Week 14

Six empty crock pots, or The Calm Before the Storm.

This week’s penultimate Soup and Bread was a blur of activity, distinguished by the appearance of not one but two unexpected soups and a surprise platter of orange-chocolate macaroons.

Here, in the thick of it, are our valiant band of cooks. There on the left is my former coworker Lisa Martain Hoffer, who turned up with family in tow, toting a pot of crab corn chowder; next to her is artist, pastry chef, and massage therapist Deana Burrows with sweet and sour cabbage soup accessorized with a bowl of pumpernickel nuggets. And next to them is Terra Brockman; Terra is the executive director of the Land Connection, and her book, The Seasons on Henry’s Farm, a lyrical look at a year in the life of her brother’s central Illinois farm, is one of three finalists for a 2010 James Beard Award. She’s a great writer and, unsurprisingly, an excellent cook! She brought along a sorrel soup made from greens picked the day before from, yes, Henry’s farm — and her partner Joel Smith brought a soup as well, a rich spin on avoglemono soup he billed as “Greek, Jewish, Mexican soup.” Mexican because he garnished the thick blend of chicken, lemon, and rice with some crumbled-up tortilla chips.

Next to Terra is Drew, an emissary from Swim Cafe, which provided a really amazing vegan red pepper soup made with asparagus and sweet coconut milk. People are clamoring for this recipe, Karen! And over there on the end, and above in close up, is the crew from Hard Boiled Records in Roscoe Village. Sadly, I cannot remember everyone’s name. But owner Mark Ferguson (above, right) rounded up a posse to cook and help serve their Mexican corn soup and a last-minute tortilla soup, made after a beef stew went south in a horrible accident of salting.  They also raised the bar for garnishes; we had to annex an extra cafe table to hold all the cheese, cilantro, and tortillas!

Proceeds from this week’s Soup and Bread, a sweet $366, went to H.E.L.P., a project of Hull-House, which serves hot meals donated by local restaurants and hotels to the hungry every Wednesday at Catholic Charities. Thanks very much to the initiative of Simon Tankard, there on the right, for hooking us up with them. Once Soup and Bread is over I’m hoping to go scope out that situation.

This week we host the FINAL Soup and Bread of 2010. We have six soups lined up, and I’m still working on getting some more, but if the soup runs dry you’ll just have to eat pie. Donations from this last Soup and Bread benefit Ravenswood Community Services, which runs a food pantry and weekly meal, along with other programs for needy residents of Ravenswood and Uptown, out of All Saints Episcopal Church. (All Saints was in the news earlier this winter when it was vandalized, possibly in response to this New York Times piece on the food pantry written by (now-former) Chicago Reader publisher James Warren.)

It has been a long, fun, bicoastal, soup-filled winter, and I’m a little sad to see it fade away, though I’m not sorry to see the frost melt. It’s spring! Won’t you come celebrate with us?

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