Soup’s on? No, Soup Off!

March 16, 2011 04:05 PM

Twenty-four steaming soups. Two hungry judges. One Golden Ladle.

Sounds like a new Food Network competition, doesn’t it? But this was the scene in the basement of Messiah Lutheran Church at the Staten Island South Shore Soup Off on February 5.


Three Lutheran congregations—Christ, Eltingville, and Messiah—sit within a two-and-a-half mile radius of each other on Staten Island’s South Shore. Despite their proximity, the congregations did not collaborate…there were no joint confirmation classes, no shared Lenten suppers. However, when Christ and Eltingville found themselves without pastors two years ago, the three congregations started to talk about how they could support one another. They began simply, getting to know each other at shared picnics and singing hymns together at fellowship events like "Beer, Brats and Buxtehude." Then, during a brainstorming session, the three councils decided to ‘kick it up a notch’ with a soup competition.

Members were encouraged to enter their best soup in one of four categories: cream-based, broth-based, meat-based, and non-meat-based. Judges were lined up. Over eighty people arrived to taste the entries. The free will offering raised $400 and was donated to the feeding program run by Trinity Lutheran Church, a North Shore congregation.


soupjudges1Pastor Jennifer Guelmami, one of the judges, was shocked to be faced with 24 soups. "People took this competition seriously! And there was plenty of fellowship time while people walked up and tasted soup after soup. There were winners in soup categories from all three congregations who participated." From Messiah, Cristin Hachikian’s chili won in the meat-based category. Brian Collord’s corn chowder dominated the cream-based category. The Ali family from Eltingville beat out the others in the broth-based field with their lemon chicken soup. And Bob Kostbar and Betty Gustavsen of Eltingville took a medal in the vegetable-based category for their pea soup. Pastor Kathleen Koran, the other judge, fondly recalls her favorites: "The lemon chicken was beautiful in the pot and rich on the tongue. The chili was scrumptious even without cheese and sour cream. And even those who don’t like pea soup would call the green pea a winner."

At the end of the night, the Golden Ladle was presented to Jennifer DiCaro, member of Christ, for the best soup overall. "It was a hot mulligatawny, an Indian soup with curry," said Pastor Garry Squire, dean of the Staten Island conference. "Not too spicy, with a real nice sweet taste to it as well."


"As delicious as all the soups were, the community of those gathered around the tables for food and fellowship was even more nourishing," said Pr. Koran. "Three congregations stretched themselves to feed one another and to feed the hungry of Staten Island." Now that the congregations’ soup-making abilities have been proven, Christ, Eltingville, and Messiah plan to meet together this Lent for midweek services and meals. And the judges have suggested that the next tri-congregation competition focus on ice cream.