Important Soup Peddler News

Dear Soupies, It’s been quite a while since I’ve written one of these. Some of you may have been reading along so many years ago, when I wordily begged your pardon for retiring the old reusable soup buckets, for expanding my delivery fleet to include trucks, for expanding my menu to include things other than soup. This time I will be begging your pardon for my decision to finally bring an end our delivery service.

The Soup Peddler delivery service has been chugging along in its various iterations since 2002, when it was just me, the boy on the bike. When I began this business, Austin (and frankly the world) was truly a different place. In the food world, there were no farmers’ markets. There were no food trailers. There were no food bloggers. There was no downtown (to speak of). There was no flood of restaurant investment. There were no “disruptive apps” that brought food to your door. There were no CSAs. There were no Greenlings, no Farmhouse Deliveries. There were no prepared food emporia for every dietary preference. In fact, I don't recall if there even were dietary preferences back then. And you may not remember, but grocery stores at that time simply sold… groceries. So the competitive food landscape has changed dramatically, and the competitive attention landscape has changed too.

The Soup Peddler delivery service has managed to survive those changes, but truth be told, it has struggled to remain relevant and more recently, solvent. I don't mean to place all the blame on external forces. I am certain I have made mis-steps along the way, and there are quite enough thoughts on that subject to form a lengthy future post.

But fortunately, I did have one good idea along the way. In 2010, my wife and my banker and I made a huge leap of faith and invested in building a store. Completely different business model, completely different offering. Completely similar pie-in-the-sky business planning. As you know, I am an accidental entrepreneur. Well, "The Soup Peddler Real Food & Juice Bar" was my next lucky accident.

While the history of that effort is worthy of its own manifesto, suffice it to say that those three stores, with a fourth one in the oven, have proven to be an incredible success. They have given new life to our brand. They provide a sensible, scalable, manageable business model. They enabled us to make the leap to our new kitchen. Our organization changed on the inside to be able to support those stores, and we've developed a fair bit of institutional wisdom on the subject along the way. We found that the stores were an exciting showcase of what we can do, and that the audience and response were expanding and affirming. In short, "bricks and mortar" clearly became the path forward for The Soup Peddler.

As much as we believe in the delivery service, as grateful as we have been to the trust endowed to us by our Soupies, the writing has been on the wall for some time. I revisited the numbers, and the numbers said, "It's time to let go."

Making decisions is something we must learn to do as we grow older. I, and I'm sure many of you, have at times suffered from an inability to make large decisions. I recall several circumstances where I weighed options to the point of neurosis. It's like tasting a soup for salt so many times that you can no longer objectively taste it. I learned that that is a debilitating way to live, because life throws more and more decisions your way, and you have to decide. You have to. So many things depend on it. The fear of making a wrong decision can be even worse than making the wrong decision itself. So, all things considered, at this point in my life this was a fairly easy one.

As I often say, "business is personal." Well, there's no more personal food brand in Austin than The Soup Peddler. I am very sad to see this go. I will miss the food. I look at our recipe database and think of the ungodly amount of work and creativity that went into it. It's sad to me that that is all going away, won't exist anymore. I also feel quite terrible about letting our most devoted customers down. I know, because I share the experience, that the food becomes part of the fabric of your home life. So that is going to be a big change for some people. Moreso, we have quite a few customers who are either elderly or housebound or disabled for whom our service is very important. No, nobody is going to starve, and yes, there are many more options these days (Instacart, Favor, and the like... though they are not for the faint of technology) for customizable food delivery. But there's nothing quite like our delivery service, and I am sorry for its loss.

The good news. Our massive library of the world's greatest soup recipes, thanks in great part to the phenomenal staff at our stores, will live on. Our culinary wisdom will continue to thrive in the creative salads and side dishes we offer in our grab and go fridges. Our crave-worthy sandwiches offer another mutually beneficial outlet for our creativity. Our delightfully unique juice and smoothie menus will continue to develop in years to come. And yes, you can still get our beloved cookies any time you want.

