When my friend Jacob posted on Facebook looking for people to join a soup club, I was very intrigued but was also hesitant. Another friend of mine was already in a soup club and I salivated over the pictures she posted of her weekly dinners. Her son was eating homemade squash soup while my kids were eating scrambled eggs, quesadillas, and macaroni and cheese. As a working mom with two little ones, I am often too tired to do anything else. Soup club meant that I would be committing to cooking, and cooking well enough for other people, but also that they would have to do the same for me. I decided that it was just the motivation I needed to get my family eating more real food.
The soup club concept was started by the women who wrote “The Soup Club Cookbook.” One friend asked three others if they wanted to join her in a soup club. They never had time to get together, and they all wanted an easier time with weeknight dinners, so soup club was the solution. The basic idea is this: Get a group of people together and rotate weeks to cook soup for everyone else. This isn’t for a communal meal—rather, the soup is delivered to each house. This means you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to get homecooked food delivered straight to your door—don’t we all deserve this pampering?
Six families were interested in joining our soup club. We didn’t all know each other, but we all knew Jacob and lived reasonably close by. We all kept kosher but the details of what that meant had to be worked out. One night we held a Google hangout after the kids went to bed to discuss that and other details. Soups would be pareve to accommodate the one vegetarian and one dairy-free person in our group. We would cook and deliver the soup on Sundays so that the soup could be eaten Monday night for dinner. We would make some sort of side to go with the soup to create more of a meal. We figured out how much soup each family would need based on the number of people and the age of the kids. We gathered leftover spaghetti sauce jars to store the soup in, and they would be passed to the next person who cooked.
The first week of soup delivery could not have come at a better time. That Shabbat afternoon as we were napping, my 4-year-old left the water running in the sink and we awoke to a flood in our house. We had done our best to clean up the mess but were still trying to figure out what to do when Jacob came by with Carrot Coconut soup and chickpea salad. My 4-year-old told him what happened, and we quickly received an offer for a dehumidifier. Already, this soup club was helping us build a community beyond just shared food.
As my week to cook approached, even the process of making my soup became a communal experience. I asked a friend who was known for her vegan cooking for her favorite soup recipe. I mentioned soup club to another friend and how I might have to buy a new bigger soup pot, and she told me she had the perfect pot for me that she was going to give away. So with my new pot and new recipe, I spent one Sunday cutting up sweet potatoes and mixing them with corn and spices to make a Southwestern Sweet Potato Corn Chowder. Seeing all the jars of soup on my counter, I felt a sense of accomplishment that I never feel when I’m just cooking for my family.
If you want to start your own soup club, “The Soup Club Cookbook” has a lot of good advice, but here is my own:
1. Find families that you have something in common with. We all are an easy drive or walk from each other, but I know another soup club that all had kids at the same school so that is where drop-off takes place.
2. Make sure you have compatible dietary restrictions. Whether kashrut or food allergies, too many different restrictions will make this difficult.
3. Figure out a feasible schedule. We chose Sunday because it’s the only full day that working people had to cook.
4. Determine how much soup you need. We decided on one pasta sauce jar per adult and half a jar per child. This is less than the cookbook recommends, but it ends up being plenty.
5. Make spreadsheets to keep track of everything including the schedule and drop-off information. It’s important to have phone numbers and know what to do about leaving soup if someone is not home.
6. Be flexible and adjust rules and guidelines as you go along.
7. Most importantly enjoy delicious home cooked food at your house every week!