SoupCycle brings seasonal, sloshy meals on wheels to the Portland masses.
I can say from experience that when you’re so busy that you feel like you’re going to start bleeding from all your pores, it’s really helpful to know that at least one hot, healthy meal a week is a mere bicycle ride away—especially when you’re not the one on the bike.
Founded in 2008 by Jed Lazar and Shawna Lambert, SoupCycle is a local "Soupscription" service in which an environmentally-friendly bicycle delivery person drops (mostly organic) soup, salad, and bread at your doorstep or desk every week. In the beginning there were seven Portland customers (close friends and neighbors); now there are nearly 500 regulars in P-Town and Corvallis, and the company delivered their 30,000 quart of soup last week, representing over 10,000 petroleum-free miles.
Scanning the laundry list of soups they have in their arsenal (they’re also adding a new one every month in 2011), I was drawn in by the simplicity of the recipes (no laundry list of unpronounceable ingredients) and the fun names, such as South in Your Mouth, a vegan, spicy New Orleans-style sweet potato, corn, and jalapeño bisque, or the immensely popular Democratic Republic of Peanut Chicken, a thick African stew with bell peppers, tomatoes, and garbanzo beans.
This past week I tried the hearty vegetarian Barbecue Split Pea, and thought it was the bee’s knees. The soup was seasoned well and provided a pleasing ratio of mush to al dente peas and bright, orange carrots. I also liked that the chef had a delicate touch with the barbecue sauce, manifesting in a subtle hickory smoke essence rather than that noxious liquid smoke flavor that’s so common. The accompanying salad of all-organic mixed field greens, grated carrots, and sunflower seeds was crisp, plentiful, and benefitted from a lovely pop of sweetness from dried cranberries. The dressing was made with nutritional yeast, which you can really taste; but if, like me, you psychotically love that taste, you will enjoy the nutty, cheesie zest it imparts.
Wondering how a company that makes soup can survive in the summer?
Answer: A) They add cold soups like a radiant fuchsia beet borscht, gazpacho, and a chilled cucumber with mint and dill to their offerings; B) They also offer creative pasta salads (like Chicken Tarragon with the Wind, made with dried cranberries and barley) mid-May to early September; and C) Who’s kidding who that Portland is hot all summer long?
Getting your soup on is soup-er easy: Log on to their website, make sure you live or work in the delivery area, select the vegan, vegetarian, or meaty option, and your weekly meal plan—a quart of soup, green salad, and bread for two is $19 ($20 for the flesh version), but you can modify that order up or down each week if you wish. They call you a couple days later to confirm the payment method, you leave a cooler if you won’t be around (only a problem if you are, in fact, too busy to purchase a cooler, but a plastic box filled with a couple sacks of frozen peas seems to do the trick…), and voilà! You are dining on soup made with veggies from local farmers, supporting a local business, protecting the environment, and inspiring someone else to get a little exercise.