Originally founded in Brooklyn, Queer Soup Night provides a space for community, plus some really good soup
Queer Soup Night’s first Sacramento chapter launched March 1 at Solomon’s Delicatessen, where around 60 attendees were served their choice of complimentary matzo ball or mushroom barley soup.
“This is a good turnout, especially for an inaugural trial,” local Queer Soup Night co-coordinator Erin Mahoney said. “It’s hard to predict how things will turn out, but it’s one of those things that’ll grow through word of mouth.”
Chef Liz Alpern originally founded Queer Soup Night in Brooklyn as a response to the 2016 presidential election. It has since expanded into 18 chapters across North America as both a community and fundraiser for queer organizations.
“It’s important to have spaces like this, where people can be with themselves and come to terms with being non-heteronormative,” co-coordinator Valerie Craan said. “Having spaces where there’s representation and others who can empathize is important. Queer Soup Night helps people feel safe and valued in their community.”
To start the Sacramento chapter, Craan reached out to Alpern on social media and worked with Mahoney. Together, they managed the marketing and collected proceeds for the Sacramento LGBT Community Center.
“Liz already connected with Andrea [Lepore], who is the co-owner of Solomon’s, and they met up about dates,” Craan said. “A lot of it was already set up. It was more about getting people to the event.”
Mahoney decided against requiring formal sign-ups or RSVPs to keep things “homier” and avoid newcomers fearing they’d get “spammed by emails.”
“There were a lot of people connecting, and that’s the whole point, sharing a meal with someone and benefiting local nonprofits,” Mahoney said. “Liz arranged it to be for the LGBT Center. They provide a ton of resources to queer, questioning and trans folk.”
Ais Wyatt, a temporary resident from Canada who found out about the event through Facebook, appreciated the opportunity to be represented as someone whose personal pronouns are “they” and “them.”
“If you feel there’s a pronoun that encapsulates who you are, you should use it,” Wyatt said. “Ottawa’s Queer Soup Night has been going on for a while, but I’ve never been able to go since I usually had something going on.”
After eating two bowls of the matzo ball soup with rye bread, Wyatt was tempted to make some of their own.
Ashley Thomas, a queer parent who attended with their gender-neutral child Orion, likewise discovered Queer Soup Night through Facebook.
“The soup is really good. It was a nice excuse for us to go out,” Thomas said, who had matzo ball soup with an order of Solomon’s pastrami knish. “When I go to new spaces, it can be exhausting. It’s nice to be in a queer space because there isn’t that onus to explain yourself constantly.”
Thomas said they believed Queer Soup Night was “a nice event to let your guard down.” They do their best to stay informed about Sacramento’s queer community and keep Orion’s palate diverse.
“I’m pretty big on soup. I think a lot of people consider it as a side dish, but in my house it’s very important,” Thomas said. “I keep chicken feet and carcasses in my freezer and make my own stock. This week, I made minestrone with spinach and squash grown from borrowed backyards.”
For artist Moose Stephenson, the warmth provided from soup and like-minded individuals was just what the doctor ordered.
“I have this awful day job and realize there’s better stuff going on, like the queer community. Weekends are the only time I can experience gayness again,” Stephenson said. “There’s a warm electric feeling when I’m around queer-identifying people, and it feels right to me.”