Soup & Bread: Seattle!

There were many great things about Sunday’s Soup & Bread in Seattle, but this was one of my favorites. When you turned around from this view, of the totally awesome Funhouse? You got this view:

There seemed something fitting about serving up tasty soups in the shadow of the Space Needle, the symbol of a glorious future full of monorails, air cars, and Bubbleators that anchored the 1962 World’s Fair.  Onward to the 21st Century! Onward to Soup & Bread!

And if Sunday’s shindig was any indication, a glorious future it shall be, as Seattle took to Soup & Bread like slugs to a nice heavy rain. Several people remarked in awe on the turnout, which one friend characterized as “unheard of in Seattle on a Sunday night.” Also remarked upon: the relative diversity of the crowd, and this I can only attribute to our decentralized (aka “disorganized”) strategy of soup cook recruitment.

I flew out on Thursday* and Sheila joined me on Friday — and on Saturday we finally connected with Suzie Strait, our local fixer. She’s up there on the left, and she is great. Suzie was instrumental in lining up the venue, the bands that played afterward, and a posse of cooks from her wide-ranging network of pals. We could not have done it without her, and she’s vowing to keep the soup torch burning out here until we can come back. And, oh yes, she also makes a mean, vegan carrot-ginger soup! Next to her is Charlie Ryan, one half of team Old School with my friend and long-ago housemate Greg Stumph; Greg bought the ingredients, and Charlie whipped up a smooth-and-sour tom kha gai, full of the robust flavors of coconut milk and lemongrass, and lots of chicken and mushrooms. Greg was also in charge of driving, and fetching Charlie drinks from the bar. That’s teamwork!

Next to Charlie is Knox Gardner, the creator of the Soup Swap and a rare soulmate in soup-driven madness. If, after reading his site, you’re inspired to start your own swap, remember that, though, National Soup Swap Day was last Saturday, why be tied to such rules? As Knox says, “Swap when you can!” He brought a rich, full-flavored cream of mushroom soup that he’s been perfecting for weeks. Next to him is Sarah Kavage, who you may remember from such Chicago adventures as last year’s Industrial Harvest project (which I wrote about here), and who brought a ginormous pot of veggie chili, the remnants of which she fed to her husband when he showed up hours later, in dire need of sustenance.

Next to Sarah: the excellent Erica Barnett, editor of the local news site Publicola and a meticulous home cook, who test drove several recipes before enlisting another old friend, Publicola founder Josh Feit, to chop onions and cilantro as garnish for her version of “Pioneer Woman” Ree Drummond’s chicken tortilla soup. And to Erica’s left? Chicago expat, pho enthusiast, and Stranger columnist Derek Erdman, who teamed up with his housemate Lacey Swain to create Pizza Soup – each bowl a layer of bread, a ladleful of tomato soup, a topping of cheese, and “an idea whose time has come,” in the words of fellow cook Kerri Harrop, whose chicken noodle soup Derek is working in this photo.

Speaking of Kerri Harrop, she seems to have escaped my camera. But she was in there somewhere, with that giant, hearty pot of her Nana’s chicken noodle soup. Kerri epitomized my S&B: Seattle experience. She’s one of those people who seems to know everyone I know in town — even though none of them knew each other. I may be the last person in Seattle to meet her, but I have now. She is way cool, and can rock an emerald-green cape like nobody’s business.

Up there on the left is Johnny Samra, of Radar Hair and Records — another idea whose time has come. He brought his mom’s vegan lentil soup – a model example of a classic form. He’s sharing table space with Patti Roeder, of Pike Brewing, whose sister is best friends with Sheila’s sister-in-law… or something like that. She brought creamy and delicious broccoli-beer soup made by Pike Brewing’s executive chef, Gary Marx. And next to her, on the end, is Lacey, modeling the aforementioned pizza soup.

Over on the bread beat, we had six beautiful boules baked by Jerry Corso and Gina Tolentino, of Bar Del Corso, from their own stash of Sarah’s Industrial Harvest flour. Plus some chewy rye loaves from Russ Battaglia — who disappeared before I could say thank you — and a whole heap of miscellaneous baguettes, rounds, you name it from Essential Baking.

It was of course a treat to see old friends, and get to make some new ones to boot. And it really brought home the community-based essence of Soup & Bread. Because while soup nights are always a collective effort, that’s never so true as when we take it on the road. We raised a cool $883 for Food Lifeline on Sunday night, and none of it would have been possible without the help of a squad of cheerful helpers, like Ruben Mendez, who put together a last-minute iPod mix of music to slurp soup by, and like the friend of Suzie’s who showed up with four folding tables, and like all the friends who donated folding chairs. Like the ultraaccomodating Brian Foss, owner of the Funhouse, and like the bands Suzie rounded up to play after the crocks ran dry. And like my mother, who worked her own network to not only marshall a small army of crock pots (“It looks like you’re starting a thrift store,” said Sheila, surveying the front hall of my parents’ house on Friday) and dig up the hurricane lamps left over from my sister Emily’s wedding, but also turn up  bread baskets, tablecloths, and zillions of votive candles — all courtesy of the shop at St. Mark’s Cathedral. (Did you know that if you stick 48 slightly used votive candles in the freezer for a few hours the candles will just pop right out of the glass sleeves? I didn’t – but I do now.)

So, once again, for the record, THANK YOU so much to everyone who contributed their culinary expertise, ingredients, time, enthusiasm, and just all around good vibes. As my sister Charlotte, who was in town from LA, said later, “It was just such a happy place to be.” Suzie — keep the soup pots simmering! It’ll give me one more reason to come home more often.

* I am still here, by the way. Waiting for Midway to reopen. Maybe Thursday? We’ll see. Anybody want to come pick me up at the airport?

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