Annual SXSW Band Name Revue!

As many of you are aware, since about 2006 I have annually spent the week prior to SXSW music festival perusing the music listings in order to compile my review of the year's band names and award a "Best Band Name" award to the most deserving aspiring rock stars. I know you join me in feeling that the years blend together in a blurry sort of montage. When I first started writing about SXSW, I was charmed by it. It was a very accessible event for me and a neighborhood wonder... I could amble about Bouldin Creek and South Congress and pluck beers and barbecue ribs at will as if from the sky... I could dance two-step in the dust to rockabilly bands... it was a special time. And I know that somewhere, somehow, there is still a way to do SXSW that would feel easy and right, but I seem to have lost the will to find it. It's just that SX has long since jumped the shark. You know the phrase, I assume? A little 7 or 8-year-old David Ansel was watching sitcoms on his black and white TV one night... I remember this, I remember when Fonzie prepared to "jump the shark" and I remember the feeling of frustration of my first "cliff-hanger ending." I'm tickled that "jump the shark" became a useful English language idiomatic expression. However, sadly, "jump the shark" is by no means an adequate descriptor of SXSW any longer. If, instead, the shark that Fonzie had jumped had its own spinoff sitcom, and that shark had his/her own cliffhanger ending where it jumped, oh, another shark or even a large marine mammal, that would be the level of shark-jumping that we are now seeing with SXSW.

Which brings us to this year's Band Name Revue. I have to admit... the crop this year... not as fertile ground as usual. When previous years yielded such gems as Crapulence and I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness and Phil & The Osophers and perhaps, the all-time champion Hipsterectomy, I found myself at a bit of a loss to find a clear standout winner this year. This year saw an all-time high of 39 "bands" listed as "DJ something", a trend that bodes ill for the level of musicianship at the festival. In related news, there were also 8 "Lil somethings." A bright light in the hip hop category was Gangsta Boo, who I can't help picturing in my mind's eye as the character from Monster's Inc., but a little edgier.

Curiously, in a year that saw great waning in the "Black" and "Death" and "Kill" categories, there was a strong trend this year towards mental health-related names. It is a clear turning-inwards, less of an inclination to blame one's own ills on others, and to express anger, to "kill them" with your band name. Rather, it is a time to turn the camera on oneself. We have Agoraphobia and Bipolaroid, and Victim Mentality. We have The Shivery Shakes and Sick Feeling. Of course, there's Elvis Depressedly. And to counter all those bands, we have The Vaccines. Then there are the social ills, with a few related bands such as Close Talker and Not In The Face.

It occurs to me at this late date that I could just make this stuff up and nobody would fact-check me.

In any event, this year saw a curious coincidence of two Ringo Starr-inspired bands, both Gringo Star and Ringo Deathstarr will be in town for your listening pleasure.

As I mentioned, it's been a slow news day in the Band Name competition, so I apologize for the brevity of this Revue. Moving right along to the runner-up... we have the lovely, the talented, Georgio Murderer. And now, for the winner of the 2015 Soup Peddler SXSW Band Name Revue (SPSXSWBNR) Grand Ladle Prize, I present to you... Guantanamo Baywatch! Come on down to the Soup Peddler and claim your prize!

Words To Live By - Citygram Austin Article





“Well you’re in your little room white-blood-cells-4e7eae0d87da9 and you’re working on something good but if it’s really good you’re going to need a bigger room and when you’re in the bigger room you might not know what to do you might have to think of how you got started sitting in your little room (la la la la la la la etc.) “Little Room” by The White Stripes




Soon after I began The Soup Peddler, I was cooking my soups after hours in a Thai restaurant downtown. At the time, I was listening heavily to The White Stripes’ White Blood Cells. The song “Little Room,” a raspy Jack White chant, struck me as a harbinger of what was to come.

Thirteen years later, the song has become the anthem of my personal path with The Soup Peddler, particularly in light of our company’s recent move to a new, pristine, incredibly equipped commercial kitchen. Very few food businesses are blessed to have such a long arc from very humble beginnings ($90 “initial capitalization”) to a relatively stable, mature age. The song has constantly called upon me to ground myself through the varied, often great challenges and changes along the way. That grounding recalls my original desire to study international foodways to create comforting, nourishing food (a sometimes difficult combination to find). Much like some companies have their mission statements, this sense of rootedness is my rudder for keeping The Soup Peddler moving in a righteous direction. I think because of that, Austin has been kind enough to reward us, to push us onward. I’m deeply thankful that we have been able to move into bigger rooms, just like Jack promised.


