The Power of Soup

Julie Kendrick - Minneapolis, Minnesota
As heard on The Bob Edwards Show, November 22, 2013
Julie Kendrick

Julie Kendrick believes in making soup. But not just because it's nourishing to body and soul during Minnesota winters. She also believes that making—and sharing—soup with friends builds connections within her community.

Themes: community
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I believe in the masterpieces that everyday people can create, when they’re given a chance. I believe in sharing nourishment with my friends. I believe in warm, tasty liquids on a freezing cold day. I believe in the power of soup.

I started hosting soup swaps four years ago, after reading about Knox Gardner, a Seattle resident who loved to cook big pots of soup but who quickly tired of his own cooking. He had an idea to bring friends together for an evening to talk about, and swap, containers of their favorite soups. His hope was not only to fill his freezer with tasty meals, but, as he said, “foster a community of friends and families to create traditions around food and sharing.”

I held my first soup swap shortly after I read that article, and I’ve never looked back. I host two swaps a year, one in spring and one in fall, although I had a friend tell me recently that she thought I held them every month. That would just be crazy, but it shows what an impact the swaps have had. The concept is simple: arrive with six containers of frozen soup, tell the group about your creation, pick a number, and then take turns selecting new soups to take home and enjoy.

In Minnesota, where I live, the winters are cold and long, and the prospect of brand-new soup, maybe a kind I’ve never tried before, or one from a friend who’s a great cook, can liven up many dreary weeknight suppers and Saturday afternoon lunches. But it’s more than that, of course—it’s the friendships and bonds that are formed when we share the stories of our precious creations with each other. Like the woman who told us that she was the only grandkid who ever cooked with Grandma, and how now all her siblings want to come over to her house for bowls of Grandma’s Famous Vegetable Soup. Or the newlywed who swapped Artichoke Bisque, the same kind of soup that she and her boyfriend were eating when he proposed. Or the friend who told of her transformative vacation at a Colorado dude ranch, and how she’d convinced the chef to share the recipe for Roasted Poblano and Squash Soup to help her remember that time.

There are chances to give back, too. One year, I had a friend who had just started chemotherapy treatment, so I asked guests to bring along an extra container. Their generosity allowed me to deliver twenty quarts of soup to my ailing friend and her family.

Soup is slow. You just cannot rush soup. Soup is nourishing. Even when some of the ingredients are slightly decadent, it’s nourishing for all the parts of you, not just the waistline. And, perhaps most importantly for the place where I live, soup is warm. When I open my freezer and heat up a friend’s recipe, I think of her and I connect with her. All over one bowl of soup.

Julie Kendrick is a writer who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which has the coldest average temperature of any major metropolitan area in the U.S. (about eleven below zero in January). She survives the winter by writing (sometimes with gloves on), dreaming of spring, and, of course, preparing many batches of soup.

Independently produced by Dan Gediman for This I Believe, Inc.