Soup Will Save the World

Who doesn’t love soup, especially this time of year? Courtney Allison, Tina Carr, Caroline Laskow and Julie Peacock are four friends who want to help people not just make and enjoy soup, but use it to build community through shared meals in their new book, The Soup Club Cookbook. We reached out to them to learn about the inspiration behind the book as well as a few tips on what makes soup truly magical.

The Soup Club Cookbook
The Soup Club Cookbook

FP: We love the concept of a soup club! How did it come about?

SC: Believe it or not, Soup Club started with granola, which (like soup) you always make in large, share-able batches…and the onset of soup weather, and a simple conversation. We didn’t invent the idea of food-sharing but we use soup club as a way to formalize what began as a spontaneous way to give away the extras from especially exuberant cooking. We have stuck with it and worked out kinks and come to depend on it and love it. What we’re doing now is spreading the word and sharing the fabulousness of food-sharing. And we’re still doing our soup club, of course!

FP: We love that you’re continuing your own club while encouraging others to start them up!

The Soup Club Manifesto is clever and powerful. Which parts of it stand out the most to you?

SC: All of it! But we all have personally meaningful parts: Tina was a chronic apologist! Soup club has taught her that it always feels good to receive someone else’s home cooked soup – never ever apologize. Caroline adds salt and crushed red pepper to everything, and felt strongly about encouraging other people to do the same. Courtney loves the idea of food sharing just because, not needing a special occasion although those are good reasons for food sharing too. The magical delivery is what gets Julie. Finding soup at your door is definitely magical.

FP: This might be an impossible question to answer, but what are your favorite kinds of soup?

SC: Week to week, meal to meal, craving and eating and enjoying soup has a rhythm. One night you’ll want something hearty, another night you’ll feel like something creamy (or creamed) or pureed. But then you may want meat the next or a hearty grain to chew.

Chickpeas and coconut milk find their way into a lot of our recipes (and bonus points for tallying up all our suggestions to use creme fraiche). Their heft and richness help the soups serve as stand-alone meals.

FP: Great tip on the usage of chickpeas and coconut milk!

When you’re not eating soup (if that ever happens!), what are your favorite meals to prepare?

SC: We love big salads, roasts, anything with eggs, a batch of interesting cooked grains like farro or wheat berries tossed with some delicious leftovers, olives, chunks of hard cheese (kind of a fancy antipasto salad), anything with anchovy butter (but especially cauliflower), anything with some homemade aioli. When we do get together there’s always something sweet on the table too like cookies, chocolate covered almonds, or nuts.

FP: What kitchen tools are most helpful for preparing large batches of soup?  

SC: A big pot (14 quarts recommended) and a sharp knife! …and a long-handled spoon for stirring and tasting as you go. An immersion blender is a must for pureeing large batches of soup. We are immersion blender evangelists.

FP: We love our immersion blender!

We ask everyone this question: what are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name.

SC: Late-night handfuls of Granola. Leftover halloween candy pilfered from our kids. Chai from our favorite hole-in-the-wall Pakistani deli (this one is all pleasure and entirely guilt-free). Cheese.

FP: Can’t go wrong with anything on that list!

In addition to being cookbook authors, you’re also moms and busy professionals. What are some of your non-cooking/food related interests and hobbies?

SC: We are an educator, an ecologist, a filmmaker, a nutritionist, a yogi, a traveler, a feminist, a mother, a runner, a Dane, a Jew, a Yankee, a Christian, a vegetarian, a gardener, and a coffee drinker. Like most of our friends and neighbors in New York – like most people living in the 21st century, perhaps – we wear lots of hats. We have some traditional jobs (educator, yoga teacher, parent, documentary filmmaker) and many interests that we’d love to pursue more fully (music festivals, boogie boarding, transcendental meditation, exquisite corpse marathons…).

FP: Your ability to balance roles is inspiring!

Where can people find The Soup Club Cookbook?

SC: The best place to buy our book is through our website and while you’re there you can read more about our adventures in soup and food. We’re on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. We hope people will look for us and share their adventures in soup and the food sharing the book (hopefully) inspires. You can also find the book at all online book vendors or ask your local bookstore to get a copy if they don’t already have it. We love bookstores.

FP: Gotta support bookstores!

What advice do you have for would-be soup club organizers?

SC: Choose friends/neighbors/ co-workers who are committed to the idea and want to see it work. Definitely find an easy point of convergence where the hand-off of soup won’t be too complicated. Talk about what you like to cook and eat with your would-be soup-mates. If you all start getting excited about what you may cook and share, its a good sign. And joining a CSA together is a good push into soup-making. At some point you’ll be totally overwhelmed by squash, greens, onions and carrots, all of which resolve into some good pots of soup (don’t forget to add some bacon, unless you’re a vegetarian, and then add some extra creme fraiche).

FP: You’re not professional chefs, how was the cookbook writing process? What surprised you?

SC: We’re still friends, still sharing food and still a soup club, two years after venturing into unknown territory.

Collaborating on the writing and decision-making was a humbling and emboldening process. We approached this project with little experience and relied on experts to guide us. Writing and cooking requires an extraordinary amount of work on the back-end – editor, writers, illustrator, recipe testers, photographer, food stylist, page and cover designers,copy editors, proofreaders, art director – there are so many moving pieces and a great cookbook is a true collaborative project.

The Grandmother Principle: Having to write down a recipe that you’ve made many dozens of times is a lot harder than we thought. Telling people when and how much to salt their soup (consistently, no less), for example, drove us a little crazy.

The amount of time to put together a book was beyond our expectations. I think all of us can appreciate the efforts, energy, attention to detail, sustained interest, etc that go into the making of any cookbook. The fact is that we still want to make the recipes in the book after making, testing, remaking, tasting, writing about, thinking about and editing all of them and that feels pretty amazing.

FP: Amazing indeed! You’ve taken the process from soup to nuts– literally. We’re ready to whip up a batch of soup right now!

If you’re in the NYC area, be sure to stop by powerHouse on 8th (1111 8th Ave. between 11th and 12th Street, Brooklyn) on Saturday, March 7th from 4-5 to meet the incredible women behind The Soup Club Cookbook and learn more about their journey.

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