Soup & Bread, a favorite tradition for The Hideout devotees, returns after pandemic hiatus

Louisa Chu/Chicago Tribune/TNS
·3 min read

Soup & Bread at The Hideout kicked off its 13th season Wednesday night. The community meal project returns to the iconic bar and small venue off the North Branch industrial corridor in Chicago after a pandemic-induced hiatus of nearly two years.

And in that time, the meal has changed.

“We’re calling it Soup & Bread To Go,” said founder Martha Bayne. She’s also the author of “Soup and Bread Cookbook: Building Community One Pot at a Time.”

Bayne partnered with friend Ethan Fischer, who works with The Urban Canopy, a farm on the South Side, to make soup. He prepared 100 quarts of a Lula Cafe sweet-and-sour cabbage soup at a commercial kitchen for the kickoff.

“He volunteered to source donated ingredients,” Bayne said. “We’ll distribute it in to-go containers at The Hideout.”

Alison Scott of Floriole Cafe & Bakery also made 24 quarts of a red pepper soup. Her recipecomes from the now-closed Swim Cafe. Her soups this season will honor late owner Karen Gerod, a longtime friend and supporter of Soup & Bread, courtesy of sister Debra Gerod.

“And then there’s the fundraising part,” Bayne said. “Each month we’re partnering with a different organization.”

This month, money goes toward Soup for the Soul at the historic Stone Temple Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. preached. The weekly distribution of free soup and produce at the Lawndale church uses donations to pay Black and brown chefs to make the soup and for packaging.

A Soup for the Soul GoFundMe campaign currently stands at $14,958 raised of $20,000 goal.

Trivia nights will also take place, hosted by Paul Durica of the Newberry Library. On Wednesday, Stone Temple Baptist Church pastor Reshorna Fitzpatrick guest-starred at the event. Ticket sales for the concurrent trivia events will also be donated.

“We set a cap of 60 soupscription preorders for the whole season, and those are gone,” Bayne said. They also sold out of the single month presales for this first month.

About 20 quarts will be available for walk-ups ($10). The soups are cold, but not frozen. Middle Brow and Publican Quality Bread donated bread that is served with the soup.

“Pre-COVID, I described this as a community meal project that brought together cooks from all walks of life,” Bayne said. “Both professional and amateur home cooks shared soup and bread in a common space, and to raise money for grassroots hunger relief organizations.”

They took pay-what-you-can donations from patrons. It added up over the years.

“We have raised over $100,000 in dribs and drabs over these 13 years,” she said. “And it’s all been channeled to different local, smaller organizations.”

They had to abruptly stop Soup & Bread in March 2020 due to the pandemic. Everything shut down a couple days later.

“Last year, we did an online partnership with The Hideout that was also a fundraiser,” Bayne said. “We did trivia and a spelling bee on Zoom and a show-and-tell, where people would talk about their collections of weird objects to raise money for local food pantries.”

This year it’s once a month, on the third Wednesday from January to April. Fischer will make a vegetarian soup each month, and Scott will make a vegan soup. This month, they both happen to be vegan.

“We’ll announce the next round of soups in early February on our mailing list and social media,” Bayne said.

If you can’t make it to the events, you can find recipes in the Soup & Bread cookbook.

“It was reissued last year with an updated forward about COVID and the pandemic,” Bayne said. “It was out of print, so I brought it back, also as a fundraiser and we’ve been donating royalties to different food pantries and organizations that we work with.

“I wish I could do this all the time,” she said. “Sometimes it seems like a lot of work, but it feeds me.”

Soup & Bread at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave., soupandbread.net

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