When things are not going to plan, if we are feeling under the weather or if the actual weather is against us, there is always a place for the comfort of soup. Much of my work seems to involve soup. When presenting at a recent conference about Pedagogy of Place, I began by using a soup metaphor for the work we do, as we use so many outdoor and educational influences and ingredients that it feels like a wondrous soup. I then explained that I also use actual soup so often that I could probably present a Pedagogy of Soup (Haha! email me if you fancy that presentation!) If I didn’t work outdoors I would probably just have a soup van.
Soup is an ideal food to cook over fire outdoors or to take out in a flask. When we collect surplus or gleaned food, there is always a soup recipe that will suit the random ingredients. It can be hearty and filling or light and refreshing. You can posh up a soup with toppings of croutons, bacon, yogurt, toasted seeds, herbs and even popcorn (look for the Cornish Cheese and Beer video). For a person who gets easily bored I am never bored of soup. I love that when you cook your own soup from scratch the cooking liquid containing all of the vitamins and minerals stays in the pot and I love that there is a soup for all dietary preferences and requirements, and I love that there are soups from most cultures around the world with a funky bread to match (and most bread is great to cook on the fire too).
What I love MOST about soup is that it is peasant food, it is way cheaper than chips and most definitely cheerful. Soup is a perfect community food. You can cook a massive quantity as easily as a family meal, to make it stretch further, you can add many kinds of bread. We don’t need tonnes of money to feed tonnes of people.
Soup is for sharing. One of the best tales used outdoors with groups by the fire is ‘Stone Soup’. In this soup story, a wanderer persuades a hungry village to share small amounts of food that they can spare, to add to the pot of water and the magic stone, to make a big collaborative soup. Of course the lesson is a perfect one for these sketchy times- if we all help each other, even just a bit, we will ALL do better together. Community and soup is the answer!
We have some favourite soups in our work, leek and potato always goes down a treat and those who don’t think they like soup often discover they like this one. In one of our sessions Mexican Style soup is a favourite, topped with sour cream, cheese and tortilla chips and I couldn’t believe the time I served a most unattractive, brown looking, but tasty chestnut Christmas Soup to a bunch of actually very appreciative Primary School kids, I saw the colour and thought-I won’t get away with this-but I totally did. Our annual Great Pumkinapple, Autumn event always features a spiced pumpkin soup centre stage, made creamy with lucious coconut milk, it is also a genius way to make the most of pumpkin guts from lantern carving. Waste drives me nuts so as well as the pumpkin guts I even saw a recipe for potato peel soup. In the spring a tasty nettle and wild garlic soup is a good way to mark the season, basically a leek and potato with wild spring greens added. This reminds us that we can use soup as a seasonal ritual, different soups mark different occasions, times of year or rites of passage.
We recently invested in a rechargeable blender. Some sensory issues mean that lumps in soup are troublesome so with a bit of research we found a blender that can come to the woods with us for smooth and the gang. Not all soups need to be fresh either. Fresh veg can be harder to come by if you don’t have great shops near you or if it’s harder to store fresh stuff or if your food has come from a food bank or community larder or you can only cook in a microwave. Bootstrap Cook makes a brilliant soup called ‘Tinestrone’, I love it. It’s a useful soup that we can just leave the kids to make on their own and anyway I love any excuse to eat spaghetti hoops as an adult. We also have tins of tomato soup days in the woods and are always happy to crack open the cuppa soups to teach Kelly Kettle use or for just add water expeditions.
I REALLY love soup. I could go on about it for ages and maybe one day I will commit my soupy knowledge and love to paper and publish a thing, but for now I just wanted to share with you the wonder of soup. I even made some soupy art today as a topping for this soupy blog. It features one of my favourite things to do-eat outdoors-especially hot soup on a cold day.
Soup is made for the outdoors but it is also the best food when you get home, tired and emotional from an adventure. It grounds you and reminds you of where you are after wherever you have been. When Max, from Where the Wild Things Are, gets home after his journey, ‘he found his supper waiting for him…and it was still hot’.
Maurice Sendak-top bloke and obviously also a soup fan.