ABOUT SOUP, ‘A BOWLFUL OF SOULFUL’…A ‘Beautiful Chat’ with Red House Soups’ Carolyn Norberg
Hmm…It still ‘smells like winter’ with chicken soup (and dumplings) simmering on the stovetop – there’s something about a pot of soup cooking gently on the stove that makes the house all cozy and heartwarming. You’re just in time to fill your bowl or cup 🙂 And, as always, the teapot’s on. Today I have a fascinating treat for you – a special interview with Carolyn Norberg of Red House Soups! It’s time to pull up your favourite chair…
‘SOUPER HERO’ First, let’s talk a little ‘About Soup’…What words come to mind when you think of soup? Nourishing. Restorative. Nurturing. Happiness (good soup, that is). Spiritual – think of all those ‘Chicken Soup For The Soul’ books! And, what does soup mean to you?!
There is a sense of physical satisfaction from a warm bowlful of soup, as well as an emotional one – wouldn’t you agree? Soup is especially comforting on a chilly, damp day (like it is here today). Our mothers feed us soup as a gesture of love. Soup feels safe and comforting to us. Soup is mystical; once thought to have transformative powers – even today soup is still believed to possess ‘healing powers’ and frequently touted as medicinal, acclaimed to cure everything from the common cold to uplifting our moods. People turn to soup when they are feeling ill or depressed.
Soup is social and welcoming. When we gather people where we live, we sometimes put a boiler of soup on the stove to ‘warmly’ welcome family and friends, and even strangers, into our homes and to feed them. Soup can be a poor man’s meal or an elegant starter to a dinner for kings – a great example of this is in a previous post “Impress Your Guests with this Wonderful Winter Soup”.
Soup makes for a thoughtful and caring gift for a senior, someone who is ill, or just to let someone know that you are thinking of them. My own mother adores soup – she is near 83 and enjoys soup at least once a day. Her 77 and 87 year-old sisters frequently bring her their homemade soups. Soup is the ultimate ‘Thinking of You’ gift…
“Only the pure of heart can make good soup.” Beethoven
EMPTY BOWLS During the days of ‘The Great Depression’, soup kitchens seemingly sprung up everywhere. They served, for the most part, only soup and bread – you probably have seen the iconic images (similar to the one at the right) of folks lined up to eat…for many, it was the only meal of the day.
Although the numbers of ‘soup kitchens’ may have declined, they remain throughout our communities in various forms, some distributing groceries and/or serving hot meals on specific days (rather than every day of the week).
There is support for those who ‘fill up their bowls’ at food-sharing organizations, shelters and soup kitchens. (Some of you may remember my post about Amazing Apple Cake and Street Reach). One local high school recently started a ‘Soup Club’ and regularly cooks up large pots of soups and delivers them to Street Reach, an amazing organization that helps street-entrenched, at-risk youth. On St. Patrick’s Day, when I was delivering some Apple Cake to Street Reach, they had just received from the students a huge pot of beef stew to serve to its clients. Bravo!
SOUP IS ‘HOPE’ Soup is sustaining and, perhaps just as importantly, soup is symbolic. Soup gives a sense of relief, a sense of hope…
DID YOU KNOW? In March last year, food banks helped a record 867,948 people across the country (Source: thestar.com). According to our local Community Food Sharing Association, there are 32,000 people who live in our province who don’t have enough to eat – 60% of families who access food banks are families with children. At the top of the organization’s grocery shopping guide for those wishing to donate food, is……Yep, you guessed it – SOUP.
Soup is a meal in itself. Soup is nutritious. Soup is convenient. Soup is economical, too.
