Credit: Sarah Lawhead

Not to be confused with the first Soup & Bread Cookbook—even though it shares its name, author, illustrator, and even a few recipes (most are new)—Martha Bayne’s new book is a reflection on the cultural importance of soup as much as a cookbook. Each section begins with an essay: soup as a political statement, for example, or as performance art, or, of course, as a way to build community. Soup & Bread, the ongoing event at the Hideout that brought forth the recipes collected in this book (and the previous cookbook), is a particularly good illustration of soup as a means of bringing people together. Bayne (a former Reader editor) started the event in January of 2009 to alleviate the boredom of her lonely Wednesday-evening bartending shift, recruiting several volunteers each week to cook soup and giving the profits (from donations by attendees) to a rotating roster of nonprofits like food pantries and hunger relief agencies. To say that it caught on would be an understatement: nearly every time I’ve gone, the back room of the Hideout has been packed with people jostling good-naturedly for soup prepared by both professional chefs and dedicated amateurs, trying to avoid stepping on the children scurrying underfoot. The book reflects the almost palpable enthusiasm for soup that can be felt at the events, from Bayne’s informative essays to Paul Dolan’s charming illustrations to the recipes themselves, which preserve the writers’ individual voices. From the instructions for Tuscan bread soup: “Stir. A lot. The bread will burn on the bottom if you’re not careful and your soup will be bitter and the children will cry and it’ll be terrible. So stir.”