CAMBRIDGE — Super Bowl Sunday was still a week away, but in Cambridge, a community event that qualifies as a “Souper Bowl” was held at the Dorchester Center for the Arts on Sunday evening. Diners paid $12 for a light dinner of homemade soup, salad (and loaves with a biblical resonance), but the symbolism of the soup bowl is key. Diners select their own colorful soup bowl, a bisque bowl decorated by Cambridge schoolchildren or local artists and baked in kilns. The bowls are set out empty to remind you that somewhere, someone’s bowl is empty.
Mickey Love, executive director of the Arts Center and coordinator of the Empty Bowls program, explains. “For those of us who don’t have to worry about our next meal, this is an opportunity to help others for whom a meal may be a luxury. All money raised goes to local food pantries.”
But what about the soup? Of course, you fill your bowl with soup that has been prepared by community volunteers. Bob and Amy Craig pronounced it delicious, recommending both the tomato bisque and the lima ham soup. I asked who were the ladies who prepared the soup. What a faux pas! Pastor Bob White of Christ Episcopal Church laughed. He himself prepared the tomato soup with his special secret additions to the soup that Andy Warhol has made souper-famous.
Another gentleman prepared the lima bean and ham soup which I enjoyed. It would meet any food critics’ standards for flavor and texture.
According to Maryland Hunger Solutions, close to 6,000 residents of Dorchester County live below the poverty level and more than half the county’s children qualify for free or reduced meals. The generosity of six local churches, the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, the Arts Center and other individual volunteers has an impact on those numbers. They are following in a tradition of craft and cuisine that’s now a quarter of a century old. A North Carolina couple, both art teachers, began the tradition of the Empty Bowls which now raises millions of dollars to combat hunger around the world.
You take your soup bowl home, fill it with soup, or popcorn, or ice cream scoops, and enjoy its design and usefulness. But it will also remind you that some other bowls need filling.