Photograph by Matt LaBombard
The best part about working at a publishing house is that every day I look through new and exciting titles. Some books spark my literary curiosity while others inspire me to get off the couch and create something of my own. Either way, I take the opportunity to look at information in new and innovative ways.
One book that recently crossed my desk is the inspiring story of a tradition that is catching fire throughout the country. Soup Night, by Maggie Stuckey, chronicles communities and neighborhoods throughout the nation that host monthly dinner parties in which, you guessed it, the main entree is soup.
At these intimately inclusive and heartwarming dinners, the host provides the soup, or maybe two—one vegetarian and one containing meat. As the hearty scent of homemade soup wafts down the street, the host’s neighbors and friends show up bearing side dishes, salads, desserts. More importantly, each brings a soup bowl, a soup spoon and an open heart.
Soup Night doesn’t just detail these inspiring stories; it is also a cookbook that dishes up over 90 recipes for soups plus over 40 more recipes for sides and salads. But what struck me most about this book is the benefits of such a simple idea. Delving deeper into the content, I came to see that the soup was simply the vehicle to gather good friends and neighbors and what comes of the soup nights that is amazing.
In a nation where technology has isolated us, hate crimes have shaken us to our core and the word bully has become an everyday term, something as simple as gathering together for a hearty meal reconnects us with our neighbors. Soup nights serve as an outlet in which parents begin to find a sense of security in their children playing outside, senior citizens feel part of a larger community and replace isolation with inclusion and children are continually exposed to positive role models. And it all revolves around such a simple meal!
As I sat at my desk, after enthusiastically scanning the advance pages of the book, I began to think of the connection between food and people. Food has always served as a glue that brings families, friends and communities together. In a time when we desperately need to trust our neighbors, food can be the vehicle that allows us to do so. It helps us to become more tolerant and understanding of individuals. It can inspire us to take chances and encourage us to try new experiences.
Regardless of where you sit when you read this, whether it be here in your home in Berkshire County or halfway around the globe, allow the food in front of you to be the connection that binds you to your fellow diners. Be open-minded to the possibilities of sitting down to a table with new and old friends to something as simple as a bowl of soup. Be inspired to host your own soup, pizza, lobster, filet mignon or any food night, for that matter, with neighbors and friends. The possibilities and the memories you’ll create are endless.
Matt LaBombard is associate publicist and social media coordinator at Storey Publishing in North Adams. Matt is a Berkshire County native and enjoys writing about his time spent cooking and entertaining for his friends and family.