EVERY YEAR for the past seven, my sister, Lanae, and her husband Dale have hosted an October soup party.
Friends and family and neighbors come bearing crockpots brimming with homemade soups—like French onion, oyster, wild rice, chicken noodle, potato—and the wildcard chilies.
Weeks before the Saturday evening event, we inform Lanae of the soup we’re bringing and she approves the selection. She doesn’t want duplicates.
Then on the appointed date, which this year came in early October rather than the typical Halloween time-frame of previous parties, we simmer our soups and, around 5:30 p.m., arrive at her Waseca home.
In the backyard, Dale already has a campfire blazing.
We place our containers of soup on banquet tables set up in the garage and plug the crocks into outlet strips. An extension cord snakes to the next-door neighbor’s house so there are no blown circuits.
Soon the tables, decked in festive Halloween décor, are crammed with crocks of tantalizing soups. Labels and ladles—the ones guests are required to bring—are propped next to pots.
At the other end of the table, brownies and cupcakes and a pumpkin-shaped cake, bloody finger shortbread cookies (made every year by my young nieces) and a gallon container of cheese balls (also a tradition) quickly fill table space.
But Lanae always reserves room for Julie’s bread. Next-door neighbors Julie and Brian arrive shortly before meal-time with baskets of piping hot homemade breads, the perfect, expected, accompaniment to all those soups.
At 6 p.m., my sister picks up a vintage tray and bangs a spoon against the metal. She offers instructions to soup party newbies: “Take three or four bowls and put a little soup in each so you can try all the soups.”
On this Saturday evening, 17 soups are available. I try most and, if I had to vote for my favorite, it would be the Greek Chicken and Lemon Soup with Orzo. First, the exotic name impresses me and then the tangy lemon paired with chicken pleases my taste buds. I also especially like the Wild Rice and the Reuben Spaetzle, of which I get the last scrape-the-bottom of the crock ladleful.
As we sit around card tables or banquet tables inside the garage or on the driveway, sampling the soups, sipping wine or beer or pop or water, snuggled in sweatshirts in the briskness of an early October evening which should be warmer, I am content.
This soup party is the ideal way to welcome autumn in Minnesota. Good food. Good conversation with family and friends.
Kids running carefree in the yard after dark with glow lights.
Wood crackling and flaming in the backyard bonfire.
Seventeen soups on a Saturday. Can October get any better than this?
FYI: HERE ARE THE SOUP OFFERINGS from Lanae and Dale’s seventh annual soup party, attended by 44: White Chili, Cheesy Chicken Wild Rice, Rueben Spaetzle, Oyster Lentil, Barley Vegetable, Greek Chicken & Lemon Soup with Orzo, Cauliflower/broccoli, Cheesy Chicken Chowder, Wild Rice, Gunflint Chili, Red Chili, Italian Meatball Veggie, Roast Pepper, Norwegian Fruit, Chicken Noodle, Split Pea and French Onion.
© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling