Adele Elliott: Soup kitchen

November 14, 2009 7:02:00 PM

Adele Elliott - [email protected]


Our world is so very full of need. It is overwhelming, trying to understand the vastness of poverty and suffering. Humans everywhere (and voiceless animals) are hurting. Sometimes scarcities are created by war, or natural disaster, or the unwise actions of a government. Misery may be the direct result of choices made by those most in distress. However, the causes hardly matter when the results are tragic and immense. 


Most of us wish there were something we could do. Perhaps the best way to manage a burdensome problem is to divide it into small parts. One basic, weighty issue is hunger. Once again, seemingly insurmountable. Well, hunger in our small part of the world may be a bit easier to affect. 


Recently, members of our business community, along with private donors, joined forces for Empty Bowls, an event that combined food, art and generosity. 


On a perfect autumn afternoon, the lawn in front of Brickerton was abundant with volunteers serving soup and soft drinks. The charming band "Hamburger Hobos" performed. But attendees were not the beneficiaries of the fundraiser. Guests purchased handmade pottery bowls ($10 each), which were filled with a rich minestrone, prepared and served by volunteer chefs from Mississippi University for Women''s Culinary Arts Department. 


Proceeds (more than $6,000!) went to Loaves and Fishes (a secular, grassroots movement designed to end hunger) and to Global Connections (an organization working to create goodwill, bring together people of diverse cultures and enhance awareness of a wider global community). 


Empty Bowls was organized by The W''s whirlwind professor of ceramics, Al Holen. She hit this town at the beginning of the 2008 fall semester with her limitless energy and a high- powered personality. 


The groundwork actually began many months ago, when artists, students, and citizens of all sorts gathered to make pots. Chris and I, and a ton of new friends, had a great time squishing soft clay into bowl-like shapes. "The only criteria," Al instructed, "is to make a form that will hold soup." Easier said than done. 


Chris tried his hand at the wheel, while I stuck to hand-built, leaf-like shapes. (It''s more believable to describe a piece as free-form by adding the explanation, "But, I wanted it to look like that.") Eventually, and with a great deal of help from advanced art students, more than 500 bowls were created. 


We met so many of our friends Saturday while sitting at the long tables set under white tents. Some we planned to meet, some were serendipitous encounters. It was one of those days when no one wanted to be inside. My husband and I bought five bowls. (Don''t worry, we did not eat five bowls of soup.) They will make great Christmas gifts, that is, if we can force ourselves to part with any of them. 


The Empty Bowls event was too short. We could have stayed longer, even though we did not want to miss Decorative Arts at The Trotter, or the Kappa Pi art auction later that evening. We even managed to squeeze in an estate sale in our neighborhood. 


It was a day to feel really good; happy for the lovely weather, the warm soup, and comfort in the idea that we helped hungry humans just a little. (I wonder if this would work for animals, as well?) Once in a while, enormous problems can be contained in a vessel as small as a bowl, and held, almost weightless, in your hands.

Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.