Inspiration from the Mother-in-Law’s Kitchen
The founder of 100 Bowls of Soup, Katharine Mardirosian, had never tasted fresher, more flavorful soup than she had in her Romanian mother-in-law’s kitchen, which is barely able to fit a small table (which also serves as her only counter) and two stools.
When asked for recipes, her mother-in-law would likely give a shrug and a vague description at best. The crevices and lines in her well-worn hands contained the recipes of the daily food she prepared from scratch. Rarely, if ever, did she allow anyone to help her. She considered everyone—even family—as guests.
Her refrigerator was mostly empty, it contained just some cheese, milk, butter, and maybe a few pieces of fresh meat for the day’s meal. All other staples and vegetables were replenished daily at the piazza and kept in a small, cool pantry closet. In addition, her balcony contained an array of fermented foods including cabbages, cucumbers and peppers. This may be a typical kitchen in an ordinary apartment in the middle of Bucharest, Romania, but it contained a fortune.
The treasure of this kitchen, and many others throughout the world, comes not just from the recipes, but in the practical wisdom of home cooks like Katharine’s mother-in-law who, for generations, cooked flavorful and nourishing food, using methods both practical and sustainable. This wisdom is rooted in a deeper, more intuitive understanding of the relationship between food, health and cultural well-being.
The Next Chapters
After several years working as a business consultant, Katharine took time off to raise her family, start an edible school garden and contemplate her next chapter. Having spent two years in Romania and inspired by her Romanian mother-in-law’s way of cooking with simple, fresh ingredients, which included soup in almost every meal, she found herself making soup every week for her family. Simple vegetable and chicken soups were among their favorites. She started experimenting with different flavors and recipes, learned about seasonal cooking, and got to know local farmers, suppliers and artisans.
In 2009, Katharine launched 100 Bowls of Soup with the idea of sharing simple, nourishing soups and broths with friends and family. She began by cooking soup in a local church kitchen and selling it at several artisanal food stores and the Reston Farmer’s Market. Then she moved to a shared commercial kitchen space at Maple Avenue Market in Vienna.
In 2015, the company’s continued growth begged for more kitchen space, and Katharine opened the dedicated kitchen in Herndon, VA. The concept was simple: create an open kitchen where customers could see, smell and taste the ingredients used and the soups and broths that were cooking.
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