This story first appeared in the March 2015 edition of The Lo-Down’s print magazine.
The concept of the “sharing economy” is very much back in fashion. From Airbnb to Citi Bike, cooperative models are reshaping the way people live their lives. On the Lower East Side, four friends are getting into the spirit with a particularly grassroots version of the hot trend; they’re the authors of The Soup Club Cookbook, which they describe as “a declaration of food sharing.”
Tina Carr, Courtney Allison, Julie Peacock and Caroline Laskow are all residents of the Seward Park apartments on Grand Street, which, incidentally, was one of the pioneers of the cooperative housing movement in the 1960s.
In 2011, they came up with the idea to join forces. Once a month, each club member cooks a large batch of soup, enough for all four families, and delivers the homemade meal to the others. As the women say in the introduction, the cookbook is a way of spreading the word and of sharing “recipes for the many meals we have enjoyed.”
As Laskow explained in a recent interview, the concept is not only convenient for all involved (the women have 10 kids, four husbands and multiple careers among them). “It’s a way of connecting with people,” she said. “We like to think we’re a part of the sharing economy.”
The book offers common sense tips for getting started. “More important than knife skills is a commitment to cooking at home on schedule and sharing the results,” they write. The authors recommend making one quart per adult, meaning a large pot (12–14 quarts) is a must.
In 240 pages full of colorful photos and clever illustrations, they walk readers through 51 recipes, all time-tested by the four families over the past several years. There are conventional options, such as lentil soup, minestrone and chicken noodle soup, as well as more unusual recipes. They include mushroom and cashew cream soup, Senegalese peanut soup and green coconut curry with scallops and fried plantains. Finally, there’s a section offering a selection of salads and snacks to go along with the weekly soup deliveries.
The soup club has definitely drawn inspiration from the neighborhood. Allison was a founder of the Grand Street CSA, another cooperative project that delivers fresh produce to local participants in partnership with a regional farm. Another favorite source of ingredients for the women has been Saxelby Cheesemongers in the Essex Street Market.
Their best advice? Carr said the top thing the women have learned over the years is not to make it any more complicated than necessary. “It’s just soup,” she said. “Don’t overthink it.”
The Soup Club Cookbook is available on Amazon. Better yet, keep it local by purchasing the book at the Tenement Museum Gift Shop, 103 Orchard St. (Delancey Street).
On Friday (6-8 p.m.), the authors will be on hand at September Wines, 100 Stanton St., for a book signing/tasting event.