There's just a little more to this. I think most of us have counseled friends coping with loss or divorce, and experience shows that there is light on the other side. There is a void, and into that void eventually comes new life. It takes time, but it always happens to some degree. So for me, this was also a personal decision. I am looking forward to finding out what will come to fill the space that I am creating by ending the delivery service. I trust that my old friend serendipity will come knocking with something perfect up her sleeve.

I will follow up with a tying-up-loose-ends email shortly. My deepest gratitude, as always, for sustaining us and delivering us to this day.

Yours, David J Ansel

Such A Nice Boy

IMG_2438As you may know, we've been in the midst of upgrading lots of things here at Soup Peddler Central... new kitchen, new kettles, new systems, lots and lots of blessed newness. Not that the old was so bad! I don't want to cast a pall on things in the past and belie a lack of gratitude for those. Nor people of the past... however, one of the greatest upgrades we've made was our recent chef hire of Ari Dvorin, such a nice boy. You knew it would come to this... I have hired my doppelganger, save that he's got quite a few inches on me and a better, if more closely cropped, head of hair. You may have noticed a good crop of new entrees on the menu in the past few weeks... these are all ideas from the brain of Chef Dvorin, with many more to come. It is a true joy to have a chef here that shares my culinary passions and has the training and experience to pull them off, AND a cheery and stable disposition to boot. I won't obscure the truth... this has been a very challenging position to fill over the years, and there have been some very un-fun times along the way. You know that show on PBS, The Mind Of A Chef? Well, I could do a few different episodes.

Thank you for helping to deliver us to this moment.

A New Chapter For The Soup Peddler

Greetings from 7200 Cooper Lane, in the heart of what many in this neighborhood would call "The Real South Austin." Just about eleven years ago today, I packed up my few belongings and moved out of Lambert's on South Congress, where I had been making my fame and my soup, into my very first own kitchen at the corner of Mary St. and South First.



There wasn't much to it in those days, in retrospect. But at the time, it was a big leap of faith. I was scared but excited about the possibilities.



As the years passed, our business grew and changed, and we long ago outgrew our facility there on Mary St. But we made it work. But what was once a place of great pride became, over the course of many accumulated difficulties and limitations, a mire of frustration for both me and all my staff.

One day, along came a listing on Craigslist that said, "Commercial Kitchen Built To Suit." I jumped out of my chair, met the realtor at 7200 Cooper Lane, and negotiated a lease with the Oliver family, who own hundreds of gas stations and convenience stores. They have a business model whereby they develop, equip, and maintain facilities for proprietors to lease. In a sense, they provide these risk-takers a slice of the "American Dream," a place to own and operate a business. This location on Cooper Lane, which is utterly without retail appeal, would be different... it would be their first commissary kitchen and they needed a tenant who had an established business but needed an opportunity for a step up. And that perfectly-fitting prospect was The Soup Peddler.

Work began over a year ago, when I designed my dream kitchen with one of my favorite little pieces of free software, Google Sketchup. I worked with a phenomenal architect named Madhu Phillips, and we turned my dreams into a set of architectural and engineering prints.



Now, we are days away from moving into the finished dream kitchen. I could easily bore you to tears with minutiae about this process, but it appears, at the time of this writing, that I have survived it mentally, spiritually, and financially intact. For me, and for my long-suffering staff, when we move in, we will have died and gone to kitchen heaven.



No, the ceiling tiles and lights were not designed by Gehry or Gaudi, that's just the visual effect of my fisheye lens. In a few days, we will be ready to fire up our new 100 gallon stock kettle, our new tilting skillet, our new industrial chilling tank, and prepare for you a lovely menu of offerings for your enjoyment as detailed below.
Soupie *|MMERGE2|* *|MMERGE3|*,

Greetings from 7200 Cooper Lane, in the heart of what many in this neighborhood would call "The Real South Austin." Just about eleven years ago today, I packed up my few belongings and moved out of Lambert's on South Congress, where I had been making my fame and my soup, into my very first own kitchen at the corner of Mary St. and South First.



