I recently had the opportunity to talk with Misha otherwise know as “The Soup Lady” at The Extension. Misha has been faithfully serving up “one hit wonder” pots of soup for our guys for the past fifteen years. I asked her how her journey at The Extension started and how she became known as “The Soup Lady.”
“When my husband Chad and I were first married, we were involved with a small group at a local church. They had a group that came the second Friday of every month to serve dinner at The Extension. The budget was being overspent, and I bet the team that I could cook tasty, healthy food each month for the guys at a cost of $50 or less.
I didn’t want to feed the guys anything I would not feed my own family and I wanted to give them as much nutrition as possible. Nutrition is important and you can cook fresh and healthy food that is also affordable. At the time it was winter, and The Extension was operating as a cold weather shelter, and so soup was a logical choice. I won that friendly bet and was able to deliver enough food and stay on budget. It became about how I could take a protein, each month and stretch it into something that could become a one-pot meal. Even though the economy has changed and depending on what is in the pantry, the bread on the shelf, and what is on sale at local supermarkets, I’ve thankfully always been able to make a huge pot of soup for all the guys, some alumni, even visiting guests, all for just under $50. And that’s how I became known as “The Soup Lady.” While it started as a friendly bet, in the years since, our family has asked God to honor our commitment to serve and on a budget.”
I’ve seen a lot of our residents helping you with your food preparation. How did that come to be?
“The church small group eventually stopped coming, but our family decided it would keep sponsoring the meals out of our own household budget and $50 was the agreed upon monthly amount. Little by little, we also lost our network of volunteers that were helping us prepare and serve. Also, before long, I started having babies and my husband would need to stay home to watch them while I came and cooked for the guys. Then, it was just little ole me cooking for nearly 50 guys! I told the guys that they were going to have to start lending a hand on my night if they wanted to eat before bedtime. Over the years, I’ve had amazing help from the residents. We’ve shared cooking and health tips, and have talked about our families, faith, and love of spicy food!
At first, I was called “The Spicy Soup Lady” and then it got shortened. I am from New Mexico and cook with a very unique style. Most of my frame of reference for cooking is southwestern, so a lot of the guys love my food because it is spicy. Some of the guys have shared with me that what brought them to The Extension also numbed their taste buds. They needed hot sauce on everything just to be able to even taste it.”
What keeps you coming back?
“My Mom saw me going through an intense season with my young children being ill and having special needs. She encouraged me to stop volunteering. I told her that I couldn’t imagine not coming each month. I don’t ever want our family to become like the Dead Sea. If you know anything about the Dead Sea, nothing flows in or out of it and I did not want us to be that way. Even though there are so many needs in our own household, my husband and I want to be able to continue to volunteer and serve where we can—it’s always great when Chad can come and serve with me. Serving at The Extension is more than a monthly commitment. It has been used by God to help keep our hope intact. I know that sounds outrageous—of course our hope is in the Lord. For me, if I stayed in our home, with all that intensity happening without serving and cooking for the guys, I just don’t think I would have been able to be fully me. It is a wonderful escape for me even for a couple of hours, one day a month, to go and love others. Even though life has gotten intense, I’ve probably missed fewer than eight Extension visits in fifteen years. If I know I’m going to miss, I call Barb and reschedule for another day during the month.”
Serving the guys at The Extension is something I treasure. I am called to love God and love others and it has given me an opportunity to do just that. I don’t have to spend a lot of money or a lot of time. It has been a gift to me, not just being able to serve the guys, but being able to watch them grow, and change and develop friendships. It is mutual because I get to have great conversations with people who are healing. I also love to see the transformation of the guys from the first time they get a bowl of soup from me to their last meal before they graduate. I like to be on the front row of the transformation process. So that keeps me coming back because I get to see God at work.” Thank you, to Misha and her family for their faithful service to The Extension. Our residents certainly look forward to seeing “The Soup Lady” each and every month!”