Inspiration comes from the Soup Sisters and the Broth Brothers

I love soup. Well, really, who doesn’t? You can’t not love a steaming hot bowl of soup. My intern, Emma Nicholson, loves soup, too. So I said great, here’s a soup book that came across my desk. Why don’t you do a post for our Inspirational Saturdays blog? So she did.

It doesn’t get any better than a bowl of soup on a cool day!










By Emma Nicholson

When I’m feeling stressed, my escape is to snuggle up on a couch with a soft blanket, a mug of tea and my cocker spaniel­. Warm, cosy things help calm us down, which is why when we’re in search of comfort food, we reach for nourishing, home-cooked meals.

And a non-profit organization founded in 2009 by Calgarian Sharon Hapton is helping spread that same warm comfort to women in shelters and youth in crisis. Volunteers of the Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers register for $50 and get together to make 150 to 200 servings of healthy soup for local shelters. The lively social events end with a sit-down soup dinner and wine for all the volunteers.

This October, the organization is releasing The Soup Sisters Cookbook: 100 Simple Recipes to Warm Hearts…One Bowl at a Time (Random House, 2012) with recipes from volunteers and celebrity chefs like Michael Bonacini and Elizabeth Baird (our favourite former Canadian Living food editor who inspired readers and gave them the courage to cook and eat fresh and healthy food)!

We caught up with Sharon to find out a little more about her organization, new cookbook and favourite soup.

What motivated you to start Soup Sisters?
About the same time that my 50th birthday was approaching, I was also encroaching upon the empty nest as my youngest was leaving to go away for university. I thought I needed to reinvent myself and create some greater meaning in who I was and what I did.

One day, I realized that the one thing I had quite literally been doing for as long as I could remember was making soup for the people I cared about. I had seen the results over and over of the power of soup and the comfort contained in every delivery. So I asked myself, “Why couldn’t this be bigger?”

Why did you choose to donate soup to women’s shelters and youth in crisis?
I had been to a fundraiser for the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter, and the realization that women flee from their homes with their children and often nothing else had such a profound effect on me.

I knew that I had a concept that was not “about feeding the hungry” per se, but about providing a message of concern in a bowl that also offered support in a very personal way. Our shelter recipients tell us: “At a time when women and children are feeling alone, distraught, mistrustful, confused and unloved, a bowl of soup means the world the them. It helps to reaffirm their trust in humanity and in people’s ability to be kind.”

We also provide soup to youth in crisis who are transitioning from street culture into mainstream society. We receive incredible heartfelt letters of thanks from young people for giving them healthy food – and soup reminds them of Grandma’s kitchen. A lot of myths surround that young person on the street, and we are trying to debunk those myths and fill their bellies with nourishment and hope.

Why did you create a cookbook?
I had been collecting soup recipes for our website for a long time (quite relentlessly…) from chefs across the country and Soup Sisters who were attending events.

I received an email from Random House one day and truthfully didn’t quite understand what they wanted from me. My first thought was “I have no time! I have no money!”

I called my friend Pierre Lamielle who has published a cookbook, and he said, “OMG you have to get back to that guy. They want to publish a Soup Sisters Cookbook!” Pierre became the coeditor and illustrator extraordinaire, and the rest is soon to be history.

What is your favourite soup recipe?
My favourite recipe is Bonnie Sterns’ Mushroom, Bean and Barley from her Heartsmart Cookbook. She was kind enough to allow me to use it in the book.

Who inspires you?
I’m inspired almost every day as long as I’m paying attention. I most admire and am inspired by people who live their lives authentically and in their own truth. They always seem to me to be the most Zen and productive at the same time. These are everyday people and also some of our greatest mentors and heroes.

My greatest inspiration comes from my kids who I learn so much from because when they’re talking I am really listening. Larry King once said, “As long as I’m doing the talking, I’m not learning anything.” 

How about you? Who’s inspiring you?