There wasn't much to it in those days, in retrospect. But at the time, it was a big leap of faith. I was scared but excited about the possibilities.



As the years passed, our business grew and changed, and we long ago outgrew our facility there on Mary St. But we made it work. But what was once a place of great pride became, over the course of many accumulated difficulties and limitations, a mire of frustration for both me and all my staff.

One day, along came a listing on Craigslist that said, "Commercial Kitchen Built To Suit." I jumped out of my chair, met the realtor at 7200 Cooper Lane, and negotiated a lease with the Oliver family, who own hundreds of gas stations and convenience stores. They have a business model whereby they develop, equip, and maintain facilities for proprietors to lease. In a sense, they provide these risk-takers a slice of the "American Dream," a place to own and operate a business. This location on Cooper Lane, which is utterly without retail appeal, would be different... it would be their first commissary kitchen and they needed a tenant who had an established business but needed an opportunity for a step up. And that perfectly-fitting prospect was The Soup Peddler.

Work began over a year ago, when I designed my dream kitchen with one of my favorite little pieces of free software, Google Sketchup. I worked with a phenomenal architect named Madhu Phillips, and we turned my dreams into a set of architectural and engineering prints.



Now, we are days away from moving into the finished dream kitchen. I could easily bore you to tears with minutiae about this process, but it appears, at the time of this writing, that I have survived it mentally, spiritually, and financially intact. For me, and for my long-suffering staff, when we move in, we will have died and gone to kitchen heaven.



No, the ceiling tiles and lights were not designed by Gehry or Gaudi, that's just the visual effect of my fisheye lens. In a few days, we will be ready to fire up our new 100 gallon stock kettle, our new tilting skillet, our new industrial chilling tank, and prepare for you a lovely menu of offerings for your enjoyment as detailed below.

Thank you as always for your excellent support over the years.

Please place your order for the week of 9/28 by Saturday 9/27 at 11:59 p.m

*|IF:MMERGE1>0|* You now have *|MMERGE1|* Soupie Rewards Points!
*|ELSE:|* You don't have any Soupie Rewards Points yet. Place your first order to start stocking up! *|END:IF|*


The Menu


Moroccan Lentil Soup... $8.95


A hearty, healthy, lip-lickingly delicious north African lentil soup seasoned by a mysterious blend of coriander, turmeric and cumin with just a hint of cinnamon ... 32 fl oz. Vegan, gluten-free. Freezes well.... [ingredients]


New England Clam Chowder... $12.95


Traditional white chowder... tender potatoes and clams in a creamy broth. Keep your soup crackers handy... 32 fl oz. ... [ingredients]


Straight Up Vegetable Soup... $9.95


Local greens. Straight-up vegetable soup seasoned with a smidge of Old Bay... 32 fl oz. Vegan, gluten-free. Freezes well.... [ingredients]


Beef and Barley Soup... $14.95


Braised beef sirloin, pearl barley and split peas slow simmered in our own 18-hour stock made with roasted beef bones, bouquet garni, mirepoix and red wine... 32 fl oz. Freezes well.... [ingredients]


Veggie Curry with Pulao Rice... $12.95


Richly spiced coconut curry over vegetables, served with a garlic, ginger, and mint rice pulao... Feeds 2. Vegetarian, gluten-free.... [ingredients]


Spinach Feta Pie... $14.95


Sauteed spinach, onions, and garlic seasoned with oregano and a hint of fresh mint folded into feta cheese, baked in a crispy pastry crust..... Feeds 4.Vegetarian. Freezes well.... [ingredients]


Chicken Marsala with Spaghetti Squash... $14.95


Chicken breasts sauteed with mushrooms and marsala, finished with lemon and served over baked spaghetti squash... Freezes well.... [ingredients]


Meatballs & Marinara... $14.95


Hand-rolled oven-browned meatballs finished in our homemade marinara... serve over spaghetti or in a sub roll... Feeds 2. Freezes well.... [ingredients]

Place Your Order
Thank you, as always, for the opportunity to bring some specialness to your lives and allow us, the folks at The Soup Peddler, to be fulfilled by the task. If you love this business, please forward this message to a friend!

