There is a charity in town called the Food Depot which is a Food Bank. In other words they accept food donations, financial donations and manpower in order to bring people in need surplus food from all possible sources: food that is near it’s expiration date, food that is not selling as expected. Think of the restaurant that thought they would sell 200 chicken dinners in a week and only sells 150. Today there are 250 Food Banks across the country that have literally given billions of pounds of food to those who might otherwise go hungry. The Food Depot in Santa Fe collects the surplus food and distributes it to 145 partner agencies that feed people in need.
Like every not for profit they look for all possible ways to raise funds and out of that in Santa Fe came the Souper Bowl. Chefs from all the restaurants in town are invited to apply and the first 30 who do are asked to prepare their favorite soup. Then from 12 to 2:30 pm on a Saturday afternoon the week before the Super Bowl (no conflict) they all turn up in the convention center and serve samples so the public can vote on their favorites. People pay admission of $30 for adults, $10 for children (children under 5 are free) so it amounts to an expensive lunch but you do get fed, have helped the hungry and have fun. It has become a true community event. I have never seen so many people in the convention center at once with about 1400 participants and a 100 volunteers. Compare that with a food benefit in New York, at least the ones that reach the social pages where people pay from $500 to $2,500 dress to the nines and sit down for a gourmet meal. Which seems more appropriate in reaching out to those who are hungry?
Inside the convention hall it was a mob scene but you could quickly see which were the more popular restaurants because of the lines in front of their tables. We knew a number of them but by no means all and we could think of some that did not participate. When you walk in you are given a bag with a pen from a local bank, a napkin a very small spoon and a card from which you tear off tickets to put in the box of the chef who had your favorite soup over all and one in 4 categories, Seafood, Cream, Savory and Vegetarian.
Going from table to table I slowly came to the conclusion that there can be too much of a good thing and began to pace myself and not go to every single restaurant. Some people, however, take it all very seriously and sit down at the many tables and chairs supplied and rate every single soup and then vote on what they considered the best soups. For me, if I could remember it after an hour of sipping and slurping it must have been very bad or very good. I find in so many things people disagree with me even though I know I am right
There was one interesting phenomenon in my mind. There is a new Indian Restaurant in town called Paper Dosa. It is one of the few Asian cuisines that I am not a big fan of and so I did not stop at that stand. They were also at the end and I was quite full and the tortilla soup I had tried last was the worst I had ever had. My wife, however, was raving about it so I said, this will be my last soup and gave it a try. To my amazement, I really liked the Curry Leaf Corn Soup they had prepared and everyone I spoke to afterwards had voted for it as I did. That was the only soup that I voted for that won in its category.
Next year I think I will come up with a more methodical plan for tackling the Souper Bowl.
The chefs are asked to supply their recipes for the soups they present and my friend had the job of gathering them for a cookbook that is a loose leaf containing the recipes for the soups made over the last few years. When I asked my wife if we should buy it she said, “I don’t make soups” which, upon reflection, is true. We open a can! Seriously, however, what a fabulous resource if you do consider yourself a cook, if not a chef.