6 Soup and Poetry Pairings Inspired by Caroline Wright’s Soup Club
Like poetry, soup is comforting, warm, and can bring friends and communities together. Caroline Wright’s Soup Club: 80 Cozy Recipes for Creative, Plant-Based Soups and Stews to Share makes this connection clear, as Wright pairs her original, hearty recipes with haikus and black and white photos and haikus from her community in Seattle.
This innovative, multimodal book—a keepsake for any kitchen—takes inspiration from Wright’s cancer diagnosis and the way her friends supported her by bringing soup to her doorstep every day for months. Wright credits her survival, in part, to this simple yet powerful act of care. Dedicated to “soup enthusiasts,” Soup Club celebrates the dish as more than just a meal, but also as a “mood and feeling.” These pairings of Wright’s recipes with works of poetry will help make your next soup night a poetic experience.
1. Ribollita and The Immigrants’ New Camera by Maryfrances Wagner
Ribollita is an Italian soup containing olive oil, kale, potatoes, broccoli, beans, and tomatoes.
Ribollita is a classic Italian dish, which mirrors the rich Italian culture and heritage Maryfrances Wagner writes about in her collection The Immigrants’ New Camera. In fact, Wagner specifically employs the unique and sacred imagery of an Italian kitchen, evoking the sensation of chopping tomatoes and the smell of fresh basil within her poems. Just as Wright does in Soup Club, Wagner also presents cooking and eating as a ritualistic, familial act.
2. Chunky garden vegetable stew and Garden Poems edited by John Hollander
Chunky garden vegetable stew melds celery, onion, green beans, carrot, peas, squash, and sweet potato.
Cooking can be a relaxing and satisfying activity, just like gardening. Wright’s chunky garden vegetable stew brings together all the natural, fresh flavors and colors of a bountiful garden. Similarly, Garden Poems reveres the beauty and the utility of nature, as well as its connection to humanity and daily life. The anthology contains meditations on gardening and nature from timeless poets like Shakespeare, Ovid, and E.E. Cummings.
3. Hoppin’ John and Hard Times Require Furious Dancing by Alice Walker
Hoppin’ John is a Southern stew, often eaten on New Year’s Day and seen as a dish that brings good luck. The spicy soup includes chipotle chiles, paprika, green peppers, carrot, black-eyed peas, and collard greens, served over rice.
Just as Hoppin’ John is a New Year’s Dish, Alice Walker’s Hard Times Require Furious Dancing is a reflection on one full year in the beloved writer’s life. As Walker—born and raised in Atlanta, Ga.—considers the challenges of an especially dark and turbulent year, she’s still able to hold tight to joy, hope, and resilience, a comfort much like Hoppin’ John soup. Like this dish, Walker’s writing exemplifies the zest, warmth, and tradition of Southern culture.
4. Cowboy chili and Life Work by Donald Hall
Cowboy chili combines black beans, red beans, bell pepper, paprika, and molasses, among other ingredients. Wright recommends serving with cornbread.
Life Work is a poetic memoir from Donald Hall, one of the most influential figures in the cowboy poetry movement. The book chronicles Hall’s time spent living on his grandparents’ New Hampshire farm, where he cultivated an appreciation for the discipline, concentration, and ritual of farming. Cooking soup can demand these same traits, allowing any at-home chef to get out of their head and into a soothing flow state.
5. Louisiana red bean soup and I Am New Orleans edited by Kalamu ya Salaam
Louisiana red bean soup features red beans, green bell peppers, celery, paprika, and Cajun seasoning.
Louisiana red bean soup blazes with soulful Southern culture. The dish is equal parts festive and traditional, much like Kalamu ya Salaam’s I Am New Orleans anthology, which harkens back to the beloved, complex city’s origins while also looking forward towards its future. The anthology weaves together 36 poets, taking inspiration from Marcus Christian, a former New Orleans Poet Laureate and the author of the titular poem “I Am New Orleans.”
6. Cream of mushroom soup and Decomposition: An Anthology of Fungi-Inspired Poems edited by Renee Roehl and Kelly Chadwick
Cremini mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms are the main ingredients in this recipe, along with rolled oats, tahini, and Worcestershire sauce.
Mushrooms seem to be growing in popularity and finding a place on nearly every menu. Likewise, they play a starring role in Wright’s cream of mushroom soup and in Decomposition: An Anthology of Fungi-Inspired Poems, in which mushrooms come to represent growth, discovery, struggle, ruggedness, and much more.
Happy reading and happy cooking! To recreate the soups in this article and even more delicious recipes, order Soup Club here.