Yours, David's Signature David J. Ansel Principal Soupmaker The Soup Peddler, Inc.

Last Thoughts On B.K.S. Iyengar

It was a very, very hot summer, late in the last millenium, when I arrived in Austin. Like so many who came before me, I found my way here in pursuit of an ill-fated relationship. Was just a boy, twenty-five years old, halfway across the country from my home. I landed in the fantastic clocktower house on Mary street, just up the hill from our soon-to-be old kitchen. The first night I was here, my roommate took me to see Don Walser at Jovita's. Austin, Texas. Well, that ill-fated relationship didn't take long to unravel, and now I was at sea... emotionally distraught, vocationally uninspired, far from home, with very little in the way of tools to help heal myself. That same roommate invited me to join him for a yoga class. This was when yoga was just at the end of its time as a fringe pursuit, before "sticky mat" became part of the urban vernacular. We biked over to an unassuming house on Oxford Street. Outside the bedroom, there was no furniture in the house. Soon there were twenty or so people limbering up, packed in very close to each other, and the teacher, a spider-like rock climber named Christian Leeby began with a short invocation to Patanjali. I was wide-eyed and dubious, but any doubts that this was just some woo-woo were very quickly dismissed.

This was Iyengar yoga. You may have read some of the articles recently about B.K.S. Iyengar's death at age 95 last week. While he is credited for "bringing yoga to the west", Iyengar yoga ultimately lost its prominence in the U.S. to the various types of "workout yoga" that shaped business plans for so many clothing and accessory companies and shaped so many yoga butts across the country. It remained, percentage-wise, a fringe player.

Iyengar yoga is not for everyone, clearly. It is the "engineer's yoga", maybe the "architect's yoga", which requires rigorous learning, rigorous alignment, and long-held postures. It is taught by teachers who have been well-vetted and adjudicated... not just any schmoe can become an Iyengar-certified teacher. Our fair city, mecca of the yoga biz, has but a handful... four or five, maybe. Many Iyengar classes are truly classes--with extensive description and lecture--not workouts. The class is meant to support the home practice. Bluntly put, that is a flawed business model. However, as a means of disseminating knowledge, Iyengar yoga is one hell of an organization.

Simply, the asana (posture) work sets the body against itself, and all of the crazy twisted postures point back to the first, the most elegant, the simplest, the most complicated. It is called tadasana, which is alternately known by its colloquial name, "standing up straight." It took years of yoga classes for me to learn how to stand up straight. And that is the true gift... I haven't been to a yoga class in years, and yet never a day, probably not an hour goes by where I am not touched by the teachings of B.K.S Iyengar.

Of course, yoga lies not only in the physical realm... its physical poetry translates into emotional, nay spiritual balance, openness, clarity. Yoga citta vritti nirodhah. All in one sentence, it is described: Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.

Sounds good, right?! Nothing to it... just a lifelong practice. Thanks for reading along.

Soup Peddler Therapy Services

Growth in Austin has its costs for all of us. The pace of life has accelerated to the point where we are all challenged to evolve in order to stay afloat, both emotionally and financially. Businesses, like mine, are forced to create strategies to help pay increasing rents and payrolls. We need to diversify, to use our core competencies to find and service the next big opportunity. In our view, the only thing that can keep pace with Austin's growth is Austinites' disenchantment with it. So many of us know people who are struggling emotionally with growth, and The Soup Peddler is here for you, now offering Civic Growth Therapy Services at all of our brick-and-mortar locations.

