Soup and Bread

Tales from the merch table

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A guest post by Amanda Zwald, seller of merch, picker-upper of bread, and volunteer superhero. Thanks Amanda, for this and for everything you do.

I work the merch table and greet folks arriving for Soup & Bread. I often feel like the Studs Terkel of volunteers as I fumble to make change or forget who we are hosting this week. Somebody always breezes by with the answer or comes up with a cash donation. This is my third season as a volunteer and I have received more than I could ever possibly return as witness to a great social need.

Back in January I was setting up the table and slicing bread when a man in a suit (a rarity at the Hideout) who had been sitting at the bar with a well dressed woman approached to ask what I was up to. They were waiting for a table at a nearby restaurant and had some time on their hands so I filled them in on how we chip away at food disparity in Chicago with yummy soup. He kept asking me who sponsors it, who gets paid, where are the ads? In disbelief that it is all volunteer, all donations of time and soup. As they were leaving he handed me a larger denomination bill and said “this is the best place I could put this, I wish we could stay.”

Week after week I meet people who are coming for the first time or leaving to live in Nepal and have heard about and wanted to be part of Soup & Bread. They have friends with recipes in the cookbook. They know a baker at Publican. They are moving to or away from Chicago. They are meeting friends or looking to make them. Children have grown to young adults and become soup chefs in the warm embrace of the Hideout. The social barriers of city life break down and strangers talk openly about heavy topics and whether celery is a crime or a staple in soup.

We sell cookbooks, posters and prints to raise money beyond the cash donations for soup. All proceeds go to the food pantries at the end of the season.

When I first moved to Chicago in 1987, I and everyone I knew was living on a shoestring. On Sundays we would gather at a warm apartment each bringing an ingredient to make a large pot of soup. We were hungry and it was always good. We bonded over those meals and learned to cook and share. Far from our childhood homes, we found sanctuary in soup.

Posted: Sunday Mar 26,2017 09:43 PM In Soup Miscellany, Soup Wrapup

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