The season of eating and FOOD is upon us, friends! I love good food. All kinds. I love everything about food and some of my best days and best friends come from the time I spent working in restaurants, beginning at the age of 15 and continuing almost up until the birth of my first son. I also love to cook and, when I have time and ambition, I can put out a pretty good spread. But there is one kind of food that I love to eat, smell, make and think about more than any other: SOUP! Know anyone else who is obsessed with soup?
Soup is quintessentially humble but, frankly, I think it is the ideal food. It’s gotta be, really, because humans have been busy perfecting it since about 6,000 B.C. The word, “soup,” comes from the Latin word, suppa, which means something like bread soaked in broth, and this word, “suppa,” would eventually turn into the word we use for the last meal of the day, supper. You might even say that the entire empire of dining out originated in a soup kettle. In 16th century France, inexpensive, concentrated liquids were sold by street vendors and promised improved health. The popularity of these “restoratifs” would eventually encourage these folks to open up shops called… “restaurants.”
But, as all soup-makers know, the perfection of soup lies in the fact that you can make it from anything. I don’t care how bare your cupboard is, there is a pot of soup waiting for you and, as Mother Goose fans will attest to, you can keep a good pot of soup going for a long, long time. Much to my family’s dismay, a really good soup can often never be made twice since soup, by its nature, generally comes from my reluctance to go to Shop Rite and is made from whatever I have on hand.
Artists know all about using what’s on hand and not just because we eat a lot of soup. Last week my creative artist friend, Allen Howells, came by for lunch (by the way, no joke, I served soup, bean and tortellini), conversation, and to show me his new creation, upcycled laptop bags that are made from deployed, automobile airbags. I’ll admit, I had a hard time imagining how these could be so cool until I saw his prototype:
Web sites like Instructables and Make-Stuff feature lots of project ideas for re-using stuff to make other stuff and Etsy, the powerhouse source for all awesome things handmade, gave me a whopping 4,270 results when I searched “upcycled repurposed jewelry” alone. Over the weekend, I exhibited at an art show where I met Beth Levin, owner of From Junk 2 Funk, who makes cool, wearable art out of bottle caps and other junk, and Lisa Ochwat, owner of Nature Scripts, a teacher-photographer who takes pictures of the “junk” and “stuff” of the world and creates beautiful messages in frames made by a collaborating, Amish artisan. Here’s the Nature Script I got in an awesome artist-bartering deal… see if you can see what it says. I’ll give you one guess.
Nothing embodies the saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention” quite like artists who live in lean times. And, though we creative folk are prone to daydreams, pipe dreams and regular bouts of chronic attention deficit disorder, I think there is a lot to be learned from out-of-the-boxers, especially in these shaky economic periods. Every artist I spoke with over the weekend said they were looking at their work differently, trying to find new ways to use the supplies they had on hand rather than buying things that had run out, trying to come up with surprising twists on universal motifs and, overwhelmingly, collaborating with other artists, either through projects, exhibits or brainstorming, to come up with new, creative work to keep themselves going mentally and financially. Indeed, the very definition of creativity is often cited as the ability to take the stuff around you and put it together in new ways.
Which brings me back to soup.
Soup requires some imagination but it makes good use of what’s on hand and, with heat, time for the flavors to meld, some stirring and a little effort, soup is definitely better than the sum of its parts. Last year, I started making soup on Facebook. It all started with a book I’m working on that, for now at least, is called Silly Soup. (By the way, I’m always working on about a dozen books simultaneously, so don’t hold your breath on this one… it could be years in the making!) It’s a book about soup that is defnitely silly, but it’s also meant to teach phonemes to young children. In a public album called “Soup,” I started playing around with this idea and, much to my delight, my friends joined in. These joiner-inners are not artists or writers, mind you, but they greeted this project with such creative enthusiasm that I started making more Facebook soup. I even made up a brand new recipe just for today’s blog.
So, what’s it mean? I don’t know, but I’m looking out my window and it’s kind of overcast. The temperature is only about 49 or 50 and it’s a little raw outside. Accuweather says it’s going to be drizzly tomorrow. And, while my ‘fridge leaves a lot to be desired, trust me, you know the supermarket is going to be an absolute madhouse starting today so I’m pretty sure I’m not going anywhere near there. But I think I’ve got some leftover chicken, a box of pasta, a can of tomatoes, a sprouting onion and… well, it seems like the perfect day for you-know-what. Stop by for a cup…. or a bowl! I promise, it’ll do you good.
Happy Thanksgiving, my friends! I’m thankful for so much… especially the dozen or so of you who stop by each Monday to read this!
TRY THIS WEEK: Think about new ways to cook familiar, old stuff and stir up your ideas with someone else’s.