Soup for the Soul: 2013 Social Soup Experiment

Guests smile for a photo as they enjoy bean and farro soup, freshly baked bread, and apples. Photo by Liz Ligon

Each year we host the Social Soup Experiment. This year, on October 19, the experiment brought a new wave of community members to eat heaping bowls of hearty bean and farro soup and join in conversation with their fellow diners.

Social Soup Experiment is reduced to the essentials: wholesome food, good company, and a long table in an ambience that inspires – the High Line. A combination of many elements builds up to this day. It all starts with sourcing our ingredients, gathered by phenomenal guest chef Mona Talbott.

We purchased lacinato kale, onions, carrots, and herbs from Union Square Greenmarket. Cayuga Pure Organics provided us with beautiful pinto, black, red kidney, and cannellini beans as well as farro, an ancient grain with a nutty profile and chewy taste. Farro is also just plain delicious.

Left: Guest chef Mona Talbott cuts up fresh baked bread from Sullivan Street Bakery. Right: The table is set and we wait for more than 200 guests to arrive. Photos by Liz Ligon

Bklyn Larder provided us with grocery staples, including olive oil – enough for more than 200 attendees. Our other friends in Brooklyn, Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, provided us with gorgeous, freshly harvested sage. Apples came from Montgomery Place Orchards, Hudson Valley.

The soup was a hit. Italians from the motherland gave it the seal of approval. New Yorkers also asked for seconds. One little boy helped himself to five bowls of soup.

Left: The popular bean and farro soup has a heavenly sage aroma. Right: Volunteer Amy Weber serves bread with a warm smile to guests. Photos by Liz Ligon

Social Soup Experiment wouldn’t be complete without the social aspect to which its name refers. Indeed, the very act of sharing a communal bowl of soup, out of which attendees serve themselves, invites spontaneous interaction. But we wanted to experiment a little further.

In place of traditional nametags, attendees donned tags that read, “Soup reminds me of…”, “Autumn is not complete without…”, and “If I were a soup, I’d be…” Young children and adults both found amusement in deciding how to complete each phrase.

Social Soup Experiment strips away the superfluous aspects of dining down to what matters. Attendees feel the soul of the location in which they eat, taste the sincerity of how the soup is prepared, and walk away with a feeling of satisfaction that comes from the elegant simplicity of enjoying a nourishing meal with equally wholesome company.

A guest holds up her name tag that reads, “Social Soup reminds me of… comfort.” Photo by Liz Ligon
Guests enjoy a second helping of soup. Photo by Liz Ligon
A father feeds his little child who, by the look of it, is a fan of our soup. Photo by Liz Ligon
Musicians play music for guests of the Social Soup Experiment. Photo by Liz Ligon
A table setting of fresh baked bread and creative name tags greets every guest. Photo by Liz Ligon
A smiling boy proudly holds up his name tag that reads, “Autumn would not be complete without… colorful leaves.” Photo by Liz Ligon
Diners listen to chef Mona Talbott speak about the origins of her beloved bean and farro soup. Photo by Liz Ligon
Volunteer Nicole Brinson helps clean up at the end of the Social Soup Experiment. Photo by Liz Ligon
Guests amuse themselves in reading the unique and sometimes funny name tags others have created. Photo by Liz Ligon

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