2x4 farmTerroir is as important with wine grapes as it is with nuts. With its varied geological influences, Austin pecans can vary widely from neighborhood to neighborhood, so choice of appellation is important. We believe that single-sourced pecans is the only way to go. You have your Zilker pecans, more of a pronounced buttery nose, whereas your Bouldin pecans tend towards the heady and lean, with a touch of cedar on the back of the tongue. Oaky, silky, more supple pecans are generally the case in Travis Heights. We prefer the pecans from the hilly western part of the South Lamar neighborhood, which I lovingly refer to as Far East-Southeast Barton Hills. One of our earliest customers, Bruce Evans, has a productive little grove and we're excited to share in the bounteous harvest for our pecan-crusted tilapia dish next week. How to describe this particular sub-stratum of Austin pecan provenance? Reaching here for the right adjective... I'd say these are very... nutty.

The Casual Social Interaction Capital Of The World

Last week, I ran across an interesting article in the Times called "Hello, Stranger" about the value of casual social interactions. It describes how a few behavioral science experiments have proven what Austinites have long known, that being open and kind without provocation is the key to happiness. It's what noted restaurateur and rub board player Danny Roy Young (z"l) had paraphrased on the front door of his Texicalli Grill on East Oltorf... "Just Be Nice". I remember that Mr. Young actually helped teach me about the magic of the "casual social interaction" when I first moved here. As he trolled slowly through the Bouldins and Zilker in his gleaming white hot rod, we'd often cross paths whilst I was about making my bike deliveries. He'd roll down his window and from behind mirrored sunglasses, he'd turn, smile, and give a double-pistol "attaboy" sort of maneuver.

That kind of light community connection is what shaped who I have become, and shaped what The Soup Peddler became. It shaped the concept for my book, Slow and Difficult Soups. The NYT article points out that these "weak ties" go a surprisingly long way to fulfilling us and making us feel connected to the whole. That's the feeling that people (historically) have had upon arriving in Austin. A delight in the easy connection with people. Really, it's more than that. A real "Austin" day is when you've had a meaningful connection with a complete stranger. When you open yourself and discuss something deeper than just the weather.

For outsiders, it can almost inspire suspicion. Why are they being so nice? What are they trying to get out of me? Once, my wife and I picked up a friend at the airport, fresh out of NYC, and drove straight to Guero's for a welcome margarita and people-watching. We got out of the car, stepped onto the sidewalk, and a woman walked by and cheerily said "Hey y'all!" Our friend said, "She's a plant, right? You called her and told her we'd be coming by at such-and-such a time, make sure to treat the New Yorker to a hearty Texas welcome, right?"

These recollections are from before the advent of the smart phone, which the article mentions as a woeful preventer of such connection. It's also before the mad acceleration of growth, the rapid influx of out-of-towners. That's not to say that this town hasn't always been made up of out-of-towners, but I fear that this delicate, precious modus operandus is getting snowed under by the sheer volume of change.

A friend of mine named Marty Butler posted this informal study on Facebook (I'm therefore assuming it's for public distribution...):

"I did an informal survey on our dog walk tonight. About 50 percent of the sample was either uncomfortable or unaware of how to wave. Perhaps the immigrants are unaware of our local custom: extend all five fingers, face your palm outwards and move your wrist side to side while smiling. This simple act makes Austin a lot less like the place y'all are all running away from."

So let's each do our part today. Let's get out there and show 'em why Austin is the Casual Social Interaction Capital Of The World. Let's keep Austin sweet. Thank you for listening.

Another Side Of The Soup Peddler

I wanted to tell you a little bit about myself. I hesitate to write so personally for quite a few reasons. Examples... You might not care. Businesses should stand on their own products and services and not on the personalities of their owners. I might distract you from the ultimate purpose of this message, which is to compel you to purchase our offerings. However, after 450 weeks of sending out these menu emails, I must be frank... I sometimes run out of meaningful things to tell you. The development of the business over the years has always been so intertwined with my personal development. And this is on my mind, it's news to you, and you're my captive audience, so here goes.

Those of you who have attended my lectures in the past may recall that one of the important seeds of the Soup Peddler was a group called "South Austin Shabbat". I was a younger fellow at the time with much free time and I lived in a magical house on Mary St. With a few friends, I started this potluck group for Friday nights, the main meal for the Jewish Sabbath. I became sort of the de facto self-appointed coordinator and Rabbi, and over time, since potlucks sometimes tend to be not so lucky, the cook. I started learning how to cook for larger groups. I started being inspired by the way that food brought people together, especially when there was some extra spiritual intention behind it. Ultimately that group fizzled, but it had sure planted a seed in me... one that, with the fertilization and rain of many other experiences came to grow into The Soup Peddler.