A ‘BEAUTIFUL CHAT’ WITH RED HOUSE SOUPS’ CAROLYN NORBERG, AT HOME IN HER FLATROCK, NEWFOUNDLAND ‘SOUP KITCHEN’…
Whenever I think of Red House Soups, I imagine Carolyn Norberg (company founder, owner and expert soup maker) driving a tiny sporty red convertible, wearing a blousy red cape with a generous hood tied around her shoulders; and lengths of brown wavy hair flowing straight behind her in the wind. The back seat is piled high-to-the-sky with layers of wicker picnic baskets containing bottles upon bottles of her delicious and restorative homemade soups. While Carolyn may not be on her way to grandma’s house, she caters to her customers’ needs the old-fashioned way, and personally delivers her tasty soups – in a modest van – directly to the homes and offices of her thankful and loyal customers. They look forward to that familiar knock on the door and seeing Carolyn’s smiling face, her arms filled with mason jars of yummy soup ordered on-line through her website!
RED HOUSE SOUPS celebrated its first year of success recently. Weekly soup menus of several varieties are posted each Monday and customers have until Thursday to make their choices for delivery the following week. Prices are very reasonable (each mason jar contains three servings) and range from $10 and up per jar. Soups can keep up to three days in the refrigerator and many varieties can be frozen. They sell out fast – sometimes within mere hours of posting the new menu – so it’s wise not to delay selecting your soups. Deliveries are made Wednesdays and Thursdays depending on the area in which you live. Carolyn sometimes makes several hundred jars of soup weekly. Sign up to receive her fantastic menus at Red House Soups. Soup varieties have included:
- Beef and Wild Rice (with squash and turnips)
- Curried Cream of Carrot
- Mixed Bean, Squash and Espresso Chili
- Creamy Chickpea (with Carrots and Rosemary)
- Lamb Tagine
- Red Potato Soup (with Feta and Lemon)
- Cream of Cauliflower, Corn and Cheddar
- Sausage Minestrone
- Hot and Sour (with pork, mushrooms and tofu)
- Old Fashioned Chicken
- Asparagus and Spinach with Fresh Basil
- Cod Chowder
- Onion (with Garlic Scapes)
- Coconut and Cashew Stew
- Malaysian Chicken
- Moroccan Beef Stew
- Mexican Red Bean
- Cranberry, Black Bean and Sausage Chili
While I am refilling you teacup, won’t you pull up your chair to the table as I chat with Carolyn, the creative genius behind this lovely-spirited entrepreneurial endeavour. Carolyn runs her flavourful and unconventional business out of her home kitchen in the petite scenic community of Flatrock, Newfoundland situated near the famous East Coast Trail. Carolyn’s unique soup operation originated from her desire to have a satisfying career doing something she truly loves balanced with the need for gainful employment. Thus, Red House Soups was born!
LINDA: What is your first ‘soup memory’?
CAROLYN: My first soup memory is of my grandfather dicing turnips for soup into perfectly even pieces and getting mad at anyone who tried to help. My grandfather never cooked until he retired from fishing and he quickly acted as if he had been cooking his whole life. Fresh Meat Soup was his speciality. From what I recall, it was good.
LINDA: When did you make your first pot of soup?
CAROLYN: The first pot of soup I made was a chicken soup for grandmother. She was dying of cancer. I decided to make her soup. She couldn’t really eat it but I know she appreciated it.
LINDA: Who taught you how to make soup?
CAROLYN: I taught myself to cook. I didn’t grow up in a family that cooked much besides traditional dishes. However, there are stories of my great-grandmother pickling cauliflower with turmeric in rural Newfoundland which was pretty adventurous in her day.
My real passion for cooking began in university. I had a boyfriend who liked to cook and we learned from each other. This passion was strengthened when I moved to Flatrock in 1995. During that time, I stayed with a couple who cooked everything from scratch. They had a vegetable garden, fished and hunted and picked berries. The first meal I ate with them was moose burritos, from a moose they had killed and butchered, and they were making their own flour tortillas, and I thought it was exotic.
LINDA: What’s your favourite homemade soup and the memory tied to it?
CAROLYN: It’s difficult to pick a favourite. I love anything with potato. I also love Avgolémono which is a Greek lemon soup and Cream of Onion.
