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.

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...

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.

Serial Soup Murderer

Emma Hepperman had a soup recipe for special occasions. It was a delicious potato soup. I would venture to guess that it was made with local ingredients... it may have even been vegan and gluten-free. However--and this is a big but--it was not arsenic-free. She finally got nabbed in 1940 after murdering her seventh husband, however if you read this article by a child of husband number six, you'll find some juicy stories about the alleged murders of the... aw hell, it's so obvious we don't need to say alleged... the murders of the previous six husbands.

Anyone out there that wants to co-write a musical version of this story please contact me.

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

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...

HIPSTERECTOMY

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!

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.