Fast forward ten years... my wife and I had kept up the tradition of throwing large Jewish holiday meals over the years, and outdid ourselves with an outdoor seated Rosh Hashana dinner for 50 in our back yard. I showed off a photo of the event to a Rabbi I had just met, Rabbi Kobrin of Congregation Agudas Achim, and we soon became fast friends. We eventually hatched an idea to create the first clergy-led Jewish service in the history of South Austin, and it has been running strong now for about two years, gathering groups of up to 100 diverse folks each month. We have since added the first Hebrew school in South Austin.

As we kicked it off, I realized there was an opportunity to make it more special with the addition of a well-rehearsed musical ensemble. So although I had never played music publicly, I tuned up my nylon-string guitar and became the Musical Director. We have a great repertoire of mostly those sad but sweet tunes that go along with Jewish liturgy.

A great thing happened. I met up with a woman named Samantha Goldberg, herself a community organizer. She took me under her wing and began teaching me traditional Eastern European Jewish music called klezmer, and I learned accordion well enough to take part in various jam sessions. Together with a core group of people including one of the elder statesmen in Austin folk music, Mark Rubin, we started the first klezmer free school in Austin (probably the first in a several thousand mile radius).

Problem is, some days you can't drive through an intersection in Austin without running over an accordion player so I had to find another instrument. I picked up this crazy thing called a cimbalom, which is a Romanian/Hungarian hammer dulcimer, and am now one of less than a handful of practitioners of that instrument in the American klezmer world. With that development, I can now be found joining the premiere Austin klezmer ensemble, the Mazel Tov Kocktail Hour, a few nights each week at some of your finer musical establishments. I wanted to share a photo of our large band playing recently at the spectacular Honk!TX marching band music festival (we are considered somewhat more of a stationary marching band) from last weekend... that's me in the middle.

Anyways, that's some of the stuff that keeps The Soup Peddler from becoming a dull boy.

Our Lives Are Circles

The Soup Peddler is thrilled to welcome back a treasured former employee as Executive Chef. His name is Adam Alfter. You see him pictured at right circa 2007 with the late great Leslie Cochran, God rest his soul. Adam is the chef with whom I've shared the closest culinary connection. He was a rather hard-to-tame young buck during his first stint here with the company and we parted ways after a few years. He bounced around the Austin fine dining scene for a while before tucking a sheaf of Soup Peddler recipes into his rucksack and joining another punnily named soup company in Portland, Maine founded by another ex-Soup Peddler chef. He has a deep passion for traditional foodways and is very strong with eclectic flavors and current trending exotic ingredients. It's a new era for us, so you should expect to see some new things coming on the menus both on-line and at the stores. Case in point... next week we have a lovely beer and cheddar soup that he stole back from that soup company in Portland (payback!), made with fresh delicious beer from the Austin Beer Garden Brewery, brewed by Amos Lowe, an original Zilker Soupie from way way back. So many things coming full circle for us... so appropriate this time of year.

Recipe... for...

I was at my local HEB the other day and heard a person behind me say to his phone, "Recipe for green... bean... casserole." And I have to be honest, my first few thoughts were uncharitable. "How far have we fallen as a species that someone could not know how to stir together some cream of mushroom soup with green beans and top it with Durkee's onions and stick it in the oven?" It's almost like saying, "Recipe for peanut butter... and jelly... sandwich." And I thought, "Thank goodness that Steve Jobs was born so that this guy wouldn't have to make a separate trip to the library and look up the recipe in a card catalog and find the Dewey decimal number, go down the aisle to find that the cookbook was already checked out, then have to go to the basement and get the assistant librarian to pull out the right microfiche and turn on the machine that smelled like roasting dust-bunnies and roll through the fiche and re-focus the lens to find that someone had cut out the recipe before it was scanned." But I recovered myself and tuned my thoughts to a less ironic frequency. And I thought to myself, "By golly, we are offering our amazing cream of mushroom soup to our customers next week! I'll have to get them the recipe!" So I turned to my phone and said, "Phone..." And by golly, I found that there's a little more to the official green bean casserole recipe than I thought.