LINDA: Do any of your ‘Red House Soups’ creations come from childhood memories?
CAROLYN: Only in the sense that they’re the opposite of what I ate growing up.
LINDA: What does soup mean to you?
CAROLYN: Love, comfort and sharing.
THE ‘IDEA’ OF SOUP
LINDA: What was your job before you began ‘Red House Soups’?
CAROLYN: I was an English Teacher, Computer Programmer and a Writer (Poetry & Short Fiction). I also worked as a Caterer.
LINDA: What was the impetus behind ‘Red House Soups’?
CAROLYN: I had been catering on and off and wanted to take things to the next level. Plus, I was tired of working for other people.
LINDA: How did you come to start a soup-delivery business?
CAROLYN: I knew I wanted to do something original and thought it was best to focus on one thing and do it well. I’ve always been good at making soup and one day the idea just came. I googled it and learned that others had been successful doing similar things. I had actually written business plans for other business concepts – this was the third one and my gut told me it was the right one. So I applied for funding and my father lent me money to put a commercial kitchen in the back of my house.
LINDA: Where do your inspirations come from for your soup recipes?
CAROLYN: Ideas and recipes come from many places. It helps to be fearless in the kitchen. What’s the worst thing that can happen? I also read a lot of cookbooks. But I never follow a recipe.
LINDA: Would you say making soup is a creative or even inventive process?
CAROLYN: Yes, but I don’t think anyone should take themselves too seriously.
LINDA: How do you decide which soups to offer each week?
CAROLYN: I try to create a balance. If I do a Mexican soup one week, I won’t do another Mexican soup for awhile. I listen to which soups my customers want repeated. Sometimes it depends on what I’m in the mood to make. During late summer and fall, I like to choose soups based on what is in season.
LINDA: Are you ever asked to make large batches of soup as custom orders?
CAROLYN: Yes, but I don’t usually do it as I’m so busy.
LINDA: What’s the most unusual ‘soup request’ you’ve ever had?
CAROLYN: To make a soup using Edamame. I would love to do it but Edamame is not an ingredient I can get a large amount of.
LINDA: Which came first: the name ‘Red House Soups’, or the paint colour of your house?
CAROLYN: The house was red first.
CAROLYN’S ‘SOUP KITCHEN’
LINDA: Describe your ‘soup kitchen’.
CAROLYN: I have a separate licensed kitchen in the back of my house. The kitchen is set up like any other commercial operation – stainless steel and a gas stove. There are two large refrigerators –one with glass doors to store the soup in. The kitchen is painted red and yellow to match the company colours.
LINDA: Do you have any vintage kitchen tools that you love?
CAROLYN: I love my potato ricer.
LINDA: Do you prefer to serve your soups in bowls or cups?
CAROLYN: Depends on the situation.
LINDA: Do you have a collection of soup tureens or ladles?
CAROLYN: I actually don’t. I do have a collection of soup pots, though.
LINDA: Do people tend to give you soup tureens and/or other soup-related items as gifts?
CAROLYN: No, actually they don’t.
SUGAR & SPICE & ALL THINGS NICE…WHAT ARE RED HOUSE SOUPS MADE OF?
LINDA: How do you choose your soup ingredients?
CAROLYN: I look at what I can get that is fresh and go from there. Or, I have a soup in mind and I call around until I can find the right supplier for the ingredients.
LINDA: Do you use only fresh, seasonal produce?
CAROLYN: I would love to but it isn’t possible. Late summer and fall is the best time for local produce and, during that time, I try to develop soups that highlight those ingredients. Last year, we had a special fall harvest menu that featured local produce (squash, beet, and turnip) from three local farmers. It was a popular menu and we hope to do the same thing this year.
LINDA: Do you cultivate your own produce? Or, do you obtain produce from local farmers?
