Winter is a time for giving.
Whether it’s knitting a sweater, baking cookies, or sending a letter, everyone has something they can give.
For Tania Schmidt, that something is the gift of homemade soup.
What once began eight years ago as a small gesture for those coming to college after high school, Schmidt—Winona State University’s Senior Associate Registrar—wanted to brew her idea into something more.
Since then, Schmidt takes note when she notices a student who might need some help.
Then she offers to make them soup.
You have to be observant. During finals week, students are often struggling for money because they’ve bought Christmas gifts, their rent is due—all those things.
There’s also a need for being sensitive, thoughtful, and intentional when talking about it:
“You don’t want to hear from somebody that you look food insecure,” she said. “But you can be observant enough to see this.”
Schmidt has shared around 25 pots of soups, from chicken noodle to broccoli cheddar.
She buys pots from Goodwill and uses the ingredients she has available to provide homemade meals and a sense of comfort to students.
For those who would love to try it out themselves, Schmidt said it’s all about using what you have.
On a day when my house has a lot of potatoes, you are probably going to get potato soup. That’s the thing about soup: it’s very homemade, and it’s very fresh.
When students are finished with their soup, Schmidt tells them to keep the container, so they’re able to experiment with cooking their own.
Another option, she said, is to bring it back and Schmidt will get started on another batch for them. Sometimes Schmidt can go months without getting a pot back, but other times she will have multiple pots being returned for more soup.
Schmidt uses her passion for cooking to give back to others, but not everyone is interested in cooking. Schmidt described how giving back is all about finding the things you are good at and passionate about and sharing them with others.
For me, making soup is a little thing. For others, it might be a full-day project because they aren’t soup makers by nature, but you can do other things that make a difference.
For those interested in finding a way to give to others, Schmidt has a few suggestions:
- Find your passion. Whether it’s to cook a meal, make a blanket, or write a letter. Then use what you have. Find things around your house you can use to create.
- Start small. Talk to your friends, families, colleagues, and professors to see who could use some help.
If donating soup is something that’s pulling at your heart to try, here’s a recipe to get started with:
Tania Schmidt’s Recipe for Cream of Mushroom Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-pint mushrooms (sliced and diced small)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cups whole milk (or plant milk)
- Chicken or veggie broth
- In a stock pot, heat the olive oil.
- Sautee the mushrooms and onions. Cover and place on low heat until they’re soft (about 10 minutes). Remove the mushrooms from the pot and melt the butter.
- Whisk in the flour. It will get chunky as it absorbs the butter.
- On medium heat, slowly pour but energetically whisk the milk. This eventually works out the flour. As this heats, it will begin to get thick and smooth like a gravy.
- Add chicken or veggie broth until the soup is the creamy consistency you want.
- Mix the mushrooms back in.
- Add salt, garlic powder, and pepper to taste.
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