Snow Day and Soup Play

The world is awash in white. Snow is a breath-taking event here, as it fleetingness and rarity mean that shoveling the sidewalk doesn’t get old. And a snow day from school? I live for these days!

Up here, it’s the kind of day to lounge around in your polar fleece, cradle your coffee, finish your book, complete the puzzle and eat the last bowls of yesterday’s auh-maz-ing soup.

Smitten Kitchen's Carrot Miso

I promised a soup round-up, and so here we are. But first, do you know about The Soup Party? I wish I could remember its origins…a book, I think? But way back when I still lived over by SDSU and had to cook to entice people to make the drive, I read about a woman, new to her home, who wanted to meet her neighbors. She hosted a super casual soup party, where she set out three big pots of soup, passed out photocopied invites and opened up her home on a week-day winter’s night. Guests were instructed to not RSVP, not worry if they couldn’t make it and not fret if they couldn’t stay long. She suggested if guests wanted to, they could bring a bottle of wine or baguette to share. Voila! A yearly ritual begun. And so I followed suit. In 2007, I hosted my first and only soup party. But oh my–

I made three double batches of soup and requested that people bring their own spoons and bowls; wine or baguette if they chose. As the clock counted down, I feared being ladled in soup for many months to come; I mean, I had three double-batches, and I was asking people to come to my out-of-the-way condo on a Tuesday. Stupid, stupid.

But people showed,  wine and spoons and appetites in tow. Bread was broken and bowls filled and refilled and recipes shared while the various continents of my friends mingled like one big Pangeaic plate. (Nikolai was even there, pre-dating days. His presence was not lost on me!)

In the end, I had to scrape down the sides of the East African nut stew to even have enough for the next day’s lunch. I think thirty-something people showed in a period of four to five hours: families, friends, lovers, neighbors. It was so casual and so community-centered I have wanted to host another one ever since.

If you plan on hosting your own Soup Party (which I cannot recommend heartily enough) a few suggestions:

  • Make one soup a day leading up to the party (Stews like to sit and marinate and get all jiggy with it in the pot, so those are good ones to make first.)
  • Utilize your crock pot. You know you don’t use it enough!
  • Purchase an extra ladle from Goodwill, or better yet, borrow your neighbor’s!
  • Make little folded cards to place next to each soup. On it, indicate soup name, recipe soup and major ingredients (many people like to know if something’s vegetarian or vegan)
  • Have soup toppings (drizzling oils, croutons, cheese, chives, etc.) in small bowls next to each soup
  • Make double batches; I noticed that my guests wanted to try each of the soups, and they brought people with them.
  • (Shhh! Two hosting secrets: since most people will bring their own bowls and spoons, clean-up is minimal! You have to attend to NOTHING! Prepare to be out of the kitchen and enjoying the company of your companions.)

Finally settling in means I have the energy to host another soup party! It’s on the books for February. Will you be in town? I suggest you pack a spoon. Here are the soups I plan on making. They have been the gastronomic highlight of 2011, and the Carrot Miso is the first new soup of 2012–a definite keeper.

  • Anna Thomas’s Green Soup with Ginger–I make this soup at least once a month and double the ginger. Next time you’re not feeling so hot, force someone to make this for you. (But make sure they don’t eat it on the way over…) In her book, Love Soup (one of my all-time fav cookbooks) Anna does this soup a gazillion ways; it’s delicious in every rendition.
  • This Carrot and Miso soup had me at hello. Seriously. I dove in for a taste test and said, out loud, to myself, “OH mygawd–OHMYGAWD!!” The entire batch was consumed in less than 48 hours. Make this bad boy with the freshest carrots you can find, probably the ones with greens still intact.
  • This New Year Noodle Soup set off a cooking and writing stint between my teaching partner and I. Don’t try to make this guy on a weeknight; instead, plan to zen out while chopping and sauteeing and preparing this hearty meal.

Happy cooking! And don’t forget your spoon! (I’m partial to this one from Pike Place Market’s spoonmaker.)

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