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St. Helens library to host 'soup night'

Portland author will explain how 'soup nights' help build neighborly relationships

COURTESY OF MAGGIE STUCKEY - Portland author Maggie Stuckey will visit St. Helens Thursday, Feb. 18. Her most recent book is part cookbook, part narrative that describes how to build community relationships in a simple way.Portland author Maggie Stuckey will be hosting “soup night” at the St. Helens Public Library next week, Thursday Feb. 18.

Thursday's event will feature Stuckey's work as a nonfiction author and book editor, but will also be a teaching event designed to show community members how to host their own soup nights, something Stuckey explains in her most recently published work, “Soup Night: Recipes for Creating Community Around a Pot of Soup.”

The concept of soup nights is relatively simple: It's a night where a basic soup is served and neighbors, friends and community members gather to have dinner. Stuckey's soup night book is part cookbook, part narrative. It outlines simple, easy-to-make soup recipes that Stuckey developed alongside interviews with soup night hosts.

Stuckey said she first attended a soup night at her brother's house several years ago. Through a little research, she discovered people were hosting soup night's across the country. Each event was organized differently, but the goal was ultimately the same — to bring neighbors together who normally wouldn't interact with each other.

“They seemed to all start with the same yearning,” Stuckey said, explaining that people wanted to get to know people who lived around them. “What's staggering to me is that they all came up with the same solution — make a big pot of soup and invite people and see what happens.”

When writing the book, Stuckey said she interviewed people who have hosted soup nights as well as those who regularly attended them. Her brother and his family have been attending soup nights in their neighborhood for many years. Stuckey said she sees the positive influence it has on his children.

“I have seen what a difference it makes in people's lives, especially the children. The children grow up under the loving protection of all different adults,” Stuckey said.

Soup nights allow people of different cultures, backgrounds, and interests to interact with one another, she added. Those interactions build positive relationships that might not form under other conditions. Soup nights help build a strong sense of community among people who get together on a regular basis, she explained.

The library event will introduce attendees to the concept of soup nights and give them ideas for how to start their own.

“People absolutely love the idea of getting to know their neighbors and this is a very, very easy way to get together,” Stuckey said.

Since October, Stuckey has been visiting towns across Oregon hosting soup nights in small- and medium-sized towns. With 38 soup nights on her agenda, the visit to St. Helens marks the halfway point for her.

“I want them to become aware that there's no reason that people need to live in a neighborhood with strangers,” Stuckey said. “It's an amazingly simple thing to put together.”

To attend the St. Helens Public Library Soup Night, RSVP to Becky Bean at 503-397-4544 by Tuesday, Feb. 16. Three gluten-free soups will be served, with one vegetarian option available.