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...
"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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Austin. World. Get ready for the next generation of restaurant concept. Vegan. Hyper-local. Organic. Living food. Negative carbon footprint. Packaging-free.
You can't touch this. Don't even try.
Where Austin's elite meet in bare feet to not eat meat.
It's a restaurant with a living floor.
You heard me.
Mesclun, grama, bluestem, rye.
Designed by none other than Michael Hsu Design Office.
Step inside. Enjoy a personal foot wash and hempen loofah exfolation by one of our uniformed vegan waifs. Then...
You graze. You just get down on your hands and knees and go for it.
Reservation-only tables are also available.
The future has arrived, care of The Soup Peddler Management Group.
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!"
It's a brand new day here, very exciting news to share. We are very proud to unveil our new, expanded delivery service. Go ahead, look! You'll notice that the core of our menu, the rotating soups and entrees, are now listed on the menu page as weekly specials. Those are the only items that will be listed in the weekly email, but be sure, there is much, much more inside the store.
The rest of the menu is now tucked away into those clever little categories. Many of the items on the site now are provided by some of Austin's premiere artisans/vendors, and I'll highlight them in weeks to come. But several of our Soup Peddler-made "usual suspects" have been tucked into those sub-menus. For example, we will offer our most popular two quiches and three salads every week. Our daily soups are now tucked into their own little category. Our super-baked cookies are now just part of the "baked goods" section of the site. Our marinara sauce and chicken stock are now permanent fixtures on the menu. We have a brand new incredible big chunk maple almond granola that will always be available.
This is just the beginning, we have many plans for new in-house products like kitchen essentials such as caramelized onions, roasted garlic, and quick-pickled veggies. Plus plans for lots of other things like local eggs and dairy.
For now, I'd like to highlight one of our new vendors, Rockstar Bagels. Only three short years ago, Joe Humel was an out-of-work Austin drummer (you can't swing a dead cat without hitting one around here) with an unquenchable hankering for a decent bagel (insert opposite of "can't swing a dead cat" phrase here), so he took it upon himself to create the perfect New York bagel, and crazier still, set about making a living doing it. I'm happy to tell you he's done a darn good job of fulfilling both of those goals, and am very honored to be able to bring them to you. In weeks to come, we will add chive and house-made lox cream cheese spreads to the menu to accompany them.
This is the kind of cleverness that I look forward to when I run from the mailbox to my house when the new Cook's Illustrated arrives. My favorite magazine except of course National Geographic. Family Handyman is great in theory but it's just this side of too manly for my purposes. Anyways... This is from the Quick Tips section that is full of labor-saving ideas from the very most anal-retentive home cooks in the world. It speaks to me.
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.
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.
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!
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.