Have you or anyone you love been bothered by questions, "Where have all the bluebonnets gone?" "How are my children and my children's children going to commute down Lamar?" "You want how much for a hamburger?" Have you ever woke up in a panic because you dreamt you were downtown and were so disoriented you couldn't remember where Liberty Lunch was?

We here at Soup Peddler Therapy Services use a multi-modal therapeutic approach to facilitate a sense of comfort with these difficult changes. Our regression therapy leads patients through a web-based virtual "stroll down memory lane" featuring streets empty of traffic, plentiful free street parking, and old-timey renderings of human beings interacting with their fellow citizens instead of their smartphones.

We use a patented set of Rorschach plates developed from photographs of endangered Bouldin Creek cottages, modern spec houses, and California license plates to help patients develop a language for their emotional response to the changes that surround them.

Our EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing) treatment modality removes "stuck emotions" by encouraging patients to confront the most vivid visual images of growth (most commonly construction cranes and dump trucks) during these revolutionary eye movement sessions.

All patients receive free use of our helpful mobile app, which is programmed to vibrate when the patient begins any sentence with, "When I moved here," "In my day," "I used to be able to," "I miss," or many other unhelpful thought pattern setups.

If you or someone you know could benefit from Soup Peddler Therapy Services, please follow this link for more information. Thank you for your kind attention.

Elevating The Art Of The Smoothie

We've been enjoying a good little creative streak lately here at the Soup Peddler kitchen. We are preparing to unveil a new juice and smoothie menu at our stores, and I can't help but share some of the great new ideas ahead of time. I think that the direction we're taking is absolutely original. It combines the best of the global culinary approach of our kitchen with the convenient, delicious nutrition that our juice bars have been delivering. For example, the Magic Carpet Ride, pictured below, is a phenomenal cherry, pistachio, tahini, sumac, Himalayan salt, and banana smoothie. Also, the Lassi Come Home takes notes from traditional mango and rosewater lassis, but is made with local yogurt and raw honey and includes a special culinary twist of fennel seeds blended in. The Faulkneresque (below, in blender) is the product of a stream-of-consciousness recipe development technique and includes peaches, apricots, dates, almonds, oats, cloves, and cinnamon. There are a few more new smoothies, including the Fixie and the Nina Simone, plus a complete overhaul of the juice menu. These should roll out in mid-April.

But wait, as they say on the TV, there's more. We have been upgrading our salad selections at the stores (we will soon offer these to delivery customers). The Neptune's Daughter is a delicious and uber-nutritious wakame seaweed salad. The Optimus Slaw is the slaw to end all slaws... broccoli stalk, red cabbage, and kale in a fire-roasted poblano ranch dressing. Kneel Before Kale pays homage to the king of hipster greens with toasted sunflower seeds, golden raisins, and cranberries in a raw honey vinaigrette. And there are more on the way... an as-yet-named soba noodle salad and the return of our fantastic wheatberry cranberry salad.

The New Look

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the brands which have connected them with another... that is to say, it is time to say farewell to the "Juicebox" brand that has been emblazoned upon our stores. What was for a few years joined "Soup Peddler" in a cute but unwieldy concatenation of brands ultimately became less sensible to keep. I'm certain you join me in always searching for ways to make things more sensible in our lives and our pursuits. While there are challenges in this type of transition, I'm very excited about the retooling of our branding along with several other developments slated for 2014... a new kitchen, a new store, and a most zesty re-working of the smoothie, juice, salad and sandwich menus at our stores. For many years, the original "The Soup Peddler" logo has been very difficult to change, but my ingenious and passionate designer Jennifer Braham has delivered a new look that is very rooted in the old look but is stronger and a whole lot more functional from a design perspective. We were inspired by newspapers, dictionaries, classic printing typefaces, and particularly (if I may divulge a teensy bit of theft...), the gorgeous masthead of Cook's Illustrated. The change will slowly creep across the physical and virtual worlds of The Soup Peddler... labels, trucks, stores, websites, etc... it'll likely take a while. I sincerely hope you like it. I believe it honors people's intelligence. It feels very good, very authentic, and ultimately it fits me and my interests personally... that is really all I have to go on here. Here is the basic element:

And here it is in situ along with our Valentine's juice special at our stores, "The Love Potion"...

