A good friend took me to see the Illegal Eagles on Friday. I’d not seen them before, but I became an instant fan. Consequently, their soulful sounds have been an important soundtrack over this memorable weekend – the start of Southend Soup. Da da daaaaaah!
The above lyric comes from one of the Eagles’ classics ‘love will keep us alive’ (which sounds like a counterpoint to the less optimistic ‘love will tear us apart’ :)) But as well as being a beautiful, poetic, song, it led me to muse about how often food and love are connected. Inexorably linked, one might say. The romantic dinner is an essential ingredient of the happy relationship, the family dinner is important to our bond with our nearest and dearest, the curry and beer/pizza night helps solidify friendships. By sharing food, we show people we love them, we accept them, we trust them and that we welcome them into our social group. It’s a gesture that says let’s look after one another; let’s share what we have. Quite profound, really.
So it’s not that surprising that the two Good Ideas presented on Saturday both involved food. The details still appear in the ‘proposals’ section but, to summarise; Kate talked with passion about SHARE – a food bank programme that she supports. She hoped to win funding for gifts for Father Christmas to share out at their Christmas Party. Kamil, equipped with pumpkin, talked with equal passion about Southend in Transition‘s blossoming community allotment. His group wants to provide a happy space for people to make friends, share tea, learn about growing food and join in with the gardening. The votes were close, but the garden project received a few more ticks. (We think it was the pumpkin what swung it.) Fear not however, supporters of SHARE, because Kate has promised to come back. And this time she’ll be bringing the elf costume.
It’s fair to say that there was a lot of love in the building that night. To a person, everyone bought their very best Friendly. Everyone was made welcome, everyone was included and everyone wanted to give something – what can I do to help..? The kitchen was abustle as the crew of volunteers washed, chopped, buttered, cooked and made tea, with the youngest Soupers joining in as drinks waiters. An immediate sense of ‘community’ arose by virtue of having almost all ages represented – from giggling toddlers to silver haired mature folks. It didn’t feel like a random community event. It felt like a family gathering. But without the arguing.
Our salsa dancers didn’t arrive (I hope they might come to a future Soup) but that didn’t matter. Happiness is wonderfully contagious. People milled around and made new friends, youngsters taught each other Chopsticks on the old piano, tea was drunk, soup was supped and lots of people helped with the clearing up – meaning the job was done within 10 minutes. I do have a ‘lesson learned’ however – to swap around kitchen jobs during the evening. I worry that the hard working kitchen volunteers didn’t get as much chatter time as everyone else.
By the end of the night, I certainly felt loved, valued and very happy (and that was even before rounding off the evening with a couple of celebratory cocktails.) I hope that’s true for those of you who made the choice to spend the evening with us. If you did, it would be lovely to hear your comments.
To return to our Eagles song (and to paraphrase): Don’t stand all alone against the world outside. When you’re hungry, love will keep you alive.
Love, and soup.
I’ll leave you with another beautiful song that connects the sharing of food with powerful, generous, love. Have a listen, do.
Love and only love can join the tribes of man, the first step is to realise, it all begins with you and me.