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Soup swaps help stock your freezer and foster friendships

Deena Prichep, The Oregonian
... So after the first failed attempt, Gardner worked out the rules of SoupSwap.com. Just as Oprah didn't invent book clubs, Gardner probably isn't the first person to come up with the idea of trading soup. But over the years, he did refine and popularize a workable set of guidelines.

Using Gardner's model, soup swap participants each bring six individually packaged quarts of soup (about the maximum yield from a large pot). Cooks talk about the history of their contributions, whether it's a beloved holiday classic from the old country or a printout from Martha Stewart's website.

After this "Telling of the Soup," everyone draws a number, selects a container of soup in turn and repeats the process six times. Instead of looking forward to night after night of the same old stew, swappers go home with a healthy variety to fill their freezers for the weeks to come.

It's a practice that's catching on in living rooms all over the country. Including one right here in North Portland.

Doula Megan Kelley and her husband, software engineer Jon Van Oast, hosted a soup swap on a recent chilly Sunday. As a pot of chili simmered on the stove, guests piled the table with soups made from a range of ingredients: meatballs, mushrooms, andouille sausage, matzo balls, Thai herbs and even local fruit. Van Oast was excited about the variety: "Bringing the people together, you just get to see all these different flavors, and things you don't think of."

Although "Telling of the Soup" is a great mock-serious section title, swappers ended up talking about themselves as much as their soup. "Everybody's got some funny story about growing up, the baggage that comes with eating," Van Oast laughed. At this swap, innovation consultant Erik Kiaer elicited groans with stories of the moose meat soup and pudding-like fish stew of his Norwegian boyhood (which he did not bring to the swap, opting for his wife's Thai Chicken Soup instead).

... In addition to the sweetness of the stories, having a freezer full of healthy meals can make a significant impact on the daily lives of swappers. Stacy Meyer teaches elementary school, and her workweeks are often a blur of lesson prep and after-school meetings. Trying to balance a desire to eat healthy with a teacher's schedule (and teacher's budget) can be rough, especially during a new school year. "My time is crazy these days. I will admit to having the breakfast-for-dinner kind of thing, that's happened before," she said. "Being able to have a ready-made dinner in the freezer helps out quite a bit."

... According to economist Juliet Schor, Meyer and Harris aren't alone in their enthusiasm for activities like soup swaps. In her recent book, "Plenitude," Schor tracked the social and economic re-evaluation that's happened in the wake of the downturn. She saw a rise in all sorts of cooperative schemes, from soup-swapping to couch-surfing to lawnmower-sharing. "There's actually a wide variety of arrangements now which have developed that allow people to share, to save money, to build community," Schor observed.

... If you're inspired to hold your own soup swap, here are some tips to make the party run smoothly:

Give advance notice: Soup swaps can be a huge boon to households that don't have enough cooking time, but you've got to let them know in advance. If it works to cook a week in advance, just have folks bring their soup already frozen.

Be clear: Since potlucks are more common than soup swaps, make sure folks know that they'll be bringing their six quarts of soup to swap for later. However, there's no reason you can't have a big pot bubbling on the stove for people to enjoy while swapping. ...
(19 October 2010)
Related: Swaps Get More Mileage From Humble Bowl Of Soup. -BA



How to make apple juice that doesn't cost the Earth

George Monbiot, Guardian
Packaging and shipping make shop-bought juice energy-intensive – reduce your impact by making your own
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You have 100kg of apples and most of them are lying on the ground. By using local produce that would otherwise go to waste you are relieving agricultural pressure on ecosystems elsewhere. But what do you do with them? Here's a guide to producing enough juice to last you through the year.

Most of the people I know who press apples use them to make cider (in Britain this means the alcoholic drink; in the US apple cider means juice). It seldom works. Cider making is a fine art, which may involve a dead rat (the nitrogen it contains assists fermentation), plenty of swearing, a fair bit of magic and even more luck. Mostly it involves turning several hundred gallons of delicious juice into homemade Toilet Duck. My advice is to stick to the juice.

In doing so, you'll make a small but significant improvement in your environmental impact, as packaging and shipping ensure that most fruit juices are quite energy-intensive.
(29 October 2010)
Another side of the redoubtable Monbiot. For photos, see How to press apples. -BA


Robert Putnam ("Bowling Alone") on Social Capital and Happiness

Robert D. Putnam, University of Manchester (UK) via YouTube
Robert D. Putnam is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard, where he teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses. He is also Visiting Professor and Director of the Manchester Graduate Summer Programme in Social Change, University of Manchester (UK).
http://www.bowlingalone.com
http://www.hks.harvard.edu/about/faculty-staff-directory/robert-putnam

Institute for Social Change
http://www.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/socialchange/aboutus/index.html

The woman introducing Professor Putnam is Cathy Garner, Chief Executive of Manchester Knowledge Capital.
http://www.ipo.gov.uk/pro-ipresearch.htm?sabip=/home/about/about-who/abo...

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
(14 September 2010)
Recommended by EB contributor Cecile Andrews. -BA


Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood talks about livable communities

Sarah Goodyear, Grist
When Ray LaHood was nominated by President Obama to be the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT), it seemed like an afterthought. The selection of LaHood, a Republican Congressman from Illinois with a reputation for political pragmatism, was seen by many as a gesture at bipartisanship that indicated just how little the administration cared about possible innovations at the DOT.

... LaHood has proven to be much more than a roads-and-bridges secretary. He's been an outspoken and articulate proponent of high-speed rail. He's mounted an aggressive campaign against distracted driving. He's jumped up on a table to address the National Bike Summit, saying that, "I really came here just to say thank you to all of you for hanging in there with us. You all have made a big difference."

And perhaps most significantly, he has emerged as a defender of the "livable communities" concept, advocating for the construction of a transportation infrastructure that would make walking, biking, and modern public transit available -- and attractive -- options for every American.

Q: So tell me, what does this concept of "livability" really mean?

A. This is something I've never really talked about, but growing up, I lived on the east side of Peoria. When I was growing up, I could walk to my grade school. We had one car, but we would bike everywhere we went. We could walk to the grocery store. In those days, we had streetcars and buses, which people used to get to downtown Peoria, which was probably five miles from my house. I used to take a bus to my dad's business. I grew up in an era [of] livable neighborhoods and livable communities -- what we're really trying to offer to people around America. When there was no urban sprawl, when you didn't have to have three cars, when there weren't houses with three-car garages, everybody had one car.

That era was lost on a generation that decided they wanted to build big malls and have cities expand in a way that didn't really reflect the ideas of livability.
(27 October 2010)

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