Neighborliness in a Soup

An email came into my inbox a few weeks ago announcing an initiative called City Suppers. The goal of the program—co-sponsored by City Gallery, Harrison Center for the Arts, and Indiana Humanities—was simply to promote neighborliness by way of soup. On a particular night, everyone citywide was encouraged to sign up to host their neighbors for a simple dinner.

Of course, I loved this idea.

As it turned out, my spouse and I had been talking about having a casual neighborhood get-together for a while. City Suppers gave us the impetus to actually do it—not to mention a deadline to get the house clean.

In my neck of the woods, we define “neighbor” rather loosely as “anyone else who lives in Irvington or thereabouts.” So we invited an assortment of folks—some from just around the corner and some from further afield.

Around our table

A few of those who gathered around our table

Some had never met each other, and others had known each other a long time. Ages ranged from 1 year old to “I’ll never tell.”

We gathered around our table for a convivial evening. I made minestrone and bought some locally made focaccia and cheese. (Everyone seemed terrifically happy with the soup, which we call “peasant food” at our house—nothing all that fancy, but hearty, economical, and flavorful.) Guests brought wine, salad, and desserts. Truly mouthwatering desserts.

But the tasty, nourishing meal was really just an excuse for conversation and connection.

Life can be a full plate most of the time. So full that it seems hard to find the time for this kind of thing. In our neighborhood we have often socialized around shared projects. It was a novel change of pace to connect over a meal instead of at a meeting or work party.

We enjoyed it so much that we’re making more peasant food tonight and having different neighbors over. We’ll go to Russia instead of Italy, with borscht, rye bread, and beer. (Incidentally I traded with another neighbor—my chili peppers for her beets—for the starring veggie of the borscht. Our version of the “cup of sugar.”)

And bonus: the house is still pretty clean. Not that that matters—I figure if we waited till the perfect time to have people over, it would never happen. So why not just do it?

How about you—what’s your favorite way to connect with your neighbors? Is there something you’d like to initiate with the people living near you, but have been putting off? Why not get it going? It could be just the thing to warm a chilly winter night.

4 thoughts on “Neighborliness in a Soup

  1. Sounds cozy, Shawndra. I plan to host a few friendly get togethers sometime soon over a meal. I also would like to invite people over to create art. Thanks for sharing and inspiring us to connect with our neighbors, wherever they live.

  2. My friend Julie shared this on her Facebook page. As I said in my comment on her post, I read about a neighborhood doing something similar to this several years ago. That was soon followed by a conversation with a good friend and mentor with whom I discussed the idea of “radical hospitality.” Shortly after, my late husband and I decided to do it in our neighborhood. For four years, we made a huge pot of soup on the 2nd Friday of every month from Nov to May. We often had 30+ neighbors, kids and adults, in our home (we renovated a big old farmhouse). It was a wonderful way to get to know people that we otherwise would never have known. When Kevin became I’ll with cancer, our efforts were returned to us many times over with meals appearing on our doorstep nearly every night and offers of every kind of help. The friendships we developed over simple meals of soup sustain me to this day, nearly five years from the last time we were able to host a Soup Night. Next year, I will be moving on my own (both kids are now in college) to a condo in downtown Detroit. Though it is a lot of work to do alone, I definitely plan to start soup night again as a way to get to know my community. If you have a kitchen and neighbors, I highly recommend doing this. Thanks for this story.

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