Monday, April 5, 2010

random acts of cooking

a week ago, my friend chashma asked me if i'd be up for a quirky cooking project. looking to explore food in public spaces and how community is formed around food, what she proposed was a variation on the stone soup fable. given that i adore food, enjoy fables and am decidedly quirky; i did not hesitate to say yes.

the idea was to assemble a makeshift kitchen in a public space and cook up a batch of soup. what kind of soup? it was impossible to say. not only were we going to make soup in a public space, we weren't going to bring any of the ingredients, save olive oil and salt. the most fantastical (chashma preferred the word crazy) part of the experiment was to ask passerby's to donate something soup-worthy from their grocery bags. once finished, bowls of soup would be given away for free. beautiful non?

after gathering 2 cutting boards, 1 coleman stove, 6 bowls, 2 knives, 1 signboard, 3 wooden spoons, 40 paper plates and spoons, 5 tbsp of olive oil, 2 tbsp of salt, 1 fold-up table accompanied by a bed-sheet for a tablecloth, and 2 matching aprons, we were ready.

we set up in grandview park on commercial drive. "the drive" as it is lovingly called is a hot- spot for groceries and all things eccentric. our neighbors that day included an 8-year-old selling toys she had outgrown, 3 street folk selling electronics of questionable origin, a rogue musician, an elderly gentleman telling anyone who would listen that colleges and cars pollute our environment and some teens who, should they read this, would be pleased to see themselves described as anarchists. it was a good day for soup.

hi there! we're making a community pot of soup, and your bag of groceries looks quite heavy. is there something you'd like to contribute to lighten your load? an onion perhaps?

good day sir! i see you've noticed our steaming pot over here. we're making soup that we're going to give away when its finished. might you have an item to donate? carrot? potato?

with the exception of one stranger who was wildly excited about the idea and had his wife jump out of the car to bring us barley while he circled the block, we mostly have our friends to thank for donations. they really are souper. (you know i had to).

after 1.5 hours our final list of donated ingredients read:
carrot, onion, garlic, ginger, cauliflower, wild rice, celery, kale, barley, cilantro

the soup is on.

if i thought i liked cooking, i've realized that i like feeding people more. offering hot bowls of delicious soup to strangers (some of whom truly needed it) was a highlight for me. the conversation began to flow, and the folks who had been distant passerby's moved in closer. engaged with us. ate soup and smiled. we shared gratitude, talked about the weather and politics. people asked for seconds and when we all parted ways, it was with warm bellies and hearts. i guess its always a good day for soup.

*thanks again to all our friends, old and new, who donated food stuffs and to miss patricia cournoyer for the photo-taking.


  1. It takes a special group of people, paired with genuine hearts, and a colourful community, to do something so touching and humane with a little hot water, and a few stray veggies.

    I am truly touched.

  2. awww i wish i coulda come down and donated an onion and hung out! let me know next time you do anything on the drive. xo

  3. That is AWESOME. I think some chickpeas would have been yummy in that soup! If I had walked by, I would have zipped over to Sweet Cherubim and bought groceries just to have been a part of it!

  4. what an amazing project! that is so inspiring. thanks for doing it- and thanks for sharing the story! your amazingness sends ripples coast to coast, and beyond i'm sure...

  5. that was amazing! What a fantastic idea. Thanks for sharing this story with us! Wonderful!

  6. Love it! What a great idea!

  7. wow......great idea! sounds like something that should happen more often!!