Soup Night

August 9, 2010

Charlie and I have been hosting monthly Soup Nights for a little over a year. We’ve truly enjoyed doing it! I make a big pot of soup and invite over the neighbors. I didn’t come up with the idea. I stole it from a woman named Martha Freeman, who was featured in an article in Cooking Light magazine about ten years ago. Yes- it took me a while. Charlie and I kept talking and talking and talking about what a fabulous idea it was over and over and over again. Alright already- do it! So, we did.

We picked the first date. Then, the kids and I walked the neighborhood putting fliers into mailboxes. We did that for maybe the first four of five times. That part became unsustainable, and so now we send reminders and announcements via e-mail.

I make a big pot of soup. Then, the invitation asks that friends bring something to share (or don’t!). I don’t request an RSVP. I don’t want people to feel like they have to come, and I also want them to be able to come at the last minute. I want people to be able to come home from a long day at work and just come as they are. There’s always plenty to eat, and we always have a great time. It’s been wonderful to get to know people in the neighborhood a bit. And it’s fun to see all my sweet neighbors meeting each other. We’ve had as few as eight people and as many as 30.

It’s hospitality, not entertaining. My kids’ rooms were a mess this past Friday. I’m o.k. with that. Our family has truly enjoyed connecting with our neighbors.


9 Responses to “Soup Night”

  1. min Says:

    What a wonderful idea! It’s like Stone Soup!

  2. jacqueline Says:

    I want to do this SO much, but was nervous it was entertaining – you are right – it isn’t. Can you share one recipe you use for soup? I am wondering on quantities.

    • Robin Johnson Simpson Says:

      Hi Jacqueline- I do clean the bathrooms. Other than that, I try my very best to choose not to “entertain”. Otherwise, my kids are the ones who suffer from my nagging- and it makes the day miserable. For me, being a mom is one of my two most important roles, so taking it out on my kids because I want my house to look perfect for the neighbors just feels wrong. And frankly, my neighbors truly don’t care if my house is squeaky clean.

      So, I’ve been doing this for over a year, which is why I no longer clean. I caught myself nagging one day and decided that my paradigm needed to change.

      Here’s a super easy and yummy recipe, which I got from my neighbor Mary. You can throw it together about an hour before everyone arrives- it’s that easy.

      Southwest white chili

      2 T olive oil
      1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts
      1/2 onion
      2 c chicken broth
      1- 7 oz can chopped green chilies
      3 (14.5 oz) cans white kidney (cannellini) beans, undrained
      Jack cheese for garnish

      spice blend:
      2 t garlic powder
      2 t ground cumin
      1 t oregano
      1 t cilantro
      1/8 t ground red pepper.

      Cut chicken up and cook it in the olive oil. Remove chicken from pan.

      Add onion to pan and cook for a few minutes. Stir in broth, chilies and spice blend. Simmer 30 minutes.

      Stir in cooked chicken and beans. Simmer 10 minutes. Garnish with jack cheese and onions.

      Makes 4-6 servings

      When I did this for Soup Night, I made five recipes worth- enough to feed 30ish.

      Otherwise, I have a basic formula for soup that always works. Onion, celery and carrot cooked in a bit of fat. Add stock. Simmer it for several hours. Add whatever veggies you have in the fridge, along with whatever legume you have on hand (lentils, white beans, etc). Cook until legumes are tender. Add a hand full of whatever greens you have on hand in the last 15 minutes. It always turns out. I usually throw in some yummy herb (sage, thyme, oregano, etc). Adjust for salt at the end.

      And, the quality of the stock matters. Home made is so much better. But, don’t let home made stock keep you from having a Soup Night. Home made is my ideal, but I definitely also use store bought stock.

      • jacqueline Says:

        Oh, thank you! I just think this is such a great idea. Do you have a zillion bowls? Do people bring other stuff? Sorry for all of the questions, but this has been something I wanted to do for 5 years! – Jacqueline

      • Robin Johnson Simpson Says:

        I do have a lot of bowls and silverware. Kids are often served in cups or mugs.

        While I’m constantly in the mode of throwing stuff out, this is a case where I would recommend a trip to the thrift store. I’m guessing that $20 could buy you lots of bowls and spoons to feed a crowd. I love thrift stores, and the one that I go to the most always has lots of silverware and dishes.

        Another option is to ask everyone to bring their own. In my opinion, the thrift store option would be easier for everyone (no one has to remember to bring a bowl and their silverware- and you don’t have to remember to return dishes that people forget).

  3. jacqueline Says:

    I agree! I am going thrifting. Thank you so much for answering so quickly – so kind. Jacqueline

  4. Eva Says:

    I’m going to give this idea some thought. My first reaction is it’s a great way to get to know people who live nearby. A way to make some new friends in my new ‘hood. Thanks!

  5. […] library and various community gatherings. So, my newest idea comes from my new friend Robin at Frustrated Farm Girl (I think she is my long-lost twin). I am going to establish a community soup night! I am very […]

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