Swapping Soup and Building Community

Making soup can be a long, slow process, best done on a day when you want to stay home all morning or afternoon. The good thing about soup-making is that you’re generally not tied to the stove continuously, so you can use the time it’s cooking to do other things. This changes when you quadruple the recipe, turning your kitchen into an assembly line of sorts.

That’s not something I’d usually do, as I have a very small freezer. But, our housing co-op had a soup swap this past Saturday, so quadruple I did. I made Smitten Kitchen’s Roasted Eggplant Soup, which caused me to fill the kitchen counters with smashed garlic cloves and halved eggplants, tomatoes and onions. Thank goodness the recipe didn’t call for any chopping. I roasted the vegetables in shifts, then worked the roasted eggplant free of its skin and plucked off the leaves of the tomatoes. I split the ingredients into two pots, added the stock and the seasonings and then was finally able to let the soup cook itself down. While I started on the dishes.

At the end of the day, I had eight litres of soup, six of those ear-marked for the swap. I gave the extra soup to my parents and left the rest in my fridge overnight, so that the flavours could meld a little.

We met on Saturday afternoon, exchanged stories and snacked before we distributed the soup. Kids ran around while the adults chatted. There were exactly six households that could make it, so we all went home with a litre of our own soup, along with a litre from each of the other participants.

We live in a scattered co-op, which means that we have smaller properties around the neighbourhood, rather than one property with larger buildings and townhouses. Our smaller properties have more character than an apartment complex or concentrations of townhouses would, but it means that we have to work a little harder at building cohesiveness in our community. Events like this one bring us together as a co-op.

Holding events that involve sharing food also reinforces the idea that food security starts within our social circles and immediate communities. Once we start sharing food, skills and produce with our family, friends and neighbours, we’re on a path that has the potential to mitigate our reliance on industrial food streams. It’s also a path that creates the kind of networks that can support individuals and families through difficult times.

The larger issues aside, we’ll be having another soup swap in the new year and I’m hoping to organize a canning workshop for next summer. Maybe along with a community picnic.


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