Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Soup Night: Recipes for Creating Community Around a Pot of Soup, by Maggie Stuckey

Soup Night:
Recipes for Creating Community Around a Pot of Soup
Author: Maggie Stuckey
Publisher: Storey Publishing
Publication Date: October 2, 2013
Source: NetGalley
View on Amazon

This book is really more than a cookbook featuring soup. It's a book of stories of community block parties, neighbourhood kitchen parties, street-long potlucks, all centred around the idea of Soup Night. Soup Night is described in many forms in the book, but essentially it's a neighbourhood tradition of everybody on a street gathering at one person's house (once a week, once a month, during the winter or all year round) to enjoy homemade soup. Everyone brings their own bowl and spoon and neighbours take turn hosting each time. Maggie Stuckey describes Soup Night traditions throughout the United States, but mostly focuses on one particular area of Portland, Oregon.

When I first started reading this book I thought, "Well I'd never invite my neighbours over to my house for soup. That's crazy talk." But the book sucked me in. As she described the warmth and smells and feeling of sharing soup and building traditions--building community--around food, I found myself thinking, "Well I feel like I almost have to do it!"

I'm not sure if I really will go out and invite everyone on my street over to my house, but I'll tell you one thing: I have a pot of soup on the stove right now. I was inspired not just by the recipes or even the stories, but by the tone of the book. Maggie Stuckey knows what it is to love making soup, and she reminded me how much I love it too.

I especially liked her intuitive instructions. Recipes like "Cream of Something Green" soup, or invitations to substitute at will between ingredients, choosing the best of what we have and what we like. Because she knows that is how everyone makes soup. We put a little of this and a little of that until it feels done. To help decide when to substitute and when to follow directions, she provides a list of "soup making basics"--ingredients you may want to have on hand to make a variety of soups on short notice--as well as excellent tips for making your own stock and roue. In fact when I read her roue instructions I realized I had probably been making it wrong all along because when I did it the way she suggested I made the best roue I've ever made. So thanks, Maggie!

I can't talk about community dinners in Portland without thinking about this sketch from Portlandia in which dumpster divers Daniel and Meg throw a dinner party. Hopefully real life Soup Nights are more successful!


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