Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers share the nourishment


Calgary entrepreneur Sharon Hapton isn’t a professional chef, but she has been making soup for people nearly all of her adult life. Whenever her family and friends were hungry, ill, or feeling down, Hapton would invariably make them soup. In 2009, as she approached her 50th birthday and her two children left for university, Hapton decided to turn her passion for soup-making into something much larger.

“I wanted to do something more, something that would impact not only my life but the lives of others in a really great way,” she told the Georgia Straight during a phone interview. “I’ve always made soup for people to take care of them, and one day I thought, ‘Why couldn’t that be bigger? Why couldn’t I be making soup to nurture and nourish people in crisis?’ ”

Hapton formed Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers, a nonprofit organization that operates in 10 cities across Canada and provides fresh soups to women’s shelters.

“I knew that domestic abuse and family violence was a very prevalent issue in society, and it seemed to me these women who were fleeing with their children were fleeing with nothing,” Hapton said. “I thought if we could be there to provide them with that same wonderful, nourishing meal that they would have made had they been able to, that’s what we should be making.”

In each city, volunteer professional chefs lead registered participants through an evening of soup-making, where participants help make nearly 200 servings of soup in exchange for learning a new recipe. Former Bishop’s executive chef Andrea Carlson helped launch the Vancouver chapter of Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers. Now, her recipe for mild and creamy Pemberton potato soup appears in a new cookbook edited by Hapton and Calgary-based cookbook author Pierre A. Lamielle called The Soup Sisters Cookbook (Appetite by Random House).

“Chefs are really giving people when it comes to taking care of people through food,” Hapton said. “The support from Vancouver chefs has been absolutely fantastic.”

The recently published cookbook features 100 recipes collected from Soup Sisters volunteers and Canadian chefs. Karl Gregg, co-owner of Big Lou’s Butcher Shop and chef and owner of 2 Chefs and a Table, shares his recipe for a thick and hearty beef chili. David Robertson, chef and co-owner of the Dirty Apron Cooking School and Delicatessen, offers readers a recipe for mushroom and chestnut soup. Albion Fisheries product development chef Karen Barnaby’s rich oxtail borscht is well-suited to cooler months, while Vij’s and Rangoli co-owner Meeru Dhalwala’s recipe for split mung bean with tomato and cilantro soup is perfect for summer.

Hapton’s favourite soup recipe is one from Canadian cookbook author Bonnie Stern’s HeartSmart (Random House Canada) that she includes in The Soup Sisters Cookbook.

“It’s a mushroom, bean, and barley soup,” she said. “That’s been the recipe that for years I have made for people and just shown up on their doorstep and delivered it to them. It is just so comforting.”

Not only is the vegetarian recipe—like all soups, for that matter—comforting, but Hapton says that staring down at a hot bowl of soup also has a way of stirring up memories.

“So many people have soup stories…so many people say, ‘Oh my gosh, that reminds me of Grandma’s kitchen,’ ” Hapton said. “It just evokes such feelings of warmth and comfort. That’s what we’re doing. Our real mandate is to nurture and nourish, and you don’t do that with potatoes, right?”

Hapton says that Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers is always looking for volunteers and participants. In Vancouver, soup-making sessions are held regularly at the Dirty Apron (540 Beatty Street). More details can be found on the Soup Sisters website .

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