Growing up in Solvang, California, otherwise known as the “Danish Capital of America,” I had a lot of exposure to Danish culture—slinging butter cookies and kringles at a Danish bakery, eating open-faced sandwiches on pumpernickel, learning to folk dance, and getting familiar with aquavit. But the thing that has stuck with me most over the years is the term hygge.
At its simplest, the word translates to “cozy,” but wrapped up in its layers of meaning is the essence of when everything feels just right. Hygge captures the pure contentment of snuggling with your family on a cold morning or lying on a beach in Mexico all alone and everything in between.
So when I opened up my copy of The Soup Club Cookbook, and saw a glossy, two-page explanation of hygge, I was impressed and excited to dig deeper. The idea of slurping down a nourishing bowl of soup with friends and family gathered around the table embodies the ultimate form of coziness. And the four friends behind this project—Tina Carr, Caroline Laskow, Julie Peacock, and Courtney Allison, all professional women living in New York City and raising families—capture this ideology well in their whimsical, humorous, and uplifting cookbook.
The book starts by describing the origins of the authors’ soup club, adding details, tips, and pantry essentials to allow anyone to start a club of their own. The process is straightforward: Each family signs up to provide a meal for the other families for one week out of the month. At the beginning of your assigned week, your task is to cook eight quarts of soup, some kind of topping or garnish, and a side dish as necessary, then packing up the meal in reusable containers and dropping it off at the other members’ homes in time for dinner. This is not a single pot endeavor, but that’s the whole point.
While the rules are simple, a soup club is not an easy job. Preparing meals for three other families, plus your own, requires a lot of planning, shopping, chopping, and time management. “Your Soup Week will sometimes fall at the most inconvenient moment in your busy life,” the authors admit.
But, they add, “Just know that everyone’s Soup Week will occur at an equally busy time for them. Get Cooking.” Imagine, once your turn is done, coming home tired and hungry on a busy weeknight and knowing that you don’t have to do anything besides light the stove.
After laying the groundwork for establishing a soup club, the book launches into a wide array of recipes. There are various broths, bean-centric soups, purées, chilled soups, hearty chowders, chilis, plus classics like chicken noodle and new creations like “Turmeric and Greens (Feel Better Soup).”
The authors offer a ton of non-soup recipes as well to help readers create more balanced meals, including salads, dressings, vegetable side dishes, breads, pastas, and a “Big Food” section that includes foods like curried goat or applesauce. Each recipe has an introductory paragraph written by the woman behind the creation, offering helpful insider tips to pulling off large batches of soup.
The authors clearly know their way around the kitchen and have created some great recipes, but in fairness to the first-time cook, many of the recipes are not simple. They require several steps, a lot of prep work, and a well-stocked pantry. In perusing the soup recipes, Faux Ramen boasted the fewest ingredients (seven), while most recipes required 18-20 ingredients.
While the book is better suited for those who have made their own stock and know how to chop onions with a sharp knife, I still think that anyone could find something to make as the clean layout and clear instructions serve as a confident guiding hand.
I made two soups and one salad from the book, all of which were delicious and worth making again.The Senegalese peanut soup was excellent, and I never would have made it if it weren’t for seeing it in Soup Club.
I made the vegetarian borscht for my mom’s birthday, and it was perfect for a vegetarian Jew who never ate her family’s borscht because it contained beef. The authors recommend topping the soups with ample garnishes, and their advice takes each recipe to a different level, like the hard-cooked egg, yogurt, and dill dolloped into the deep red borscht.
I also made Tina Carr’s Dilled Israeli Couscous salad, a balanced, delightfully textured dish that stood out at my New Year’s Day picnic.
I halved all of these recipes and still ended up freezing some, giving some away, and feeding my little family of three for more than one meal.
This cookbook affirms that a soup club is a fabulous idea. There are plenty of tempting and easy recipes to put into action if you want to band together with friends, neighbors or associates, and start your own club. Soup Club is also highly engaging—the personal side notes, drawings, and photos that each author contributes to her recipes makes it feel like they’re in the kitchen with you.
Ultimately, Soup Club is a guide to creating a larger sense of community for your family through the act of cooking. And it is a reminder that even in our busy lives, we can make the time to feed ourselves, our families, and each other real food. The essence of the club—and of hygge—is summed up well with the book’s manifesto:
A Declaration of Food Sharing
We declare that soup shall be Shared.
Why soup? Soup scales up and Travels well.
Soup is economical, basic, and Nondenominational.
Soup Club is A State of Being, not a monthly meeting.
We are not limited to Special Occasion soup for holidays, births, moving or grief.
The Magical Delivery of soup to your door is elemental to Soup Club.
Salt your soup. Embrace crushed red pepper.
A black belt is a white belt who Never Quit. Make your soup.
Never Apologize for your soup.
Make soup with Abandon.
Remember, it’s just Soup.
You will need a bigger pot.