Baguette Liberation Army

One of my favorite books as a child, and one which I've had the joy of reading to my own daughter, is called "Miss Suzy." It's a ragged old copy, its binding replaced by layers of masking tape. Worthless to the world and priceless to me. I imagine you might have some items like that in your possession. Miss Suzy is the story of a sweet little squirrel who has a cozy, humble, but well-kept home in the canopy of an old oak tree. She has acorn cups for her tea, she sweeps her carpet with a little twig broom, she can look up and see the stars at night. Then one day, some bad, quarrelsome red squirrels climb the tree to invade and defile her little home and she runs away. A rainstorm forces her to find shelter in the attic of an old house, where she moves into an old forgotten dollhouse and sets about cleaning it up, dusting out the cobwebs, and making it suitable for a squirrel of her standards. While exploring the attic, she liberates a little group of toy soldiers who were trapped in a box for untold years. She invites them to move into the dollhouse with her and takes care of them. One evening, she regales the grateful toy soldiers with tales of her wonderful old home in the oak tree and she begins to cry. The toy soldiers will have none of that, form themselves into a little battalion, and march straight over to the old oak tree and bravely eject those bad red squirrels from Miss Suzy's house. Miss Suzy goes on to live happily ever after and occasionally has the soldiers over for dinner. We received the adjacent photo of one of those bad, quarrelsome red squirrels this week who took the liberty of liberating one of our delicious new Moonlight bakery baguettes from an unsecured delivery location and enjoyed it heartily from his pecan perch without even a hint of remorse. I think that's a solid testimonial... just wait till he tries the ciabatta.

Population Density

Good morning! If you're up reading this email now, you probably didn't attend our fair city's premiere live music event yesterday... perhaps you are planning to bottom-feed on next week's unsold ticket inventory, or if you're like me, you are cheap and misanthropic enough to only take in the event from the comfort of your own canoe, moored just off Zilker Park, stocked only with the company and comestibles and imbibables of your own choosing. Sure, you don't get to actually see the performers, but on the upside you don't have to smell the crowd. If you happen to have highly-developed olfactories like an expert soupmaker, you understand the advantage. Moreover, though the food and drink options at the fairgrounds are admittedly impressive, it is impossible therein to enjoy the sounds of, say, The Cure, while sipping a pernod and snacking on duck liver mousse while being lulled to reverie by the undulations of Ladybird Lake's little wavelets. But we all make our choices in life. Some of us prefer to choke on airborne Dillo-dirt, to be showered with the sweat of passing crowdsurfers, to pay hundreds of dollars for the honor of suffering the myriad ignominies of such unthinkable population density in exchange for the opportunity to watch a live performance on oversized televisions... Perhaps I'm just aging gracelessly...

The Soup Peddler's 18th Annual SXSW Band Name Revue!

Folks, this job just gets harder every hear. At this point, my eyes are literally swimming (don't you love when people over-liberally use the word "literally"? Like, "I literally died of embarrassment." Really. Who is speaking to me? A ghost? (more on ghosts later))* (*note the nested parentheticals... I strongly believe they should be included in the APA style guide. It's time.) with pixels and show listings and silly band names. The scale is phenomenal. This festival long ago jumped the proverbial shark, before even the phrase "jumped the shark" jumped the shark. With unforeseen advances in the algorithms behind online random band name generators, we've seen an exponential increase in all categories, but most strikingly in the Just Plain Silliness subtype. But our job is to continue doing our Austin thing, whatever the cost. It is our job to continue to be charming and kind and cute and brilliant and lowbrow. All that in mind, without further ado, here is The Soup Peddler's 18th Annual SXSW Band Name Revue (SPASXSWBNR)... As always, 2013 is a great year for death and death's favorite color. Our friends The Death Set, Mostly Dead, Dead Leaf Echo, Dead Angle, The Dead Girls, Dead Gaze, The Dead Ships, The (perhaps redundantly) Dead Skeletons, Left For Dead, Die!Die!Die!, The Deadly Buzz, Dead Strangers, Deadly Buzz, Dead Love Club, Unstoppable Death Machines, Murder By Death, (previous SPASXSWBNR winners) Bass Drum Of Death, Awesome Death, Ringo Deathstarr, Eagles Of Death Metal, and up-and-comers Deathrow Tull are just a few of the musical collectives who seek to lift our spirits with their lovingly-crafted patterns of air compressions and rarefactions. They, along with the Black And White Years, Black Angels, Black Atlantic, Black Bone Child, Black Drawing Chalks, Black Earth, Black Lillies, Black Lips, Black Moon, Black Pistol Fire, Black Taxi, Black Tusk, Black Violin, Black Chords, and Blackstone Rangers, are doing their part this year to vibrate our tympanic membranes in a memorable, lasting, and hopefully eventually profit-making way.

What goes best with death and darkness? Why, the spirit world, of course! What would SXSW be without Your Friendly Ghost, (best band name candidate) Ghostbunny, Hungry Ghosts, Roadkill Ghost Choir, River Ghost, TV Ghost, Ghost Dance, Golden Ghosts, Ghost of Venice, Ghost Beach, Ghost Police, Caches The Ghost, Ghostward, Austin's favorite phantom band The White Ghost Shivers, Ghosts of Texas, and the charmingly-named and quite loquacious Ghostface Killah.

