There are a lot of reasons to love a positive, energetic and organized friend who loves to cook. On this particular day, my friend Kathryn's vision led a group of 14 women from our church to hold a "Soup Exchange." The goal was to have homemade soup in our freezer to help each other have some "dinners up our sleeve" during the cold (and hectic) Winter months.
Kathryn divided us into two groups of 7 and gave each of us (14) 32 ounce plastic containers. Each participant was to bring 12 quarts of her favorite homemade soup (frozen) to Kathryn's house for a combination "Girl's Night Out" and "Soup Exchange" last Friday. We were to keep 2 of the quarts at home for ourselves.
Daunting, right? Making soup for an army was a big job, but luckily my soup could be made in one giant batch (the recipe x 5). I relied on my trusty favorite, Classic Tomato Soup from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and Dan kept walking into the kitchen saying "They are so lucky." He loves this soup and knew that it would provide my friends with a nice cozy dinner.
When I was at the grocery store the week of the exchange, I had a lightbulb moment when I saw some big loaves of day old French bread. Croutons! I bought and cubed the loaves and then tossed them in batches with a mixture of melted butter, olive oil and dried Herbs de Provence. I baked them in a single layer on a cookie sheet for 30 minutes in a 300 degree oven until they were dry and crouton-like. Each set of of my tomato soup came with a bag of fresh croutons.
The night of the exchange, I arrived with my frozen soup in a cooler and set them out on the table above, by the sign marked: Tomato - boy, was Kathryn organized! Then everyone in my group, systematically went around the table and took 2 quarts of each and put them back in our coolers. I came home with: Asparagus Leek, Butternut Squash, Turkey Chili, Curried Carrot, Chicken Tortilla and Ajiaco (a Cuban soup of chicken and potato). Neat, eh?
After our coolers were tucked back into our cars, we enjoyed a casual and relaxing dinner and conversation. There were two big tables of women talking and laughing - you could just sense everyone's blood pressure going down.
It wasn't easy to make a ton of soup, and it certainly wasn't easy for Kathryn to coordinate us all and then make us dinner! But that is exactly my point. Some of the best things in life (friendship, community, family dinners) take effort. And it is the kind of effort that has lasting benefits. I saw a few of the women at church a few days later and we hugged and chatted and are on our way to being friends. We shared a common experience and we spent some time getting to know each other.
I left the party with far more than soup. Thank you, Kathryn!
*Footnote: Remember the message I posted here on Monday? We lost our power! My first thought was: Save the Soup! Luckily, everything in my freezer in the basement was rock solid when the power came back on. I lost everything in the upstairs refrigerator, but at least the soup was fine. Tonight we have Chicken Tortilla!