Soup – the Ultimate Communal Comfort Food

Friday, February 4 is National Homemade Soup Day. UF/IFAS Extension is celebrating by using social media to share recipes, cooking tips and information about soup nutrition, locally sourced meats and produce, and safe food preparation.

With this recent cold snap we’ve been having, I find myself wanting the comfort of a bowl of soup. There’s something about the smell of soup simmering on the stove that always awakens warm and fuzzy memories of my youth. When I was growing up in Louisiana, my grandmom would get a huge stockpot going. Everyone in my extended family would gather around in anticipation as the pot of tomatoes, okra, onions, chicken, and everything else simmered on her stove. All those flavors would mingle together to make a warm and delicious meal that we would all share.

Spicy Shrimp, Coconut Milk Curry with Vegetables (Getty Images)

What’s great about soup is the way everything contributes to its flavor. In that sense, it’s the ultimate communal comfort food. The recipe for my grandmom’s gumbo is a melting pot of West African, French, Choctaw and family traditions, and every culture it seems has its own version of ‘everything soup’.

There’s of course the old story about ‘stone soup’—it starts with a stone and some boiling water. One person brings carrots to sweeten the broth, another brings celery, a third brings some sausage, and soon there’s enough food to feed the whole village.

Ken Gioeli, with some of the soup bowls he’s created for charity.

Communal spirit is part of what inspires Ken Gioeli. When he’s not working as a natural resources Extension agent in St. Lucie County, Ken donates his time to making ceramic soup bowls for charity. Every summer, he and about 25 other ceramic artists volunteer their expertise to throw clay on the wheel and fire specially crafted bowls. This year the theme was “Empty Bowls, Full Hearts.” In November, local restaurants and chefs prepare their signature soups and the bowls are offered for donations. The proceeds go to the Samaritan Center, which provides transitional housing for homeless families in Indian River County.

Carol Roberts’ tortilla soup.

And that is how you make stone soup!

Ken, together with family and consumer sciences agent Wendy Lynch and public relations specialist April Martin, came up with the idea of creating a social media challenge for #NationalSoupDay. The goal is to use soup as a jumping-off point to talk about Florida agricultural products, nutrition, healthy living, stretching food dollars and cultural diversity.

At UF/IFAS, food is literally our middle name, and soup is a delicious way to bring all these topics together.


Ken has been trying to perfect his pho.

Anyone interested in participating can keep the pot boiling by posting photos, videos and blogs that feature soups made with fresh Florida ingredients. Florida farms are a perfect source for soup ingredients, from tomatoes and squash to chorizo and shrimp. Many of our Extension bloggers will be sharing their favorite recipes and information about nutrition, food safety and shopping for locally sourced meats and produce.

If you post, remember to tag UF/IFAS in your social media and use hashtags #NationalSoupDay and #FoodIsOurMiddleName.

I’m getting hungry just talking about this and I can’t wait to see what you’ve got cooking!


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Posted: February 3, 2022

Category: AGRICULTURE, Health & Nutrition, SFYL Hot Topic, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Extension, WORK & LIFE
Tags: #NationalSoupDay, Florida Meat And Produce, Food, Food Is Our Middle Name, Soup, Special Topics

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