Soup and Bread

Soup & Bread Cookbook 2.0

FOODGASM_beet_26f6afcTimes are scary and weird, and cooking seems to be one of the few things making us feel better, so we’re bringing back the 2011 Soup & Bread Cookbook. We didn’t change much: same great recipes; same adorable art. But I did write a new preface (below) to bring it into the new decade, with all its heartbreak and potential. All royalties from sales of the book will be donated to hunger relief efforts in Chicago; to order a copy go here.

Soup & Bread is, at its core, a tool to combat social distancing — we are all about bringing people together and fostering connection around a shared table. So it was with a heart heavy with disbelief that I had to announce in March 2020 the premature end of the year’s Soup & Bread season. Two days later the Hideout, the beloved bar and music venue where friends and I have hosted Soup & Bread community meals every winter for twelve years, would be one of the many establishments closing its doors indefinitely to slow the spread of Covid-19. 

As I write this in May, there’s much that’s unknown right now about the future of third spaces like the Hideout, about the economic precarity of our friends and neighbors, and about, frankly, the future of the food supply. We don’t know when Soup & Bread will return, or what form it might take when it does. But what I do know is that the spirit fed and fostered by these weekly winter meals—and by the honest, tasty recipes in this book—endures. 

comidaescomunidadWhen we started Soup & Bread in early 2009, at the height of that decade’s economic crisis, record numbers of Chicagoans were out of work; many were losing their homes and going hungry. Friends and colleagues in my particular field, journalism, had been hit hard by the simultaneous collapse of that industry’s economic model. At times it just seemed like everyone in town could use some help, or at the very least a nice bowl of soup.

Since then—and since we first published this cookbook in 2011—we have raised almost $100,000 for hunger relief efforts in Chicago, giving cash grants to a dozen neighborhood food pantries and grassroots food justice organizations each year. Sister events have been birthed around the country, in cities like Cleveland, Ohio, and in small towns like Ottawa, Illinois. Andrea Deibler, whose recipe for khao tom is on page 10, now runs a Soup & Bread project in Traverse City, Michigan. Former regular Dani D’Antonio moved to Lexington, Kentucky, and started a Soup & Bread there. A visiting Norwegian musician even came to Soup & Bread one night and took the idea home to replicate, to wild success, at a club in Oslo.

Similarly, in the years since the Soup & Bread Cookbook was first published, community soup events have proliferated. In addition to the models discussed in the essays that frame each chapter of this book, there’s been a boom in soup swaps and community meal projects. If I was writing this book today I would include a chapter on Queer Soup Night, an initiative born in Brooklyn and now nationwide, that uses soup as a means of raising visibility and money for LGBTQ causes. I’d write about the comedores sociales that sprang up in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, serving free soup and more to all comers. And I’d write, for sure, about the countless soup-based relief efforts that have been launched since the pandemic threw 22 million Americans (and counting) out of work. 

Produce from Common Pantry to be distributed at Middlebrow Bungalow, March 17.

Produce from Common Pantry to be distributed at Middlebrow Bungalow, March 17.

Here in Chicago, food pantries are seeing ever-longer lines even as their volunteer bases are dwindling. Wrigley Field and the United Center, homes to the Cubs and the Bulls, have been turned into food distribution hubs. The national nonprofit Feeding America estimates that nationwide an additional 17 million people will seek supplemental food assistance in the coming months. Our work is a drop in this swelling ocean of need, but since Soup & Bread ceased programming in March our community has come together in new and creative ways. We’ve supported the efforts of one pantry in our network to distribute bags of produce to suddenly unemployed hospitality workers, and helped get groceries to a Hideout bartender who launched a free meal service for those in need. We’ve volunteered at pantries ourselves and helped deliver groceries to the elderly. One of us works as a grocer; another is busy sewing homemade masks. Across the city our community has mobilized to generate the mutual aid to which Soup & Bread is in service. 

We made the decision to bring back our cookbook in that same spirit. Half the royalties from sales of this book will be donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the food bank serving Chicago food pantries. The other half will be donated to grassroots hunger-relief and mutual aid organizations.

roomAs I was pulling together material for this reprint, I spent some time looking back through photos of the past decade-plus of Soup & Bread events. There are a lot of photos of soup—so many bowls of soup—but also many of friends and strangers and of strangers who became friends, gathered in joyous, gentle chaos in the back room of the Hideout to eat and drink together. I marvel still at the miracle of it all. We are so lucky to have each other.

Some of the restaurants featured in the pages that follow have closed, and some soup cooks have moved on to other places and pastimes; in that sense, this reprint is a snapshot of a moment gone by. But I remain confident that the collective moments of fellowship and care these cooks and hundreds others helped create will come roaring back in the years to come. In the meantime, I trust that you who are reading this are all safe and sound and housed, and that you are able to share meals with people you love. This book can help.

Martha Bayne
May 2020


Posted: Tuesday May 19,2020 09:50 PM In S&B Cookbook

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