And speaking of charming... We turn to the part of our list that results from the sad convergence of family dysfunction, unchecked teenage angst, possible illicit drug use, and what can in no other terms be described as sociopathy: The Your-Parents-Must-Be-So-Proud category of the SPASXSWBNR. This list is not for everyone, so you may wish to avert your eyes/skip to the next paragraph. The most charming band names I could find: Diarrhea Planet, DJ John Vomitnoise, bind.torture.kill, Nuklear Blast Suntan [sic], Whore Of Bethlehem, The Crackpipes, Youthful Masturbation Techniques, Sex Bruises, Headcrusher, and Traumahelikopter. "Hey everyone, thanks so much for coming tonight, we're Traumahelikopter and we want to remind you to tip your bartenders and don't drink and drive... or we'll see you again later on!"

Moving on... Perhaps an indication of slowing cultural crosstalk between forms, this was not a big year for culinary band names. I could only find The Poi Pounders, The Avocados, Posole, and Rend. And that last one is pushing it...

In a solid turnout for the wildlife category, we have leading the herd the lovely band from Spitzbergen, Goatwhore! Not to be confused with The Goatbangers. We have Sunbears! Bipolar Bears, Gold Bears, Reignwolf, Speedwolf, Littlewolf, Peanut Butter Wolf, The Gospel And The Wolf, Ghost Wolves, Tiny Horse, Whitehorse, Mail The Horse, the oddly funny APD Horse Budget, Horse Opera, Band Of Horses (I've heard of these guys!), Dangerous Ponies, and the category winner, Poof Pony!

Let's just move on to the finale of the show here... these bands have stunned audiences worldwide by turning ordinary electricity into hair-raising sound right before their ears, and now they are here to compete for the prestigious SPASXSWBNR title! The envelope, please... Our finalists are Bipolaroid, Blah Blah Blah, The Creepy Creeps, Seizures! (simply for the insertion of the exclamation mark... it makes seizures so much more fun), Earl Sweatshirt, The Harpoonist And The Axe Murderer, Amnesia Babies, Venomous Maximus, Why?, Poopoo Platter, Cosmic Suckerpunch, Urban Achievers Brass Band, Red Goes Faster, Quitters, Classy Nude, Blacklung And The Smokestacks, Mom Jeans, ACXDC, Shivery Shakes, and The Useful Idiots.

Down to the last few! The few, the proud, the final finalists! The Lone Bellow. Skewered By Elephants. Dewey Decibel System. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs.

And the winner, picked for conciseness, cultural relevance, cuteness, cleverness, possibly even eclipsing 2006 winner Crapulence on all these metrics... I bring you... the 2013 SPASXSWBNR Winner...


Gentlemen and/or perhaps ladies, you should be proud of yourselves! Shave off that beard, would it kill you to put on a decent shirt, drop that ironic eyebrow and come on down for a free soup on the house!

Soup Is Love

Soup is love Real soup making takes time, and time is something that people in this day and age rarely have to give each other.

We take a really long time to cook our soup, just like you would when you cook for someone you love.

Soup is art

A soup maker creates flavor the way a painter creates a canvas, with different layers, different brush sizes, that create deep color and sharp detail.

We start with a slow sauté of aromatic vegetables, bringing out their natural sweetness and adding depth of flavor, and we finish with heat-bloomed spices and fresh hand-chopped herbs.

Soup is community

Soup traditions tie cultures together - part of the collective culinary unconscious of civilization itself - delivering the wisdom of a people from one generation to the next.

We find artisanal recipes from around the world that are not only delicious; they carry a thread of cultural customs and knowledge with them.

Soup is healing

Soup made in traditional ways is a potent, restorative tonic for the bones, joints and belly; it is the ultimate mineral supplement and immune booster.

We painstakingly create our stocks from bones, cooking them overnight to extract all the nutrients and gelatins that make them both healing and satisfying.

Soup Peddler soups and broths are unlike anything you’ll find on that dark, dreary soup aisle, or even in the hot soup wells of the highest-end grocery stores. Our soups aren’t pH-shifted to become a high-acid food, nor are they temperature-abused through pasteurization, killing nutrients and flavor for the sake of shelf life. We never resort to trickery like flavor-boosting and texture-enhancing powders and gels, industrially processed sodium and preservatives.

Our soups are simply made the way they’re supposed to be made: with a little patience, some homespun wisdom, generous amounts of real food ingredients (and some clever healthy substitutions), and excellent taste.

Soup Is Love!

