  Making and serving soup seems like a rather personal activity.  Not anymore!

Souper Heroes

0116A little over a year ago I had the pleasure of meeting Tricia Keels, Queen of Soup!  Tricia is a Columbus mom of three and a tireless advocate of fighting hunger in central Ohio. For the past few years, she has single handedly been organizing soup fundraisers to raise money for the Mid-Ohio Food Bank.  Tricia loves to cook and loves to share her love of cooking.  But she has something that goes beyond her sheer passion for cooking — she has a passion for making the community better and for challenging others to do the same.  The goal of her non-profit, Souper Heroes, previously known as Columbus Soup and Bread, is “to have fun with food and community while providing both to those who don’t have enough of either.”

afterlight-19-1024x1024Every month during what Tricia calls “Soup Season” (October-May), she organizes soup makers from around the city who are willing to make a large crockpot of soup to feed attendees.  She finds a space (usually a trendy brewery like Seventh Son or culinary space like The Kitchen or The Commissary) and sends out the invite via email and other social media outlets.   And just like the classic line from the 1980s Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come”….. people come; they come from all over Columbus.  They sign up to make soup or they just come and eat it!   Soup eaters are encouraged to come and eat all of the soup they’d like (often paired with a local artisan bread or other treats — my daughter ate so many Pistacia Vera macaroons at one event that she threw up in the bathroom — whoops). So what’s the catch?  Attendees do not even need to RSVP, they just need to show up, throw a few bucks in the empty Donation Crockpot to share with the Mid-Ohio Foodbank or other neighborhood services organizations, and then EAT and enjoy the event.  It’s a simple model and executed perfectly by Tricia every time.

Soup Swap

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With the 9th National Soup Swap Day coming up on January 24, 2015 Tricia, the guru of soup, was asked to host a Soup Swap to be featured as a story on the national cooking site, The Kitchn. [Tricia also hosts Food Swaps when she’s not hosting Souper Heroes events so it was a natural connection for her to host a Soup Swap].  I was lucky enough to attend Tricia’s Soup Swap in early January.  Executive Editor of The Kitchn, Faith Durand, helped Tricia host the Swap.  There were about 15 soup makers each bearing his or her own speciality soup in individual serving sizes and ready to “swap.” I took my Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup with Lemon Dill Oyster Crackers.  Faith made a delicious Sangria and a few other light appetizers and it was joyful gathering of home cooks of different backgrounds.

Think of a Soup Swap like a Christmas cookie exchange.  Make soup in mass, bring it to the party divided into a few mason jars and get ready to swap your soup for someone else’s soup. All the gritty details of how to run the swap (and templates for swap cards etc) can be found in Faith’s article, Here’s How We Hosted a January Soup Swap along with some great photos of the Swap. This is truly a fun and unique party to host with some girl friends or extended family.  Thanks to The Kitchn’s feature on Tricia’s Soup Swap and her charitable organization, Souper Heroes, she has been contacted from people all over the country about starting their own Souper Heroes Organization in their respective cities.  What a positive movement!

So in honor of National Soup Swap Day, I thought I’d share this story with you in hopes that you may be inspired to organize a Swap of your own with your friends — building community around food, what’s better than that? National Soup Swap day aside, I also strongly encourage you to attend a Souper Heroes event if you live in Columbus or see if there is something similar in your city.  Or better yet, start your own (the Souper Heroes model could be used for any type of fundraiser really — church, schools etc).  Make it a fun night out for your family.  No need to plan ahead–  just show up, bring a little cash to throw in the “pot,” (Donation Crockpot) and try all the soup you’d like while helping raise money for a worthy cause. It couldn’t be much easier and it’s a  great experience for the kids too!  Check out the Souper Heroes website for upcoming dates and locations or to sign up to be a soup maker.

Soup Recipes

Photo from The Kitchn

Photo from The Kitchn

Lastly, since we are talking about soup and I hate to write a post without adding a recipe, I couldn’t help but post this link to Faith Durand’s most recent post titled How to Make French Onion Soup.  We made French Onion Soup a few weeks ago in my French Cooking Class and I have been craving it ever since but have yet to make it.  Faith’s recipe comes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which is similar to the recipe that we followed in class.  You just can’t beat a classic French Onion Soup and this one looks pretty close to perfect.

Some of my favorite soups on The Common Plate are Moroccan Chickpea Chili, Gumbo-laya Stew, Easy Crockpot Potato Soup (Kid Favorite!!!), Tomato Basil Soup and my go-to Souper Heroes soup, Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup.  Even find tips to make your own homemade chicken stock.

I’m always looking for new soup recipes.  Comment below if you have a great one to share or email me at thecommonplate@gmail.com