Soup Swappin'


[Here's another one that I wrote up for our local paper.  Hat tip to Laura for bringing the idea to my attention, and I'll let you all know how the official swap goes sometime next week, hopefully with some delicious recipes!]

For several years now, I’ve been in the habit of planning a small party in late January or early February.

Nothing like the big gatherings that happen over the holidays; just something little to look forward to and help pass the time during this cold, dark part of the year.

Like everyone else, I also love making up a warm pot of soup for dinner in the winter. But while it’s delicious the first night, and sometimes even a second, my pots of soup often last longer than I want to eat them.

In the late 1990s, Seattle resident Knox Gardner solved this problem when he started National Soup Swap Day.

Faced with the gloomy part of the year and more soup than he could stand to eat as leftovers, Gardner decided to invite his friends over for a party to swap some of their leftover soup for his.

After spending several years working out a system — and moving across the country to a new group of friends in the meantime — National Soup Swap Day was born.

Now in its seventh year, National Soup Swap Day is officially celebrated on the third Saturday in January — this year it’s Jan. 26.

The concept is simple: Invite over a group of your friends, and ask everyone to bring six 1-quart containers of soup. When you’re making your invites, tell everyone to freeze the soup ahead of time so it’s easier to manage in the car.

Contrary to popular myth, you can freeze soup in glass jars. Just be sure to leave an extra large amount of head space to avoid causing the jar to break.

You’ll also want to consider any dietary restrictions that may be necessary, depending on your group of friends. Remember that you can always instruct people to add meat or rice or pasta to the soup when they reheat it.

Lastly, while it’s not essential, it’s nice to have copies of the recipe attached to the soup.

When everyone has arrived with soup in hand, it’s time for “the telling of the soup” — that is, each person gets up and says something about their soup. Is it an old family recipe? Is it best eaten with a specific kind of crackers? Can you make up a joke or limerick about it? Have some fun with this part.

Once the soups have been properly introduced, it’s time for the swapping to begin. Each person draws a number to determine who picks first. Then everyone grabs a quart in turn until all the soup is gone.

It’s really easy, but here are a few tips from Gardner in case you run into hiccups.

• Schedule your swap enough ahead of time for everyone to make soup. Gardner suggests giving people at least two full weekends.

• If someone’s recipe doesn’t quite make as much soup as needed, they can still swap, but to make it fair, each person gets to take home only as much soup as they brought.

• Consider giving door prizes — wooden spoons seem appropriate — for certain categories, e.g. the best telling of the soup, the first soup to get picked.

• Make the soup the center of the party. Put it in a place where it can be admired and talked about by all.

• Last, with all those good soup vibes in the air, consider asking your guests to pick up a few extra cans of soup, which can be collected at the party and donated to a local food pantry.

For more tips, check out Gardner’s website. Happy National Soup Swapping Day!

[Edited to add:  The recipes!  The soups pictured above are Creamy Tomato and Creamy Roasted Onion--two of my favorites!]