Armadillo Day

I'm sure you caught the flurry of news coverage earlier this week about Alberto the Armadillo, the National Armored Mammal of Texas. For those of you who may be new to Texas or were tuned into the wrong channel, on Armadillo Day every year, a passel of sweaty photographers waits for Alberto to clamber from his caliche hole and render his meteorological prediction on the length of the remainder of the summer. The folkloric rule is if he sees his shadow, we get six more weeks of summer. And despite the fact that the only animal more nearsighted than a javelina is an armadillo, Alberto always sees his shadow, and we always get six more weeks. Truth is, the last overcast day we've had on an Armadillo day was in 1952, but that was solely due to a volcanic eruption in Norway and was in no way related to the ebbing of the brutality of our summer.

As a soupmaker inured to the summertime blues, I have gotten used to making the most of the off-season... intergalactic soup research trips and the like. Happy to be back on our mostly harmless orb with the Soupies of Austin, Texas.

The Many Metaphors Of Juicing

Matt Shook of Juicebox and Juiceland is many things, but did you know that he is the Metaphorical Oracle? Having worked with him for over a year now, I had some inkling of his knack for functional prose, but it wasn't until I embarked upon a juice cleanse that I understood the extent of his skills. Shook is a self-styled Juice Cleanse Consultant, having recently garnered some press by advising the Austin Chronicle's Claudia Alarcon on her recent juice cleanse.

My partner in this endeavor would by my close friend Jodi Bart, well-known in foodie circles as Tasty Touring. Isn't she cute? Her recent innocent question ("David, what kind of juicer should I buy?") became an invitation to do a juice cleanse. These food blogger types are always hungry for a story, so she eagerly accepted. She had never tried any sort of fast or cleanse beyond your average Yom Kippur observance and was eager to submit herself to Mr. Shook's tutelage . Being a great proselytizer of his various enthusiasms, Shook leapt at the opportunity to rope me into it. I am a fairly avid home juicer thanks to Shook's influence and an 18-year-old Acme Juicerator, and, having tendencies towards South Austin hippie-dippiness, I have experimented in my day with the grand-daddy of all cleanses... ... the Master Cleanse. That's the famed spicy lemonade cleanse. You drink nothing but water mixed with lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne. As off-putting as that may initially sound, it is actually a likeable, somewhat addictive beverage. You drink as much as you want, for as long as you want. The recommended length is ten days, but I had never gone beyond four or five days. It is hard to enter this kind of discussion without becoming fairly graphic, but suffice it to say, in combination with nightly senna tea doses and morning quarts of warm saltwater, it lives up to its name very well.

The cleanse that Jodi and I undertook was just a straight juice cleanse, and I opted to go primarily with just a straight green juice sweetened with a little apple and acidified with a touch of lemon. It still had to be a teensy bit culinary. I also mixed in the senna tea and the saltwater rinse. When I asked Shook about the relative merits of the various cleanses, I received my first metaphor: "Cleansing is like jogging. Sure, somebody could tell you what shoes to buy, what stretches to do, what path to take. But ultimately it's all about running. Just get out there and run, right?"

In support of the juice path, he also noted: "As long as the juice is fresh and raw, your body is feeding its cells with live enzymes that activate the building blocks of chi and heighten the ability of mitochondria to function. As opposed to having your friends over to your apartment to rip bong hits and leave Dominoes pizza boxes littered throughout while the the trash can overflows because everyone forgot what day garbage day was (which is what your body feels like during your normal diet), on a juice diet your body will start to feel like one of those houses in the 'What $750,000 Will Buy' section of The Times."

It started fairly well. I think Jodi may have had a slightly harder time at the get-go because it was virgin territory for her. She was pretty hungry and sought out Matt's help. The Metaphorical Oracle told her: "The first few days will feel like a mountain stage on the Tour de France, but next week you'll be cruising down with your legs stretched out and the wind in your hair."

I had a pretty easy go of it early on. You can see that the lack of calories had no effect on my bowling skillz. Just check out the last  four frames. <insert famous bowler name here>, eat your heart out.

The first question people generally ask is, "Aren't you hungry?" The hunger is there, it comes and goes, generally waning over the course of the cleanse. You are heartened by the thought of the sheer nutrient load that your body is enjoying, but the greatest payoff is the energy. Your physical energy and mental clarity zoom off the charts after day two. Whether it is a factor of your body just functioning better or an instinctive hunter/gatherer fight or flight reaction to the lack of calories (I tend to think mostly the latter), it is a profound effect.

My surprise juicing superpower, however, was not entirely welcome. My olfactory sense sharpened (again, likely a vestige of a prehistoric instinct) dramatically and I... I could smell everyone's breath. Everyone had a different olfactory imprint... it was slightly unnerving, but interesting. It's like I knew something secret about each person I met.

