Chicago event makes the leap from bar to book
Soup as social media
10/26/2011 10:00 PM
First there was Soup & Bread, the event. It started as a way for a bored bartender to lure people out for her Wednesday night shift at the Hideout during the winter. That bartender happened to be Martha Bayne, a food journalist who did a long stint as an editor at Chicago Reader.
Bayne would round up six to eight people each week to fill a crockpot with whatever warm concoction they wanted. Then gather some bread — often donated by local bakeries — and dish it out for donations. The couple hundred dollars collected went to a different food pantry each week.
“All I’m doing is providing a conduit, a way for people to donate five or 10 bucks to a good cause,” Bayne said.
Of course she was doing a lot more, mostly spending hours on email coordinating everything. She recruited friends, colleagues and several local chefs, such as Paul Kahan from Blackbird, to fill a ladle.
During the events, Bayne was collecting new recipes and people were sharing their soup stories.
Soup & Bread Cookbook: Building Community One Pot at a Time, released this month by Agate Publishing, is pretty much what you would expect in a cookbook from a journalist. There are oodles of recipes — nine chilis alone — but Bayne has added a narrative full of history and stories about soup kitchens, soup swaps and Hull-House’s Re-Thinking Soup program.
For the recipes, Bayne retained the character of the creators. In the recipe for Wayward Catholic Chicken Soup, Kerri Harrop instructs, “Have a tomato that’s about to go south? It can go in the pot, no big whoop.”
There are plenty of recognizable names. Hot Doug’s Doug Sohn shares his Sausage Chili. For the more motivated chefs, Girl and the Goat’s Stephanie Izard has a lovely sounding Pear, Parsnip and Pistachio Soup.
But in the spirit of those plastic-bound church cookbooks, the bulk of the recipes are tried-and-true favorites from regular people. The author’s dad and uncle and the designer’s mom all contributed.
And about that design, from the tomato red cover with simple 1970s-infused drawings to the caramel-colored ribbon for marking your place, the book is a handsome package.
“We had an unusual degree of creative freedom,” Bayne said.
She brought in former Chicago Reader art director Sheila Sachs for the design, and Paul Dolan for the illustrations.
Although soup stars, bread does have a bit part with recipes from Memaw’s Yeast Rolls to Parmesan-Cheddar-Thyme-Gougères.
After a short book tour, Bayne will be back behind the bar luring people to the Hideout each Wednesday night with promises of warm comfort. The third winter of Soup & Bread starts in January.