Did you know that lemon juice is the secret to good chicken soup? Or that leftover roasted chicken adds a deeper chicken flavor than if it is simply boiled? It also doesn’t hurt to sautéed the vegetables before they are added to the broth, and don’t be afraid to let them brown. I love making soups, especially if it means sharing the fruits of my labor when friends and family.
For me soup is spiritual. This transformation occurred in the year I spent volunteering at a soup kitchen. The kitchen was run by a retired Jewish man who was faithful to the call to feed the homeless in the Charlotte area. His name is Alan.
Alan taught me what the word “glean” meant. We see this term in the book of Ruth in the Old Testament, or the Jewish Torah:
23 So Ruth stayed close to the women of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law. Ruth Chapter 2
The soup kitchen participated in modern-day “gleaning:” Each week Alan and other volunteers would ask the local stores to donate items to the soup kitchen. Most of the time, these items had reached their expiration dates, or were a few days past.
Ruth and her mother-in-law depended on this gracious act from a wealthy landowner (Boaz) for their survival. In the same way, the homeless in Charlotte depended on and looked forward to this weekly meal.
Alan noticed my passion and skill in the kitchen, so after a couple of months he began to give me more and more responsibilites. It wasn’t long before I was coming in before everyone else to prepare the weekly soup on my own. I loved this opportunity, I would come in each week, inspect the donated ingredients and then plan my soup. There were no recipes, just me, a (dull) chef knife and an old church stovetop. It was my happy place. As the months past quickly by, my pregnant belly (Lucy) grew and so did my friendship with Alan.
During my year there, we had countless theological discussions, he would ask me lots of questions about my faith and what I was learning in seminary. He seems genuinely interested in my family, my beliefs and my hopes for the future. He was the first person to challenge my faith in Jesus, I’m incredibly thankful that he was so gracious and fair.
So, preparing soup for me is spiritual, it’s an experience that I like to savor, and share. Sometimes when I chopping vegetables, or taste-testing I think of Alan, and I am reminded of how his faithfulness to God’s call has had a lasting impact on my life and my own story.