"Do you have a kinder, more adaptable friend in the food world than soup? Who soothes you when you are ill? Who refuses to leave you when you are impoverished and stretches its resources to give a hearty sustenance and cheer? Who warms you in the winter and cools you in the summer? Yet who also is capable of doing honor to your richest table and impressing your most demanding guests? Soup does its loyal best, no matter what undignified conditions are imposed upon it. You don't catch steak hanging around when you're poor and sick, do you?" ~Judith Martin (Miss Manners)
Almost four years ago, in a January 2007 issue of Sunset magazine, I read about a woman who connected with her neighborhood by hosting a soup night once a month.
The idea resonated with me, but I was too timid to try to recreate the event in my own neighborhood. I had perfectly nice neighbors, but I stayed disconnected from most of them. Also? Our house was pretty small. But I dreamed of the day. "Someday I'll live on the Family Farm, and then I'll host Soup Night," I told myself as I ripped out the article and stashed it away in a folder.
Throughout the years, I would periodically stumble across that article and think, "I want to do this. I need to do this," but I never did. I had a multitude of excuses for not hosting soup night, and so I never did.
More than a month ago, when I realized that summer was about to end, I tried to think of a way that all of us Family Farmers could stay connected with each other even after we had packed up our towels and beach chairs from our afternoons at the creek. When the weather is nice we see each other all the time at the creek or out in the fields or at an impromptu bbq; when the weather is bad, we tend to hole up in our homes and hibernate for the winter.
I remembered the Soup Night article, and realized that now was the time to start a new tradition. Our house isn't really big enough to hold all twenty-one of us, but I didn't care. I had just had a baby, and my house wasn't going to get cleaned nearly often enough, but no matter. I wouldn'thave the energy to make creative invitations, but c'est la vie. I had just endured a season of horrible no-good depression, and the clouds had parted, the weight of the world was off my shoulders, and darn it all I wasn't ready to celebrate autumn and throw a party.
On the first Tuesday of this month, I invited everyone over. The nice thing about my family is that they don't care if all you send them is an email the night before saying something like, "Dinner. Tomorrow. 5:30-6:30." They'll just show up...ready to eat. Food is food, and no one cares of you're Martha Stewart or not.
I made Corn Chowder in the crock-pot, and Pioneer Woman's Tomato Soup (minus the sherry) on the stovetop, and they were both delicious. (That tomato soup though is so scrumptious. I could eat it every week. And then never lose these last 10 pounds of pregnancy weight. It might possibly be worth it.)
Then I sliced up some bread, put out some festive orange paper bowls and cups, and let everyone eat to their hearts content.
And even though there weren't really enough places for people to sit, and the kids mostly just ate bread and not soup, it didn't matter.
We were together. Souping it up.
Aunt Jane had just returned from Hawaii, so she brought her pictures...and chocolate covered macadamian nuts. Yum.
Sydney showed off her loose tooth.
Jules and Toby shared tips on how to best walk around in high heels.
And we placed bets on how much taller Jarred will grow this school year.
It is something special, indeed, to live near so much family. Sometimes getting together is an organic thing that just happens. And sometimes you have to send out the last minute emails and make everyone walk over to eat soup at your house.
I think this year, even more than ever, it's extra meaningful for all of us to connect with each other because my uncle is facing some serious health issues and we aren't willing to take our family for granted. We love each other. A lot.
And what we have here on the Family Farm is pretty amazing.