(… And a recipe for a no-fuss fall soup to make at home.)
Gathering around a table to share a warm midmorning snack is an essential part of the preschool and kindergarten day at Marin Waldorf School. Each of our five classrooms have their own weekly menus for morning snack, and the children learn to recognize the days of the week by the food they share at school: Wednesday is “rice and beans day,” Thursday is “honey bun day” and so on. Soup day is special among them—a warming, handmade meal that all the children love. In fact, vegetable soup is the one snack that all five classrooms make every week of the year!
“Soup is a class community project, where everyone contributes by bringing a vegetable from home and then together transforms it into something that nourishes us all,” says Ms. Greta, lead teacher in the Manzanita mixed-age kindergarten classroom.
Tuesdays are soup day in the Manzanita room. Which means that every Tuesday children bring a fresh vegetable from home and then, together with teachers Ms. Greta and Mr. Rod, our 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old students use paring knives, crinkle cutters, and wooden cutting boards to help chop the vegetables into bite-size pieces for soup.
Added to a pot of browning celery, onion, and garlic, the vegetables are transformed into a colorful, aromatic, and warming autumn soup, which the children share with their teachers at snack time (and it makes plenty of leftovers for Thursday, too, which Ms. Greta tells us are “even tastier!”).
“It’s real work in the real world,” says Peggy Rock, our early childhood coordinator and a veteran kindergarten teacher. Part of that real work is using real tools, including small paring knives that fit in their hands and are sharpened to cut, a very good way to develop fine motor skills. “Children are more capable than you think,” says Peggy. “They may get a few ‘learning cuts,’ but that teaches them to respect the tool and learn to use it.”
Plus, she tells us, “Making the soup means you enjoy it more. It smells wonderful and it’s magical.”
Manzanita teacher Ms. Greta agrees. “It is practical work with their hands,” she says. “The children have a vested interest in something they’ve made themselves.” In fact, many parents are amazed that their sometimes picky children will enthusiastically fill up on two or three bowls of vegetable soup at school.
Making soup with a young child is a wonderful way to spend an autumn afternoon at home, and the soup we make is super simple and incredibly versatile. Remember, we make it with whatever combination of vegetables the children bring to school — from mushrooms to eggplant to broccoli. Use whatever you have at home.
And, remember, of course, that the most important ingredient is love!
Warming Autumn Soup
(adapted from the Hollyhock kindergarten and Manzanita kindergarten soup recipe)
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
3-4 stalks celery
1 tbsp sea salt, plus more to taste
1 tbsp Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or tamari
10 cups of seasonal vegetables, chopped bite-size* (see note)
2 tsp fresh or dried herbs
16-18 cups filtered water
* At Marin Waldorf School, we make soup with a wide and wholly unplanned selection of vegetables, which are contributed by our parents. Carrot, broccoli, mushroom, potatoes, corn, kale, or spinach are delicious, but we find more atypical soup veggies work just as well. Try beets, parsnip, cauliflower, eggplant, or sweet potato.
Optional: cooked rice, beans, garbanzo beans
- Work with your child to chop small pieces of carrot, potato, and other veggies you have at home. An adult should chop the onions, garlic, and celery.
- Heat the oil in a large stockpot pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
- Add the onion, celery, and carrots (if using) to the soup pot and stir until golden, about 15 minutes
- Add remaining vegetables and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes
- Add water then turn the heat to high and let the soup come to a slow boil
- Put the lid on the pot and turn the heat off. Let the soup rest until serving.
- Serve a ladleful of soup in each bowl, topped with Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast. Serve with bread or crackers.
Warm homemade snacks are a part of daily rhythm in our preschool and kindergarten programs, one of the many details that make our classrooms feel like home. With homemade vegetable soup, you make home feel a bit more like school too!