THIS WEEK'S FEATURED STORIES
The Habitat Habit: A collection grows for volunteers at the Souper Bowl
By Jackie R. Broach
Every year going into the Souper Bowl, Joan Kreikemeier tells herself she’s coming home empty handed.
After 12 years of volunteering for the event, a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity, she and her husband, Ken, already have quite a collection of the hand-crafted bowls the event is known for. They’re stacked in closets and hold soap and shampoo in every bathroom. Others are in the kitchen, reserved for special dips and treats.
Yet every year, Kreikemeier brings home another one despite her resolve. She finds she can’t resist.
“I feel like it’s just a part of being there,” Kreikemeier said.
Years of watching the care and planning that so many people put into selecting their bowl show she’s not alone.
“Some will go around the table over and over. They’ll pick one up and put it down, then pick up another,” she said.
It’s quite a process as they try to find the just-right bowl to take home with them.
The 14th annual Souper Bowl is at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Precious Blood of Christ Catholic Church and will feature 40 soups, bisques, stews and chilies from different chefs.
The Kreikemeiers missed the event’s inaugural year. They hadn’t moved to the area yet. But some attendees, including founder Linda Ketron, have been with the benefit since its inception and plenty of others have been going for nearly as long. For those people, picking a bowl is a tradition and they have their own methodology.
“They’ve been with it and aged with it,” Kreikemeier said. “It’s a big to-do.”
The bowls, which number about 500, are lined up on tables in a separate room and picking one is the first thing people do as they enter the event. They’ll then take their bowl into the main room, where the soups are set up and use them, along with disposable liners, to sample as many soups as they can manage.
The line starts to form about an hour and a half before doors open. That’s one technique for getting the perfect bowl, Kreikemeier said. People vie to be at the head of the line so they get first pick.
However, that doesn’t mean slim pickings for those who arrive later.
“We always have more than we need since one year we ran out of bowls,” she said. Last year there were fewer than 400 people at the event, so there were about 100 extra bowls, ensuring even the last people through the door had plenty to choose from.
Additionally, bowls are put out incrementally. They won’t all fit on the tables, so some are kept out of sight and put out for viewing as the tables are restocked. That means those coming in later get first shot at some of the bowls that were held over.
To avoid the line, get a great bowl and still have plenty of time to sample soups and mingle with friends, Kreikemeier said about 6:15 p.m. is a good time to show up for the Souper Bowl.
One of the great things about bowl choosing is everyone seems to have a different idea about what the “best” bowls look like.
While observing couples as they select their bowls Ken Kreikemeier said it’s not uncommon to hear one person compliment a bowl only to have their spouse call it ugly.
It all depends on an individual’s perception of beauty.
Ken said he picks whatever bowl strikes his eye. Joan tends to gravitate toward certain colors – blues and greens primarily. “But every once in a while a crazy color will catch my eye,” she said.
One of the bowls in her collection is the Souper Bowl equivalent of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. It was selected by her son after he spotted it toward the end of one event. It hadn’t been picked and seemed like the “wallflower” at a party to him, so the Kreikemeiers brought it home.
She also likes to look for bowls that have a potter’s mark on the bottom.
The Kreikemeiers bring at least two bowls home every year with Joan and Ken acting as volunteers, and usually give at least one away to friends or family. The bowls are so creative, they make great gifts, she said.
From professional artists to elementary school students, volunteers are recruited to make and decorate bowls every year. Most are fired clay in all sizes and designs. Some are shallow while others are huge and look deep enough to hold at least a liter of soup.
“Some get so creative I can’t imagine eating a bowl of soup out of them,” Joan said.
There was one year, perhaps eight years ago, Joan estimates, that organizers were unable to get people to make enough bowls in time for the event, so that year they supplemented premade bowls and just had people decorate them. Those bowls were so popular with some people, a certain number are still decorated and made available for the benefit.
The bowls are a big selling point for the Souper Bowl, but there’s also plenty to look forward to in the culinary aspect of the event. Joan, who is in charge of recruiting restaurants to donate soups for the benefit, promises some real taste bud tempters this weekend.
A lobster scampi soup on the menu already has her mouth watering in anticipation.
Volunteers started calling restaurants in October and were still working with one last week to narrow down what they will make for the benefit. That’s often the hardest part, Joan said. Some chefs like to hold out to see what others are preparing, while some wait for inspiration to strike.
“They come up with some pretty imaginative names,” she said. But there’s also some duplication with tried and true favorites, such as she crab.
“This year we had four people decide on clam chowder,” Joan said. When that happens, volunteers try to encourage some of the participants to pick another soup, but some are dead set on their first pick, claiming the way they make it will be different and better than the other versions submitted.
“We asked a guy in Georgetown to change and he said, ‘my grandpappy made this clam chowder and that’s what I’m donating.’ ”
In addition to new and creative dishes, there are also annual favorites. The Chocolate and Coffee House at Litchfield Exchange makes a chocolate chili for the event every year, and that pot is always empty by the end of the night, Joan said. While a lot of those who have never tried it before are skeptical at first, they’re usually won over in the end.
“When you taste it, you don’t really taste the chocolate, but you know there’s something unique about it,” she said.
In addition to soup, volunteers will be walking around as usual with specialty breads.
A chance drawing for 19 gift baskets, something that proved successful last year, will also return. Each basket has a different theme and ticket holders can choose which they want a chance at winning.
It’s just one more advantage to an event that’s already too good to miss, according to Joan.
Tickets for the Souper Bowl are $25 in advance or $30 at the door. Advance tickets are available at SCB&T branches in Georgetown and Myrtle Beach, Applewood House of Pancakes, Greenskeeper Florist, the Chocolate & Coffee House, Litchfield Books and the Habitat for Humanity office in Georgetown.
Credit cards are accepted at the Habitat office. Only cash or checks can be used at other locations.