A Moveable Feast
Instant holiday--just add soup
The holidays are really overrated. Months of planning and spending and party-going, peaking to the point of exhaustion and anti-social tendencies. It's not just limited to what is typically referred to as "the holiday season"--I mean all holiday seasons. New Year's, April Fools, Fourth of July—you name it, it's been overdone. That's why, in the perpetual quest to for social interaction, the members of my Tang Soo Do martial arts class host obscure "holiday" parties whenever we fancy. On the day after Christmas, head-instructor Richard Meyer and Cathra-Anne Barker host a super-excellent Boxing Day party. In November, Sven Redsun hosts the annual All-Soups Day party--making Halloween and Thanksgiving seem, well, incidental. The best part about a soup party is that no "holiday" is required; all you need is some friends and a few pots of the good stuff. Poof! Instant holiday.
Really, soup makes a great excuse for a party, and one that's easily hosted by even the most inexperienced of planners. It's fun, there's wonderful food and (if done right) it requires very little prep time. The majority of the work you have to do is creating the hype. Talk your All-Soups Day party up like it's the best thing since sliced bread. Who needs another lame formal dinner party? Aren't you sick of the same old sports gatherings? It's just a great excuse to eat good food, drink good wine and be with friends. That's all the reason you need.
Before spreading the news of the soup extravaganza, set your ground rules. Everyone who is invited must bring at least one homemade soup—canned soups are strictly forbidden. What fun would it be if everyone just brought warmed Campbell's chicken and stars? Yuck. If the soup requires any special embellishment, the soup chef must provide it as well. As a host, you should promise to provide bowls, utensils, plenty of power strips and table space for crockpots, bread and drinks. Table wine is fine, as is juice and sparkling water.
Don't forget to have small name placards ready to label each soup, and make sure people with allergies don't accidentally dip into something that will end their evening unpleasantly. One thing's for sure: There'll be a lot of leftovers. Either tell your guests to bring containers or provide your own.
Please, don't pull out the fine china for this event. It's paper and plastic all the way, but wineglasses do add sophistication to the evening if plastic cups just won't do.
To create the proper ballyhoo, tell your guests about the party long in advance. Sven's All-Soups Day has been garnering anticipation for three years, all because the first one was such a hit. Distribute flyers, send e-mail invitations, read poems to inspire great works of soup mastery.
If your guests are excited, then your party will nearly make itself. It's also a good idea to invite some people who know how to cook. Although everyone is required to bring soup, not all the soups will be fantastic. I, for one, am no Iron Chef. The miso-chicken concoction that filled my crockpot did not fill the bowls of many at Sven's get-together. Mine was one of 19 soups featured that evening, and most of the soups were excellent. Soups of note included the common (and quite delectable) French onion, green chili stew, and black bean and corn chowder. International soups also abounded with some awesome borsch (at least, that's what Richard Meyer said—I couldn't find the courage to try the stuff), Hungarian bean soup and hot and sour soup. I took home a few of the evening's most killer recipes to share with you: a Greek chicken soup and a blue cheese lover's dream.