No, this is not a heritage heavy lecture to precede a geographically prejudiced recipe that dates back to Old King Cole (he was from Colchester you know). Nor a quirky, comical tale of how someone came up with a thin stew inspired by old school girl power advocate Boadicea, also a local lass. This is not a new Campbell’s flavour sponsored by Damon Albarn. Just for a second, let’s forget about the soup all together.
I’d like to tell you about a little community project I stumbled across last month and was subsequently fortunate enough to be involved with, though I may have been too quick to say forget about the soup. Whilst having a trawl through twitter some weeks past, I came across a post from Colchester Soup and assumed, as you may well have done some moments ago, that I would find something historical and food related. I was sort of half right.
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far far away known as ‘Detroit’, a bunch of folks got together to give local good causes and community projects a platform for a few minutes to pitch to their neighbours for a bit of support. The format was apparently simply but also mildly genius: People turn up and pay a nominal entrance fee. Hot and soft drinks are served and mingling ensues until it is time for the Pitchers to take to the floor and give a quick rundown of who they are, what they do, and why they need money. Punters listen then take some time to absorb this new information over dinner. More mingling goes on then a vote is cast for the most worthy cause of the evening. The ballot is counted, the winning Pitcher gets the door money and everyone goes home with new information about good causes on their doorstep. If you’re wondering where the Soup comes in, contemplate if you will the easiest meal to prepare in bulk and serve easily for not much money (because you aren’t making anything from running this event).
So that was Detroit Soup, still thriving today and inspiring projects all the way over here in Sunny Essex. Frankly, what a good idea. Apparently 99% of the money in the world is owned by one evil bond villain in the Caymans somewhere and we are all feeling the pinch so it’s no surprise that small, not for profit enterprises aren’t staggering under the weight of donations. Neither are they flush with funds for punchy marketing campaigns. So how do you get the word out? How do you make people come and actually listen to the pleas of these causes, rather than just press a thumbs up button on a social media page and never really pay it any mind again? How do you get past that daunting prospect of Going Out and Meeting People? It might be cold. Will there be parking? I already make charity donations. I’ve got my own problems and Eastenders is on tonight.
What’s that you say, there’s dinner? Well maybe I’ll check it out.
That is the stroke of simple genius here. Everyone wants dinner, more or less every day. Only very odd people don’t like soup or the chance to have a hot meal with zero washing up responsibility. I hold my hands up, it was the food aspect that caught my attention as I am shallow and greedy and in a roundabout way it was the food that got me to speak to strangers and end up volunteering for the Colchester launch event. Food is not charity- food is a base need, it’s something we do every day and something I believe we should do together. You might come from a long line of food obsessed relations, as I do. You might just appreciate a well assembled sandwich. You might be a vigilante vegan ready to rid the world of any animal produce whatsoever. I’ll bet good money that you have an opinion about food, and that 80% of the time you eat quietly with the same people and don’t really think about it.
It’s nice to eat with others, most of the time, but it can be awkward to eat with others for the first time. Don’t we all dread the first Sunday roast to meet the mother in law? Don’t only insane people choose a posh restaurant for a blind date? What will we order? What will we talk about???? The Colchester/Detroit Soup model takes all these questions away. You will eat one of two soups on offer and it’s more than likely you will talk about the pitches for cash you have just heard. And there it is. We’re talking. We’re thinking about issues and projects in our neighbourhood that may already affect out lives. We’re supporting the local bakery that supplied these nice fluffy rolls. By eating and talking together we are contributing to local culture. We might even go home and tell our mates about it and then they might think about it too and maybe just a £5 dinner donation at a time we will enrich our community or even encourage other communities on the other side of the planet to do the same.
What. A. Good. Idea.
So I’m in for Colchester Soup and you will find me at their upcoming events selling raffle tickets or pouring tea or wiping tables or doing whatever might help out because it’s a bloody good idea, and if you are a local reader I hope you will check out their website or many social media outlets and come down and do the same.
If community spirit isn’t incentive enough for you I can personally vouch for the quality of the dinner on offer. No, I didn’t cook it. Yes, it is safe for veggies, vegans and any kind of allergy sufferers or fusspots as your hosts will kindly provide a full ingredients and recipe print out for you to take home. I think you’ll have a nice time too.
Next event is March 13th, at Abbeygate Two in town centre, CO2 7DE for your sat navs and potential pitchers can apply for a slot at any of the below portals.