So this whole Soup and Bread thing started — as do many good ideas, and more than a few very bad ones — as a late-night flight of barroom fancy. About month ago I was standing outside the Hideout, talking to Tim and trying to leave. I may have been complaining (again) about Chicago’s crappy late-night food options. Because no offense to Claudio, but one can only eat so many tamales.
We started spinning a plan. The Hideout has a food license — why not keep the bar open after-hours and serve eggs! Brilliant! No, wait. We have no kitchen. OK, then. Sandwiches? Or… soup! And bread! All we would need is a few crock pots, and maybe a toaster oven.
This segued seamlessly into a discussion of soup kitchens, the economy, the Great Depression, the pre-Prohibition history of the Hideout, how the old bartender from the 70s used to be a bookie, what was going to happen to the Obama banner now that the election was over, where that guy over there got that hat, and whether or not it was last call yet. Soup was forgotten.
But when I woke up the next morning, instead of groaning and reaching for the Advil, I thought, “Hey — that’s actually … a good idea.” Maybe not 2 AM soup, but soup, at dinner in the winter. At the bar. For free.
Since then I’ve discovered that, while it may be a good idea, it is also wholly unoriginal. There are at least two other “soup and bread” blogs (here and here); recent years have seen a rise of soup swaps nationwide. A Reader article last month talked about an ongoing program of “soup grants,” in which monies raised from the sale of homemade soup are channeled into microgrants for artists. Lill Street’s Empty Bowls event raised $11,000 for the antihunger organization First Slice this year — in just one night of soup. And of course, soup suppers have been a favored fundraising tool for churches and ladies auxiliaries for, oh, forever.
Still, I didn’t realize until this week just how much people love soup. After tomorrow we’ll have a much better sense of just how this project will work–but before then I just want to jump the gun and thank the Hideout for instantly getting behind this cockamamie scheme, the excellent Robin Cline for the armload of thrifted crock pots she presented me with as a Christmas gift, everyone who’s volunteered to help out thus far, and the Reader, Chicagoist, and Gapers Block for helping spread the good word. About soup.
UPDATE II: They even like us out in New York. Thanks Helen!