So there we have it... the branding to take us well into the late-early 21st century. Thank you as always for your support, for keeping us in your thoughts... we are ever-indebted to you for it.

American Sabbath

I've come to think of Thanksgiving as the American Sabbath. There is a moment around which it all revolves (it is akin to the candlelighting of the Jewish Sabbath), where we get a sense that the world as we know it has come to a stop, where we take part in a collective suspension of busy-making, where we don't have to be doing something or getting back to somebody about something, where we leave the spatial world and move into the temporal world, where considerations of gratitude and hope and empathy and love trump the less elevated instincts that pepper our days. Not an easy trick... but for a moment on Thanksgiving, hopefully we can find it together. Oh but listen to me, I'm starting to sound like a holiday card. In any event, thank you to those of you who ordered from our Thanksgiving menu and are welcoming Soup Peddler to your table... we are honored by the invitation.

Explore Soup

You have to marvel at the creativity, the effectiveness, the "stickiness" of marketing campaigns sometimes. There's one you've probably seen along Austin's roadways that either has a really large budget or is being generously under-written by a God-fearing billboard company... It says "Explore God". I fancy that one day there could be a similar ad campaign which compels the masses to "Explore Soup". For so many people the concept of an all-knowing, all-loving soup has been so battered and maligned over the millenia to the point where many don't even believe in the healing power of accepting soup into their lives. It is sad, because many forces in the world have colluded, lo these many years, to appropriate and commodify soup, reducing it to a mere shadow of its true, glorious essence. As we know, Soup Is Love and the more that we as a people allow soup into our hearts, the more love we will enjoy for our fellow man and woman. Yea, we should verily take heed to reject false soups for they will lead us to exile, far from the kingdom of truth and comfort.

Soup Peddler Summer Camp

As the father of a now five-year-old girl, I have learned both the cognitive and financial pain of scheduling my precious child's summer activities. Sleeping out in line to register her for parks department camps. Fisticuffs with other parents who tried to butt into line. The embarrassment of unsuccessful bribes to camp owners and managers.

I decided to do something about it. Something that would give back to the community. Something that would ease the heavy burden that so many parents carry.

Free summer camps brought to you by The Soup Peddler! They run from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day, and all ages are welcome.

Session I: June 10 - July 12. Session II: July 15 - August 9.

We will start each morning with veg prep! We first teach your kids about proper hygiene and food safety guidelines and then move into knife work (age appropriate... younger children will concentrate on washing veggies and 5-6 year olds will use peelers).

You'll be surprised how efficient your kids will get with prep after a few 50 pound sacks of onions, carrots, and potatoes. Veg prep is an invaluable life skill, and we are proud to share our knowledge with the community to bring up our young folks well.

 

After lunch (you are welcome to provide a brown bag lunch or children will be welcome to pick from the stock pot after it has been drained), we move to the dish room.

As you know from home, there's just nothing cuter than seeing your kids hard at work scrubbing those stubborn bits from your pots and pans. Even more than team sports, dishwashing is an important character-builder for kids.

 

Once production is done, the fun really begins! Kids may think that sweeping and mopping a high-traffic kitchen floor is just an easy way to pass the time, but doing it properly is a skill that many people never have the opportunity to learn.

When I reflect back to the summer camps of my youth, I think about all the wasted hours of swimming and softball and camp songs. It may have seemed fun at the time, but it left me sorely unprepared for the life that awaited me.

