Soup’s on!

“Mm-m, Mm-m, good. Mm-m, Mm-m good.” Many people can hum the familiar jingle or know the tag line originating in the 1930s from the popular soup company with the red and white label. Soup not only tastes good, but is good for us, especially during the cold and dark winter. We welcome the warm steam and aromas as they swirl around us.

Now is a good time to think about soup. January was “National Soup Month” and this upcoming Tuesday is designated as “National Homemade Soup Day.”

Chicken noodle soup is a great old-time standby to combat cold and flu, and who doesn’t enjoy tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich? Oh, but there are so many other choices. The only limits to soup options are one’s imagination. There are so many recipes.

There is a group of ‘souper’ students at Fredonia Central High School. In a class called “Functional Life Skills,” these students and their teachers not only offer scrumptious and healthy soup throughout the year to the Pre-K through Grade 12 staff, they also run the program called “Soup on the Fly” with business savvy.

Marketing, supply and demand projections, purchasing, taking inventory, money management, and even giving back to the community with their profits are some of the practical skills stressed.

“No soup for you!” is not what you would want to hear when walking down the hall or getting ready to place your order at the school. This one-liner, made famous from the old television show “Seinfeld,” humorously portrayed how much people wanted the soup from a particular restaurant and the great lengths they would go to in order to get it.

Senior student Deanna DeGolier and Kristin Tomaszewski, life skills teacher, recently shared information about the program as well as some special recipes. Would you want to miss out on their specialty soups? Some of them are chicken noodle soup, carrot ginger, zippy chicken mushroom soup, sausage tortellini, jambalaya, chicken tortilla, gumbo, broccoli cheese, pasta fagioli, butternut squash, Italian wedding, tomato, and creamy potato soups.

The interdisciplinary approach of “Soup on the Fly” makes the class and program great. There are the obvious cooking skills that go way beyond boiling some water for some macaroni and cheese out of the box. These students are learning to use ingredients such as olive oil, white pepper, garlic, cumin, lemon, diced onion, thyme, tarragon, tortellini, stewed tomatoes, long grain rice, peppers, and mushrooms. They shop for the food, and at certain times of the year use truly fresh and organic produce from their own garden. Along with other grade levels that also have gardens, the Life Skills class has grown potatoes, carrots, and various herbs such as parsley and chives. An elementary class may plant a whole bed of onions this next season to be used in future soups.

Opening a bank account, balancing a checkbook, and filling out time sheets are just some of the other skills developed in this student run business. The students practice money management and accounting through running a small business. They analyze market demands to decide which soups to offer. They price their product according to the fluctuating costs of ingredients. They market their product through creative advertising. They learn what makes good customer service. They organize fundraisers, one of which was selling special bowls. In its fourth year of business, many teachers still use the bowls when placing their soup orders. Another project was a soup cookbook and such deals as gift certificate booklets and soup club memberships with punch-cards.

The students are also a shining example of “giving back” to the community through donations from their profits. The Children’s Hospital, Special Olympics, local cancer patients, an FHS alumna who lost her home in Hurricane Sandy, the Ace for Chase, and scholarships to graduating seniors, both with and without disabilities have all benefited from donations by this class.

No doubt, the skills learned transfer to work and life abilities. Deanna said that beyond them, there is the added benefit of team work. She said that classmates from throughout the school also volunteer.

“We all work better as a team. I like it when we work together for one goal,” she said. Currently a member of Harvest Chapel, one of Deanna’s goals for the future is to be a Special Education Youth Pastor, where people focus on the abilities of others rather than their disabilities.

“National Homemade Soup Day” is almost here. Consider making some of your own. The process of cutting fresh vegetables and steaming up your kitchen is therapeutic. Better than that, the soup made at home is healthier.

Not to be a “soup snob,” but canned soup is loaded with sodium. According to medicalnewstoday.com, which cites the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the average sodium intake of Americans is 3,400 mg. per day; 75 percent of which comes from processed and packaged foods. It is recommended that people have less than 2,300 mg. per day and only 1,500 for those over 50 years of age. Too much sodium is believed to contribute to cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. It also makes economic sense to make a big pot of soup that can be enjoyed for several days. It can be as simple as some chicken breast, carrots, celery, onion, rice, and some spices.

Make it a good week with some tasty and satisfying homemade soup. Soup’s on!

Mary Burns Deas writes weekly for the OBSERVER. Direct comments to lifestyles@observertoday.com