The Hideout's Martha Bayne proves the power of 'Soup & Bread'

March 5, 2012

Listen to Martha Bayne and Louisa Chu discuss soup and more on Eight Forty-Eight

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A favorite adage of mine, picked up during approximately 1,000 viewings of Little Women (the 1994 edition) is that “necessity is the mother of invention.” In case you haven't seen the movie (or didn't have a grandparent), early in the film, Jo March's voiceover explains that the phrase -- her mother's favorite -- helped their family get through years of hard times.

You might expect the next scene to be her whole family, gathered together over, say, a hot bowl of soup in front of a fire, or at least, I do. Because talk about soup, and most people conjour up smells of grilled cheese and tomato, or visions of a night in with the TV, or of a time when they were not particularly affluent.

The popularity of the Soup & Bread cookbook, and accompanying events across the country, seem to prove that soup is less of sad, recession-friendly food than it might appear, and more of a mood lifter. Conceived of and written by Martha Bayne, the project really came out of necessity; in 2009, Bayne had left her job at the Chicago Reader, had been working unsuccessfully on a book, and was looking to move in a new direction. While bartending at the Hideout, on a whim, she pitched them the idea of a night where people would bring soup and share it, and a relative revolution was born.

In the introduction to the cookbook that came out of this event, written from user-submitted recipes and interspersed with stories about soup, Bayne talks about the story of Stone Soup, which you were most likely familiar with as a child, perhaps as much as Little Women

“As an adult I’ve come across it in multiple cookbooks, where the moral of the story skews more toward the way cooking can create dishes greater than the sum of their parts,” Bayne writes about hearing this story told over and over again. “The true power of soup, I believe, falls somewhere in the middle -- in its ability to serve as both potent metaphor and cheap, tasty dinner.”

Bayne will be joined by WBEZ blogger Louisa Chu to talk about the power in a simple food on Eight Forty-Eight today. Listen in, but if you leave hungry and ready to curl up at your desk, don't say we didn't warn you.