Of course there's a lot more to The Soup Peddler and our summer camp than just cooking and cleaning. There are a lot of other maintenance issues that require constant attention... your kids will keep themselves busy and prepare for the future with computer, refrigeration, electrical and plumbing repair.

 

Soup Peddler Summer Camp is a great way for your kids to learn the value of hard work and earning a living... we even send them home with some change at the end of each day so they have a greater sense of reward. Too good to be true? The camp that pays your kids!

Click here to register for Session I

Click here to register for Session II

At Times, I Forget I've Even Written A Book

I just received this incredibly touching message in the olde inbox.

I wrote The Soup Peddler's Slow And Difficult Soups in the summer of 2004, almost entirely in the dark, in a supine position, in my childhood bedroom with a laptop--as suggested by its name--on my lap. I had been interested in writers' rituals and workspaces ever since being exposed to Jill Krementz' photography (that's Eudora Welty on the cover). Tangentially, the single most star-struck moment of my life was when attending a bookstore lecture of hers, I ran into her husband lurking among the bookshelves at the store and introduced myself. Her photos show desks in various extremes of disarray, brimming ashtrays aside favored typewriters, those sorts of things. While there is no photographic evidence to document the writing of my book, I assure you that it was not nearly so visually rich a scene.

I began each day in as close to Vonnegut fashion as possible, with a cup of coffee and the Times crossword puzzle, then would retire to my room to write the book, which is part of a smallish sub-genre of a sub-genre of a corner of the bookstore called "fictionalized culinary memoir." One of the ways in which my writing approach is dissimilar to Vonnegut's is that, to the best of my knowledge, he never employed the use of a custom-made Microsoft Access database as a prose generator.

While that sounds rather un-romantic... in fact you might be tempted to go so far as to call it antithetical to any respectable theory on composition, I feel like it worked for me. The database (you can think of this as a series of spreadsheets) had tables called "characters," "settings," "themes," "dialogue," and "neuroses." You see, I had been collecting snippets of experiences over the previous few years of my business and I needed some way of categorizing them so I could craft a cohesive narrative from them. There were a few outlying bits that demanded that last category, "neuroses." I decided that the only way that I could write a book of memoirs at the ripe age of 30 without seeming pretentious was to stir in a few dashes of self-effacement, in the way of lovingly-amplified personal neuroses.

So after four weeks of writing everyday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. sharp, what ultimately came from the effort was something quite in the Keep Austin Weird category... quirky and whimsical and lowbrow/brilliant. According to my conservative estimates, each page is roughly 75-80% non-fiction. Not a frequent claim in the memoir field. There's actually a decent little narrative arc complete with hero (me) and arch-enemy (If you're reading this and have connections in the film industry, it would make a great feel-good film. Call me. Seriously.) Frankly, the last thing on my mind at the time was to write a cookbook. In fact, before the idea was respectfully (and correctly, probably) brushed aside by my publisher, I had wanted to include prose recipes. No numbers, no lists. However, when I first saw people flipping through the book, they would peruse from recipe to recipe and skip right over the lovingly-wrought prose. I would encourage them not to shelve it in the kitchen, but rather suggest, "It makes for very good bathroom reading!"

Well, here it is in 2013 and there's a lot of water under the bridge since then, and honestly my eyes haven't seen the inside of the book since 2005. However I know that it's still out there, and I seem to have pleasantly surprised my friend Addie by off-handedly mentioning that the book is in its second printing, probably somewhere around 13-14,000 in lifetime sales. Good thing I grabbed the last copy of the first edition to set on my bookshelf in the culinary classics section right next to Child, Claiborne, and Larousse.

How It's Done

The other day, I opened a bag of Veggie Booty for my daughter Mia. She said, "Did you just open this?" "Yes." "Then where's all the booty?" I looked inside and the bag was half full. I said, "Maybe we should let the booty people know that their bags are only half full." We sent this photo to the company.

