Sunday, August 17, 2014

Frugal Entertaining ... the Soup and Bread Supper

I have to admit that for a long time we really didn't consider soup to be a meal worthy of serving to guests. It wasn't that I didn't make delicious soups; I really think it was our fear that most people consider soup an appetizer and not a meal.

However, in 2007 I read a magazine article about someone who held a monthly soup night during the cooler months, and I was inspired. I approached Papa with the idea somewhat trepidatiously, but he was all for it, and so our first soup supper was born.

We do it one of two ways; either as a meal that we cook and serve to friends, or as a potluck. I'll explain how I do each one.

If we are cooking for everyone I will make two or three soups, usually a bean soup, a split pea soup, and a simple broth and noodle soup for any children attending. I use my Instant Pot for the split peas, my slow cooker for the beans, and my vintage electric Dutch oven for the noodle soup (which really only requires boiling broth and cooking noodles in it). I will bake one or two kinds of bread, usually a simple, unsweetened rustic loaf and a cornbread. I make one large cabbage salad (one of the least expensive salads to serve a crowd).

If it is a potluck I make one or two soups and one type of bread. My friends are invited to bring a soup, bread, or beverage. (We skip the salad for this event.) Many bring a soup and bread; I've found that people love to share their dishes.

We set up a buffet in my kitchen (and laundry room, if it is a large potluck). Dishes, flatware, and napkins go on the Hoosier cabinet, soups are plugged in on the counters, breads are placed on the stovetop (I lock the controls so the burners can't light and put my two wooden cutting boards across the stove grates), and the beverage station is on the washer and dryer.

I have lots and lots of plates and bowls and silverware, so I never need to pull out disposables. I have Corelle plates that I have purchased very inexpensively second hand, and I also have my grandmother's Corelle, so I could serve close to 40 bowls of soup before I ran out of bowls. Likewise, my grandmother had four or five partial sets of flatware in her belongings when she passed away, so we're fine there. I have stacks of cloth napkins, and we use masking tape on glasses to mark each person's drink (usually just water, iced tea, or lemonade).

It has become our tradition to have a soup potluck on Halloween, inviting friends to share a meal together before taking the children trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. Since it is Halloween we don't bother with desserts; the kids bring back plenty of candy to share.

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