But along about day four, I was feeling pretty good and pretty clean. The weekend was approaching. But the missing social aspect of eating with my family and friends was beginning to become a slight drag. I told Matt I was thinking about stopping the cleanse. He expressed dismay and produced another metaphor. "You're driving to the Grand Canyon right now, and you've only made it as far as Junction. What you're telling me is that you want to stop in Junction and just turn around and drive back to Austin. Tomorrow morning you'll be in El Paso! And then next week you'll be standing on the rim of the Grand freaking Canyon."

When Jodi expressed similar dismay, he said, "You are Michael Jordan and you are going to take this all the way to the hoop. You're going to throw as many elbows as you need to, take as many takeoff steps as you want, you're going to stick your tongue out as you soar through the air and you are going to jam this."

I took his advice and stuck with it. But the following day it really was the weekend and the broccoli in our garden was starting to flower and it needed to get eaten, the sugar snap peas were bursting off the vine and were oh so inviting. I sent him the text you see at right. Drained of his metaphorical resources, he simply turned to brute force and threats.

It did the trick, however. The mention of the "fat trucker" is what did it. If you don't know who that is, then you haven't seen the incredibly motivating film that has inspired quite a buzz in the juicing world, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.

When I first told Matt he needed to watch the film, he said, "What happens? Someone has a horrible diet, is really sick, then starts

juicing, then gets better and lives happily ever after?" I said, "Yes." So yes, if a 15-word synopsis is good enough for you, don't watch it. But you might want to watch it, it is quite compelling and touching. The story about Phil the trucker is pretty moving.



All that aside, I ultimately did not have the willpower to take it all the way. I suffered some serious professional complications (website woes... someone else's fault) on Saturday night which snowballed throughout Sunday. Sunday night, I was so wired and upset by everything that I could not bring myself down... I used food as a sedative. I had a nice toasted piece of delicious multigrain bread with butter and went to sleep. The next morning I indulged in two El Primo migas tacos and a cup of coffee. Not the approved method for coming off a juice fast, but I'm still here to tell you about it. It was good.

What I learned from my cleanse this time is this: Food is almost purely emotional. You don't need much in the way of food to get by; in fact, to excel. On a cleanse: Physically, you're completely functional. Mentally clear. Emotionally balanced. Spiritually in tune. You have a nice shiny coat. You feel like a clean running machine. The difference between fuel and food is purely described by an emotional component. Keeping that balance between food and fuel, between emotion and reason in your diet is probably a key to being a pretty good human.

Next time, though, I think I might try this 46 day beer fast.

Jodi is still cruising and she's going to take it to the hoop. She's expressed some boredom. Matt chimed in with his last bit of metaphorical inspiration: "You've come a long way and if being bored of fresh juice is the only problem, consider this mission accomplished. Take each juice these remaining days and drink it down in the same way Michael Phelps puts gold medals around his neck. Sure, it is a little boring to be so good at something, so out of everyone's league, but soon you'll be down from the mountain top, back with the squares. It is the intention you finish with that will define your time on the juice. Make it count. Be grateful that you have access to fresh, raw fruit and vegetable juice, because millions of Americans will NEVER have the opportunity to juice feast. Imbibe! Swish! And do unto yourself the Internal high-fiving that only a bonafide 10-day Juice Feast can inspire!"

10th Anniversary Party

A good time was had by all at... no, no, too cliched. But really! Honestly, I think a good time was actually had by all at our 10th anniversary party. Cliches are often cliches for a reason... because they're true. A good time was had by all. That's why they always say, "A good time was had by all."

The day started out quite drearily... if nothing else, it would be a good soup day but not much of a party day. PeopIe would come by to pay their respects, huddle in small sipping groups and wander off. But no, the gloom of the previous few days lifted and I made some lovely vegetable and lentil soup in the setting South Lamar sun.

We hired some bluegrass outfit, cleverly named The Bluegrass Outfit, to accompany the goings-on. With a little musical accompaniment adding to the festive atmosphere, the din of the street noise all but receded into the background. I believe if I had enough money, I would have these pluckers on staff to accompany me wherever I went.

Just an average South Austin affair... the superhero costume was a rental, a placeholder for the custom Soup Peddler costume that was very sadly consigned to the ashbin of history by an overzealous spring cleaning effort of the Zach Scott Theatre's costume department. At one point during the evening, I distinctly recall seeing the silhouette of a cow dancing on top of a van at Amy's Ice Cream. It was a good night for tomfoolery on South Lamar.

