by Phil Turner
At 4:45pm on April 3rd, a long list of soups was posted at the entrance to the serving room/bar at the Stone House in Nevada City. Many of those soups were just arriving, bringing with them the smells of chicken broth, celery, potatoes, beans, garlic and many other ingredients and spices. Sierra Harvest farmers Amanda and Katie hustled to set up tables, log the list of ingredients for each soup, pass out aprons to volunteer servers and lay out literature talking about The Food Love Project and Sierra Harvest. A few early arrivals milled around anticipating the setting of the first big soup pots on the serving table.
By 6:00pm, , nearly every seat at every table was taken, the soups were going so fast that Sierra Harvest staff and volunteers Aimee, Sandra, Katie, Amanda and others were beginning to worry. The cheerful noise of a community gathered around plates of soup and bread rose in the air to mix with the aromas lifted from the parade of pots and the bowls of hot soup carried gingerly through the congested space towards crowded tables.
This night recalled the first soup nights sponsored by Living Lands Network in the early days when making and sharing soup seemed a good way to bring people together over a meal. In those days, twenty or thirty people might appear with a potpourri of soups, bread and, sometimes, beer, wine and kids to accompany the meal.
Steadily, now predictably, over the five or so years since the first “soup night,” the numbers have grown – of attendees, of pots of soup, of encounters and conversations – from tens of people to hundreds of people.
People came on April 3rd to support Sierra Harvest’s Food Love Project, the educational farm that teaches local children and their families about local food. Most of the children who attended knew Farmer Amanda and Farmer Katie by name from visits to the Food Love Project farm. Others came because they were invited by friends or had been to other soup nights and remembered the delicious soup and warm company. Some came because they happened to walk by the Stone House, poked their heads in to ask what was happening, were encouraged to join in, and did so.
Some came, perhaps all came, because this was a community “thing.” Individuals and families who live in the surrounding towns enjoyed coming together, catching up, sharing a meal, connecting with other cheerful, friendly people. “Community,” in one of its liveliest forms, was happening at the Stone House that night.