More on Soup Night

November 6, 2010

I told you a bit about Soup Night a while back. But, I wanted to share a few more ideas that might make Soup Night more manageable.

When we lived at L’Abri, all meals were eaten in community. Their kitchens were set up for this. I’ve borrowed some ideas from L’Abri.

You can see the two pictures above of the L’Abri student kitchen. It’s small and cozy- and very, very efficient. Out of this small kitchen, about 20+ students are fed at least one meal on most days. Most of the students eat around the table in the kitchen, and there is another table just outside the kitchen where the rest of the people eat. L’Abri is on a tight budget. There are lots of meals centered around legumes and pasta. Lots of soup. Meat is a treat. But, there’s always plenty for everyone to have a decent meal. Charlie and I loved this- and we wanted to bring the L’Abri meal philosophy home with us.

So, I’ve adapted some of the L’Abri ideas to make feeding a crowd easier.

We took the doors off our cabinet where the dishes were stored. This allows people to get their own dishes. Charlie installed cup hooks underneath the cabinet so that the kids could get their own cups. In our house, the children drink everything from these small cups. They are short and squatty- so they don’t tip over easily. For Soup Night, I take my wooden silverware holder out of the drawer and place it on the counter with a stack of cloth napkins, and I’m almost done. Put out some wine glasses and fill a pitcher of water. I have a white hotel table cloth that I use for everything from Thanksgiving dinner to Soup Nights. It’s indestructible. I don’t fuss about red wine spills. When you go to someone’s house, do you really care if they have a spot on their table cloth?

I think that it’s really important to internalize that this is not entertaining. It’s hospitality. All I do to prep the house is make sure that the bathroom is reasonably clean. It’s about sharing a meal with neighbors. Let your kids’ messy rooms go. After the kids play in their rooms, they will be messy any way.

Another thing that I’ve learned is that you need to have a Plan B ready. One time, I was making this beautiful tortilla soup. I had bought, roasted and peeled all these beautiful chilis and make this beautiful sauce with pastured chicken stock. When I tasted it, the soup was blazing hot. I was sputtering- and I’m not a wimp with hot foods. Truly, it was inedible. So, I ran to Trader Joe’s and picked up all the stuff for a taco bar. Grilled some chicken; warmed up some canned black beans and tortillas- the rest was ready in about 20 minutes. Yesterday, I had four realtors at my house. It was either make soup and fly around like a witch with my kids, or outsource. I got home from the park about 15 minutes before everyone arrived and ordered pizza. I think that having a Plan B at the ready is important.

I know that others are doing this. My good friends John and Tommi (who’ve also spent time at L’Abri) do a Soup Night up in Portland. I’d love to hear what questions or suggestions people have.

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