The highlight of the affair was the traditional "cabbage toss". Can you feel the excitement? Kids and adults alike took turns tossing cabbages into the original Soup Peddler soup pot. Then the kids tore apart the cabbages and had a food fight. Good, clean, old-fashioned, biodegradable fun. We plan on bringing out a goat to clean up the yard.

It was incredibly gratifying to celebrate the soup with many old friends and some new ones. It's a very exciting time for this company, released from the shackles of our old website, exciting prospects at hand of the next generation of our delivery service, and a great partnership at our flagship store.

Thank you everyone for such wonderful support, for giving us such a prideful moment.

Pulling The Curtain...

The new website is here. You're looking at it right now. It feels darn good. It's hard to say goodbye to an old website... it's like boxing up your stuff in preparation for a move to a new house. You find old dusty things that take you on little trips down memory lane. Some of them warm you with good recollections, some color you with hues of embarrassment. For example, that sentence right there. I'll probably look back several years from now and think, "Golly, he sure was trying hard there with the prose."

Anyways, we have Adam Holzband to thank for project management and WordPress wizardry and Gerren Lamson for graphic design. We have my good friend Erik Schuchmann to thank for some coding help and advice. I am deeply grateful for the way each contributed.

An Invitation

We are coming up on our 10th anniversary in business, and want to invite you to help us celebrate it... I believe the invitation below has all the pertinent information. Please mark your calendar, pencil us in at least, and come and say hi!


It's Not All Bad

Primarily business notes this week... We would like to thank Franklin-Alan for a speedy and perfect renovation to our store on South Lamar. They added a new pickup window to help speed up our service (including fulfilling your online orders... no more waiting in line) during our lunch rush AND a new kiddie table to increase the comfort level of our smaller patrons AND another big people table (currently pre-cut and stacked in my garage, soon to be assembled). Oh, AND we just got a beer and wine license so we will launch a new fun little menu of fresh fruit mixed drinks for the warm season. Exciting changes all! Do you want a Juicebox & Soup Peddler in your neighborhood? Find us a spot!

I want to start announcing and preparing you for a fairly significant disturbance in your Soup Peddler experience. We will be migrating to a new website in late February. There will likely be a short (24 hour) outage on a Saturday while we make the final changes and switch over (I will announce that date very clearly in future emails). There may be some other inconveniences, like the requirement to create a new password and possibly re-enter your billing/shipping addresses.

But it's not all bad... in fact, it's quite good. We are working on some streamlining that should help make ordering a bit smoother. Plus the website is going to be super-cute and will finally integrate my blog entries, my Twitter feed (which is just an occasional chirp-chirp), product reviews, and a few other neat new features.

You may now lecture me on how it's important to lead with the good news. I could have always have gone back and switched those paragraphs around. In fact, as of the time of the writing of this sentence, I still can. But I won't, because something inside me wants to get the bad news out first. Then, when the good news comes to save the day, it turns into a tale of redemption. The underdog wins. The forces of evil are left cursing and shaking their fists at the heavens.


These things happen every now and again, just as stars align or we experience the occasional lunar eclipse... both of our wedding-oriented soups pop up on the menu at the same time. The Turkish Bride Soup and Italian Wedding Soup, two of our very finest and most-requested. Very different from each other, each with provenance arguably having nothing to do with matrimony. But we like our legends in food, we needn't pry too hard, look too deeply, lest the charming back-story evaporates. Let's just accept that these have forever been wedding soups and move on. With that in mind, let's now all ponder our favorite wedding memories. From the botched, slurred groomsman speech to the occasional wardrobe malfunction to the truly poetic expressions of hope and love, weddings can make you laugh and cry in quick turns. One of my most-shared wedding memories took place in a small country church with a pastor named Jim Jones. He advised the young couple thusly: "There will be times in your marriage when you will think to yourself, 'My God, what have I done?'" As my young friends and I sat agog in the back row, we saw every single head in the congregation nod slowly in unison. Left a deep impression, that moment.

We Made It!

We made it to the other side! No matter your involvement in/observance of the Hubbub Otherwise Known as Christmas, the safe passage and/or enjoyment thereof is an accomplishment and relief. Holidays are memory makers... our efforts and preparations, expectations fulfilled or otherwise, desires to please our loved ones... these are the palette and brushes with which we paint the memory scenes. Broad strokes of gratitude and contentment. Dapples of pleasant conversation, stipples of laughter. As it all draws to a close, the paint slowly dries and we trundle off to hang these precious canvases in the hallway where time doesn't elapse, nobody ages, where the joy of the moment is forever. Stop me before I turn into a living, breathing greeting card.

We were honored in the Austin Chronicle recently... read how we were the critic's choice for best family meal service here. Happy Last Week Of The Year. The menu below kicks off the New Year... let us know what looks good. Thank you for everything.