SEAN GOLIGHTLY Sun Journalist
“Do you need a bowl? Coral Evans asked me impatiently at the door of the Dream Market (Mercado de Los SueÃ±os).
The question surprised me more than it should have. I didn’t know how to explain that I had come to the Sunnyside Stone Soup community dinner with no intention of eating. Even though this free dinner was in its 10th year, it was my first time there.
“No, I don’t need a bowl, thank you,” I replied.
“Did you bring your own?” Evans fired back.
“No, I … I’m with the diary, I just wrote a …”
“Okay, we’ve got a lot of food, so you’re going to eat something.” Here is your bowl.
She pushed me a paper bowl and a spoon and I stammered a permanent thank you. Then she was gone, taken to take care of making sure everyone had what they needed to eat.
Once inside, I sensed the error of my ways. Turmeric, garlic and paprika filled the air. A delicious scent mingled in the hallways. He squeezed his way through the spaces between people, an already small space as everyone stood near the center of each room. There was no room for wallflowers. Each wall was guarded by smoking slow cookers on folding tables. An array of homemade soups and chili dishes with butter and bread brought people together. Elbows rubbed left and right.
People also read …
Mine first rubbed shoulders with Regina Salas. She was there as the soup sponsor, one of 20 people who volunteered to provide the soup. Salas provided two.
âIt’s sweet corn porridge,â Salas said, gesturing to a pan full of a creamy yellow-white delight. “And it’s a kind of turmeric chicken, an arroz calda.”
The golden spice of that arroz calda sizzled in my nostrils, and I couldn’t help but breathe it in deeply.
âIt’s healing soup,â Salas explained; his grandmother’s recipe from Pampanga province in the Philippines.
She told me that her grandmother was adamant about sharing meals.
âAnyone who came to Grandma’s got food. “
Salas seemed to share this enthusiasm.
Across the room, another set of family recipes were brewing. Shannon Shoots brought a jar of Abondigas and a jar of Green Pepper Potato. When I asked her why she brought these two soups, Shoots stopped just long enough for a friend to intervene.
“Because she’s really good at it!” They cried, eliciting a few laughs. After trying a ladle, I had to accept.
âThese are my mom’s recipes,â Shoots said, explaining that she grew up in southern Arizona and thought her childhood Mexican flavors would be a good choice for her first time as a soup godmother. . Like me, she had just heard about the event this year.
âI was actually at the Flagstaff women’s leadership meeting last week and Coral had sent a message, and we were like yes count us,â Shoots said.
For his first time at Stone Soup, Shoots already knew the community. – Jackie is a real estate agent, I work for the president of the NAU, she said, gesturing to the hallway. âJanet, who made the posole chicken, she worked for APS. She is retired.
As Shoots named his friends, I looked around the rooms. They were filled with colors, a full spectrum of foods and faces, sizes and ages. The more I looked, the more people came. Children, parents, adolescents and the elderly flocked for food.
Among the elders, I saw a face that I recognized, the indomitable smile of Marina Vasquez. I greeted her, we sat together around a bowl of her bean and meatball soup. I asked her what she thought of this event.
âWell, it’s first and foremost a community event, which I love,â she says. It engages the whole. Poor and rich. And then you have the opportunity to try different soups!
She smiled, and while I agreed that good food was its own reward, Vasquez made it clear that there was more to it.
âRepublicans and Democrats, they can eat together,â she said. âAnd why not? Food is a culture and it’s so important to share it. The different cultures that come together here, they can strike up a conversation if they want to.
Vasquez knows about cross-cultural conversation. She grew up in Guatemala and didn’t move to the United States until she was already grown up. English is far from being her mother tongue, but she speaks it comfortably, with a well-deserved confidence. When she’s not making soup, she is making medicine.
The two things may not be that different. The godmother of the soup, Abbey Caballero, added a little extra spice to her soup.
âIt really helps cleanse you,â she said, waving her hands over her sinuses. While Caballero didn’t specifically target us to make a medicinal soup, she did acknowledge that many sponsors did. âI hope to clean up the world! “
When I asked Abbey Caballero what she thought of how a comfortable cross-cultural community could be built on the soup, she said it was organic. From her perspective as a young counselor, she said that deep down we know that shared food is safety.
âIt’s our amygdala. Our tonsils tell us we’re hungry, be afraid.
For Caballero, even non-humans have a deep agreement to share peace over food.
âYou see it in animals on the Discovery Channel shows,â she said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a leopard and a deer, they’ll come in and drink water together because they know it’s a safe place.”
Caballero was on to something. The Stone Soup community dinner was anything but safe. Confidence is the first ingredient in any shared food. Among the bowls and spoons, the children escaped from the watchful embrace of their parents. Strangers sat together and smiled. There was a guard at their door, but their only duty was to make sure everyone was welcomed and fed.
Eventually I came back to Evans. Now that dinner was underway and people were chatting happily, she seemed to have a little more time to talk.
“Have you heard the story of the stone soup?” ” she asked. I had, but asked to hear it in his words.
She regaled me with a tale that originated in Europe but has since been translated into the folklore of many traditions.
Basically, the story goes that hungry travelers arrive in a locked town. They are very hungry when they arrive but find the locals unwilling to share. Everyone believes they don’t have enough to feed hungry travelers. So they go to the middle of town and start to boil a big pot of water. When they drop a large stone into the pot, a curious city dweller asks them what they are doing, to which they reply: âWe are making stone soup, and we are happy to share. It’s delicious but it could use a little garnish. With this, they convince the townsman to bring a carrot, then someone else puts an onion, another a potato, and so on.
âAnd so, before you know it, the whole community is out there, and they’re looking at this pot, and they’re a part of it,â Evans said, returning to the moral of the story. âThere’s always enough for everyone if we get together and say, ‘Hey, let’s do it.’ “
The Sunnyside Stone Soup Community Dinner aims to bring this fairy tale into the dream market where it can become a lived reality. Evans estimated they would feed around 200 people that night. They had fed at least that much in the past, and while last year the event was delayed during the pandemic, this year it has returned and even surpassed old glories.
While the soup supported the bodies, the gathering supported the communication necessary for a strong community.
âIt’s about coming together,â Evans said. âIf we can come together for things like this, we can come together and talk about the floods. We can talk about mental health counseling. We can talk about voting, community policing. You can talk about tough stuff instead of food, and it’s just different. “
As I walked into the Sunnyside Stone Soup Community Dinner with the full intention of being a fly on the wall, I quickly discovered that this was not an area that would allow such passive involvement. To walk through these doors was to be embraced in a loving community and to be granted all the rights and responsibilities therein. Next year, I will invite my family. Maybe even bring some soup.
At the very least, I will remember to bring a bowl and rest assured that it will be filled. There is always enough for everyone.
Following up on Stone Soup, on Sunday, December 19, the Market of Dreams will host a community cookie festival. For more information on community events, stay tuned to the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association and the Sunnyside Market of Dreams at marketofdreamsflagstaff.org.