Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Soup Exchange: An Exercise in Building Community

Do you remember when I went to a soup exchange last year? I made 5 batches of my favorite tomato soup, which is from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food called Classic Tomato Soup and lugged it over to my friend, Kathryn's house. Well the soup exchange was such a hit, it not only has returned, but expanded! I think 21 women exchanged soup this year. 

My friend Kathryn is a positive, energetic and organized woman who loves to cook. She is also a mother of 3 who knows how wonderful it feels to have a stash of dinners in the freezer, particularly during the cold Winter months. I'm sure many a family warded off the polar vortex last year with a big pot of soup. 

I was lucky to be able to attend the party on the night of the exchange this year, because originally I thought that we might still be in Seattle. I RSVP'd for the camaraderie but didn't register a soup in case I was still out of town. The last thing I wanted to do was leave her short one girl. I came the night of the event and marveled at everyone's effort. All of these women came together for fun and fellowship...and left with a freezer full of soup. In case you want to try a soup exchange with your friends, I'll explain how the night worked.

There were 3 groups of 7 women. Kathryn gave each participant 14 empty plastic quart containers.   Each participant was to bring 12 containers of her favorite homemade soup (frozen) in a cooler to Kathryn's house.  Each participant kept 2 of the quarts of her soup at home for her family.  

Each group would do an organized swap. The first 7 women
(Group #1) set out their frozen soup on the table by the sign with the name of their soup (see photo above). Then they would walk around the table and take 2 quarts each of the other flavors and put them into the cooler they brought. When all the soups were claimed, Group #2 set out their soups and the process started again. It sounds complicated, but it was surprisingly easy. Group #3 proceeded the same way.

After the coolers were tucked back into the cars, Kathryn set out 21 individual Mac n Cheese ramekins, 2 large pans of roasted brussel spouts with bacon and 2 cold apple/cranberry Jell-O salads. We knew that she was making dinner, but we still couldn't believe that the rush-rush of our lives was suspended for an evening and that we were all sitting down to a relaxed adult dinner. There were two big tables of women talking and laughing. We didn't all know each other, in fact, I only really knew about 8 of the women. But I learned a few names and really connected with a few more.

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 have seen a few of the women since that night and we've met each other with an honest, "Hi!" We hugged and chatted and are on our way to becoming friends.  We shared a common experience and we spent some real time getting to know each other. Priceless.

Thank you, Kathryn!

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