One important aspect of a fulfilling serial life is the relationships we make. And keep. And grow.
In our busyness, sometimes we take the most important people in our lives for granted and very quietly and slowly neglect them without even realizing it. I couldn’t let that happen.In our busyness, we often take the most important people in our lives for granted. Click To Tweet
About a year and a half ago the Mister and I became empty nesters (although both Angel #1 and #2 are temporarily re-residing here in between apartments- but that is another blog post). I wanted to make sure that even while we were watching them march into full-fledged adulthood that we kept face to face contact (we are fortunate that they live close by). We also had two nieces who had moved closer to us and whose family lived about an hour away so we wanted to include them as well. I had to figure out how to make this work for everyone involved and make it enticing enough to make these young people want to come hang out with the old farts.
Whatever I chose had to be easy, relaxed, comfortable, and inviting.
How it Works
The easiest way I know to make people happy is to feed them. And I knew I had a captive audience. Broke college students and recent graduates and free food that they did not have to cook. That was definitely inviting. OK…let’s be real. It’s really a well disguised bribe but in this case I am not above bribing!
So what food to feed them? It had to be something in the comfort food group (What??? You didn’t know that comfort food had its own food group?). I also started this after Labor Day which means here, in Northeast Ohio, it is starting to get chilly out so warm was good. It had to be easy to make, serve, and something that could be frozen if it didn’t all get eaten.
So I picked one pot meals. We do mostly soup but occasionally have chili, stew, or stoup (that is a Rachael Ray word- if she can use it, so can I). Now in that group that I wanted to invite there were some picky eaters and you can’t please everyone all the time so I also decided to make PB&J available on the off chance someone didn’t appreciate the bowl of perfection I would put in front of them.
After that was settled. I did some market research (asked my angels what they thought of the idea) and then issued the invitations via text message.
And that is how Soup Kitchen Friday’s started.
The parameters and “rules” are simple:
- Every Friday night (unless notified otherwise)
- One pot meal with a simple dessert
- You are welcome to bring friends but if you bring more than one, please notify me ahead of time
- No one is obligated to attend (but are missed when they are not there) or to stay the entire evening
- You get served your first bowl and then you help yourself after that
- Yes, I take requests
Attendance to Soup Kitchen Friday’s varies. We have had as little as 3 people and as many as 10. We have all brought friends occasionally. Most Fridays we average around 6 people in attendance. If I am out of town working then Angel #1 usually takes over for me or they order pizza.
[Side note: in the summer we call it “Flippin’ Fridays” and dinner consists of something that can be flipped on the grill.]
Our after dinner activities are also varied and usually interesting. Discussions range from political and social topics to ‘Is a hot dog considered a sandwich?’ and a tutorial on how to pour a glass of pop (or soda, if you are not from the Midwest). We also play games like Scattegories, Taboo, and Poker. We’ve built a fire in the back yard and made s’mores. On occasion we have even gone to see a band play or have gone to a movie. Sometimes even the dogs come to visit. There is usually a lot of laughing and ridiculousness going on and just enough chaos to make me smile.
What the critics are saying about Soup Kitchen Friday:
“I LOVE Soup Kitchen Fridays!”
“Mom, your soup is the best! You’re a better chef than Michael Symon!”
“Can we really have Chili? Because technically it is not a soup.”
“Soup Kitchen Friday is the highlight of my week!”
“Aunt Anna, you’re my favorite!”
OK…so I used a little bit of dramatic license for effect (the one about Chili is not exaggerated) but it comes down to that they still keep coming and it is still serving its purpose…staying connected and not taking the people we love for granted.
It doesn’t have to be soup and it doesn’t have to be Friday
I highly recommend this for any family or a group of friends that are just like family. You don’t have to make soup. It can be whatever food you like or you can order in. It can be any day of the week as long as it works for your group. Just remember to make it easy, relaxed, comfortable, and inviting. My best suggestion would be to leave your expectations at the door. This doesn’t work if you try to force it to be something it’s not. The people who come, especially those who come on a regular basis, will probably provide a better experience than you could have planned.
If you want to make soup
Please feel free to use “Soup Kitchen Friday” as your go to. It isn’t trademarked and it would make me smile to know that somewhere out there someone is slurping a nice bowl of soup at the same time.
For those of you who don’t normally make soup I am going to leave you a recipe for the most requested soup for SKF. This isn’t really a recipe in the traditional sense but more of an instruction because you don’t need precise measurements.
Loaded Baked Potato Soup
- Peel and chop russet or red potatoes and place in a large stock pot. (The more potatoes and the bigger the pot, the more soup you end up with)
- Cover chopped potatoes with chicken or vegetable stock and bring to a boil. (the amount you need depends on how many potatoes you cut up….just make sure all potatoes are covered)
- Salt and pepper to taste. It can be thinned with stock, milk, or half and half to get it to the consistency you want.
- Have these garnishes on hand and let each person garnish their own bowl: shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped green onion or chives, and crumbles crispy bacon.
- Yes, it is that easy peasy!
Do you have a family night? What do you do to connect with the ones you love?