Library celebrates Soup Month with a local culinary competition

t’s soup weather.

And, not coincidentally, it’s National Soup Month.

Warren Public Library holds an event in conjunction each year.

“Quite a few years ago we decided to do this in celebration of National Soup Month,” Adult Services Librarian Sharon Gage said.

On Monday, a group of 12 judges, 10 of them library staff, sampled soups in the Slater Room as part of the annual Soup Recipe Contest. “The staff is always invited to judge,” Gage said. “They look forward to it.”

The five entries cooked up for judging included clam mushroom bisque, ham and vegetable soup, stuffed pepper soup, hot pepper chili soup, and cheeseburger soup.

They were all savory.

While the stuffed pepper and hot pepper chili soups looked much the same, their finishes were very different.

The recipe for the hot pepper by Mitzi Lindsey included two cups of hot peppers – “I use jalapeno and chili,” according to the cook’s note.

The heat caught the judges by surprise. The quarter-cup of brown sugar set up a sweet initial taste.

I realized one of my fellow judges had moved to that soup – number 4, counting from the left – when I heard, “Whoa baby!”

It was spicy. In fact, the note at the bottom of the recipe said, “I’m spicy!” Still, I had about four bowls including the one I carried back to the office. Couldn’t let it go to waste.

Organizers were expecting several more soups, but it was just as well, according to some of the judges.

“I’m glad we didn’t have more to choose from,” veteran judge Bette McAmbley said. “It’s hard every year. There are some good cooks out there.”

The texture of the clam mushroom bisque was extraordinary.

The cheeseburger soup was very hearty – the kind that warms the insides.

The ham and vegetable was more of a delicate mixture.

In the end, the judging picked first and second places and a tie for third.

Ruth Barnes Shaw won first place with the clam mushroom bisque.

Lindsey came in second with the hot pepper chili and took half of third for cheeseburger soup.

Carol L. Wilcox was the other half of the third-place tie with the ham and vegetable.

All of the winners will receive gift certificates to local businesses, Gage said.

The top soups will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27, at the library’s third-floor Slater Room.

There is no charge, but donations will be accepted. Donations will benefit the library and help defray the costs of paying the cooks for the ingredients.

Water and crackers will be provided at the event.

“Recipe booklets containing all recipes submitted from this year’s contest will be available at the library for a small charge,” according to the library website.

The soup contest is one of several themed events held annually at the library.

“We try to have a nice variety of activities,” Gage said. “We try to find things that will interest a variety of people.”

February will feature a diorama contest to be designed on readers’ favorite books.

In April, the library will celebrate National Library Week with a Lego contest, again based on contestants’ favorite books.