This week we're bringing you our first 2015 Gathering from The Kitchn: a soup swap! A soup swap is an easy, practical, and fun sort of party. You invite a bunch of soup-loving friends to come together and bring several quarts of soup to share. Then you take turns swapping soups and everyone goes home with different soup than what they brought. It is a great way to bring people together and foster home cooking, and it doesn't take much preparation.
Here is everything you need to know about hosting a soup swap — consider it your party checklist.
Swappers writing name tags and labeling their soup.
Two Weeks Before the Soup Swap
Give your prospective guests plenty of time to prepare for Soup Swap. Also, this is a great party for mixing people who don't know each other. Maybe you know a few great cooks and want them all to meet? How better than over soup?
- Invite at least 6 guests: Tricia finds that a bigger group is better (more soup, after all!). You can invite people by Facebook or email or bike messenger — any way you like, although a paper invite is awesome in this day and age. (Look for our free PDF printable invites coming on Thursday.)
- Explain Soup Swap to your invited guests: Make sure that everyone knows what a soup swap is and how it works.
What Each Guest Should Bring
Here's what each guest should bring. Communicate all of this on your invites.
- At least four quarts of soup (less or more is fine, too; everyone goes home with same amount they brought).
- Bring the soup in separate containers that they don't mind giving away.
- The soup should be frozen or refrigerated.
- Swappers should also bring a separate container of soup as a taster.
Bread for dipping and tasting soup.
The Day Before the Soup Swap
Are you hosting the Soup Swap yourself? Here's what you need to set up.
- Set up your kitchen or living room: You'll need a place for everyone to set out their soups and tasters, and to mingle and talk. Make sure there is plenty of room for jars of soup.
- Cover your table: There will be lots of soup drips; we found it best to cover the table with butcher paper for easy cleanup.
- Find small bowls or jars for the tasters: We used small jars for setting up the soup tasters. Make sure you have enough for all the soup swappers.
- Plan some snacks: If you have a your swap in the morning, like we did, then offer a spread of brunch bites, or little sweets. Remember, everyone will also be busy tasting soup (and maybe filling up on bread). If you do your soup swap in the evening, you could also consider capping the night with an extra slow cooker full of soup or stew and having a full-on soup feast after everyone is done swapping.
- Plan your drinks: Definitely have water out and available (tasting soups is thirsty work!). If you're feeling festive put out sparkling wine or a pitcher cocktail.
- Decide how you'll sample soups: If your friends are bread-lovers buy or make a loaf of great bread to use in tasting soups. You can also use crackers or teeny disposable spoons.
- Print out the printables you'll need: Make sure everything is printed and ready to go — see the list below.
Soup set up on the table.
Helpful Printables for a Soup Swap
- Name Tags: If it's a crowd of people who don't know each other, do name tags! (Bonus points if they write their name and the soup they brought.)
- Soup Labels: Print our table tents and use them as labels for each soup.
- Swap Cards: The swap cards are the most important piece. They stay with each soup and let people note if they're interested.
Soup set up to be sampled, with a swap card to the side.
The Day of the Swap
On the day of the swap, here's how things go:
- Greet people as they arrive: Hand them a glass of punch and ask them to put on a name tag!
- Help people set up their soup stations: Direct them to the soup table and have them set up their soups. Warm up soup, if needed, and pour some into a cup or bowl for tasting. They should label their soup station with the name of the soup.
- Encourage everyone to mix, mingle, and taste soups: For the first hour or so, just set out snacks and nibbles, welcome guests, and encourage everyone to mingle and taste the soups.
- If someone wants a soup, they should write their name on the swap card: If someone loves a soup, they should write their name on the swap card to indicate their interest.
- After about an hour to an hour and a half: When the party is feeling warm and fuzzy and everyone has tasted all the soups, announce the swap part of the program!
How the Swap Works
The Numbers Method
Some people do swaps in a very organized way: they pick numbers, and then go in order: The first person chooses a soup, then the next person, then the next, and then it all starts back over with the first person, until all the soups are distributed. (This is the method recommended on the Soup Swap website.)
All very sedate and polite, although there is the danger of a soup not being chosen at all and someone going back home with what they brought (boo).
The Swap Card Bid
We liked a more lively method: the swap card bid! Everyone stands around the table behind their soup, and starts calling out names on their swap card. The first person to respond immediately gets a jar, if they're not distracted by yelling out their own names. Soup passes back and forth over the table, some people swapping directly; others giving soup to one person then receiving from another.
It's all a little loud, a little crazy, and there was definitely some negotiating and tug of war happening! Tricia says she always wants people to get really intense, "I want it to be a full contact sport!" She admits, though, that that isn't the best idea with soup.
The point is: everyone gets to swap out their soups for another kind. You can go chill and polite, or let it be a little more survival-of-the-fittest. It's up to you and your group of friends — whatever you think will work best.
After everyone has swapped soup, people usually take off quickly (soup needs to be refrigerated, after all). If you want to do dinner afterwards, recommend that people bring coolers, or put their soup in a refrigerator.
And that's it — go home and eat your soup, or stash it in the freezer for a rainy day.
(Image credits: Christopher Keels Photography)