CAROLYN: I have a very small garden. I wish I had more time to devote to it. I do have a local farm in Flatrock that I get some produce from. Gerhard and Frederique are going to be growing zucchinis and beets for me. I also give all our vegetable cuttings to them for their sheep. I get turnips from a farmer in Torbay, and last year I did a squash soup from the Organic Farm in Portugal cove.
CAROLYN: Yes, I had a woman who called last year wanting to sell rhubarb. At the time, I didn’t have a use for it but I think this year I will make a rhubarb soup.
LINDA: I read that your friend challenged you to develop a soup recipe using the lovage that she had been growing in her garden. Were you able to meet her challenge?
CAROLYN: Yes, I ended up making a creamy soup with potato, green peas and lovage that was quite lovely. I will be featuring it again this year.
LINDA: Do you enjoy the smell of soup simmering on the stove?
CAROLYN: Yes, and it’s a good thing—the smell is forever embedded in the walls of my house.
LINDA: What is your family’s favourite soup? Do they taste-test your recipes?
CAROLYN: My boyfriend taste-tests and his favourite is Apricot Lentil. My mother likes Tortilla, my father likes Old Fashioned Chicken, my sister likes Cauliflower, Corn & Cheddar, and my grandmother who is 94 loves them all.
LINDA: What do you consider to be your best soup recipe?
CAROLYN: I’m proud of coming up with Apple, Turnip and Brie and Blueberry Beet. These are soups I developed to highlight local ingredients.
LINDA: What would you say is the most popular soup(s) among your customers?
CAROLYN: Everyone seems to have a different favourite.
RED HOUSE SOUPS IS ‘GREEN’
LINDA: ‘Red House Soups’ are delivered in attractive, glass mason jars that are returnable and refillable. How do you encourage customers to avail of this option?
CAROLYN: Pretty much it’s an honour system. Mostly people are good at returning the jars and they’re encouraged because they’re recycling. If someone knows they want to keep the jar, then I charge them for it; otherwise they can return it when they order again.
LINDA: Are there other ways in which Red House Soups is attempting to be ‘Green’?
CAROLYN: We give our vegetable cuttings to a farmer for his sheep. We also have our website hosted with a company that offers green web site hosting.
SOUP IS ‘A BEAUTIFUL THING’
LINDA: The gift of soup is such a ‘beautiful thing’. Can customers purchase ‘soup gift certificates’ or arrange gifts of soup for delivery?
CAROLYN: Yes, they can contact me to make arrangements.
LINDA: How can people contact you at Red House Soups?
LINDA: Do you have a recipe that you can share with ‘Beautiful Ideas’ friends and readers?
APPLE, TURNIP AND BRIE SOUP
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 2 tablespoons cognac (optional)
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 cups of turnip, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 4 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 6 cups of chicken stock (preferably homemade), add more if needed
- 2 cups of quality brie, rind removed and cut into 1-inch cubes
- Pinch of sea salt and pepper
- Heat oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add onions. Cook for 3-5 minutes.
- Turn heat to low. Add apples. Cook for another 3-5 minutes until onions have softened and apples released their juice.
- Add garlic, cognac and thyme. Cook for another minute or until cognac evaporates.
- Add the stock, turnip and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer until turnip is softened 20-30 minutes.
- Turn off heat and remove bay leaf. Add the cubed brie and purée until smooth (using a hand immersion blender) if possible.
- If desired, add more stock to achieve preferred consistency.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Can be served hot, cold or at room temperature.
- Or, turn this soup into a dessert: Pour soup into individual bowls for serving (best at room temperature). Top each soup with 2 tablespoons of candied pecans, a handful of blueberries and 2 tablespoons of warm maple syrup!!!!
Many thanks to Carolyn for chatting with us about Red House Soups and for providing this glorious soup recipe for everyone to enjoy! If you try Carolyn’s wonderful recipe, please let us know how it turns out…And I will be ordering more of Carolyn’s soups very soon!!! You’ll have to order for yourself to find out just how great her soups are. They make a wonderful gift, too!