In no time flat, we received a wonderful email back from Pirate Brands asking for more details on our experience. A few days later, we received a big box on the front porch. Mia just loves when she gets mail. There was a letter...

And even better, there was a box full of very full bags of Pirate goodies ("Daddy, is booty good for you?" "Well, it's not bad for you.") and Pirate tattoos and Pirate stickers and a Pirate sword and a Pirate activity book.

I do believe they've earned a customer or two for life...

Take That, Campbell's

"My husband has been offered a job at Emory University in Atlanta, GA, though, and we find ourselves feeling silly that one of the saddest things about leaving Austin is certainly that we will miss the soup. And we have no idea what we are going to eat for lunch now ;). So, as the moving vans are coming next Tuesday, we must bid our beloved soups farewell. But we wanted to say thank you—for introducing us to complex and exciting soups that we had never imagined before, for not cutting corners on ingredients, taste or the research that you put into them, for always, always providing us with excellent service and, most importantly, for feeding us." - A Soupie

He Not Busy Being Born...

As the Union Pacific railroad bridge across Ladybird Lake says, "Life Is Change. Be Flexible." Rarely have truer words been graffitied. This, from the bridge that also teaches us to "Focus One Point And Breathe." Easily two of my top five life lessons come from the enlightened graffiti crew responsible. Their third admonition towards the north end of the bridge, "Let's Pretend We Are Robots," is indeed helpful but doesn't rank quite as high as the others.

So Long, Farewell...

We are at once saddened and excited by the departure of our soupmaker Jake Bommer, who will be joining the ranks of The Parkside and The Backspace crew. It has been an honor and a privilege. Five straight Austin Chronicle "Best Soup" awards on his resume... nothing at which to sneeze.

Me and Ann Clark

I had the supreme pleasure this week of cooking with Ann Clark, one of Austin's most accomplished food experts. Who is Ann Clark, you (perhaps) say? Being the know-it-all whipper-snapper foodie that I am, I knew nothing about Ann, an essential part of Austin culinary history, until I was introduced by her nephew, my friend and early Soupie Colin Clark. When I was a mere babe in arms, Ann was founding a French cooking school (La Bonne Cuisine) in the provincial little town that was Austin in 1973. The great local food writer MM Pack wrote a very good bio of Ann in 2002 which chronicles her many accomplishments... essentially a life immersed in great cuisine, restlessly learning, teaching, leading culinary tours, catering, consulting. Most importantly, nurturing a culinary movement in a town where there was little to none. She now focuses her professional life on kitchen design consulting... a recent Statesman article properly calls her "the kitchen whisperer".

We made a date to cook together, perchance to drink a little wine, while the Clark and Ansel families frolicked on her hillside swimming pool. Appropriately, the evening stretched longer than expected as Ann and I cajoled our paella into shape. Her kitchen was sensible and none-too-fancy. I believe I was a little underwhelmed... that is, until I was ushered into the holy of holies... her garage, which houses her collection of over 7,000 cookbooks and her enameled cast iron, copper, and earthenware collections. You could sense the depth and breadth of her experience simply by this mute array of objects. I had been promised a demonstration of one of her favorite soup recipes but we were having too good a time to get around to it. For this evening, the pure joy of learning from a master and sharing great cuisine would have to suffice.

Our Second Store!

I'm very pleased to announce the opening of our second Juicebox & Soup Peddler storefront on Monday! Huzzah! You might recognize this little bit of artwork as having graced the walls for the last decade or so at the corner of South First Street and Mary Street. This is a homecoming of sorts, all the great delicious fresh nutritious convenience that we've been offering at our first Juicebox store, now located at the birthplace of our business, at our kitchen, right in the heart of Bouldin Creek in South Austin. It has been a long time coming, and we are thrilled to open our doors... well... not doors exactly... open our windows to you. Do drop in when you find yourself in the neighborhood. Rest assured non-South-Austinites, we have something else in the works that will bring the juice and soup north of the river soon. We'll save that announcement for another day.