So this happened: I am walking down Main Street in Vineyard Haven looking for soup. I’m on my lunch break and I’m running out of time. I am craving soup, but I’ve been from one end of the street to the other (with side spurts) and nary a vegetarian soup is on the menu anywhere today. True, it is inconvenient that I am a vegetarian, but I can’t just change that up because the clock is running. If I had been out and about a little earlier, I’d have had more luck (at least one shop had a spicy tomato bisque, now gone), but it is now past two.

About to give up and eat a bagel, I see my friend Fae alighting her bicycle in the middle of a nearly empty Main Street (the bike racks really are in the middle of the road). She looks like she has stepped out of a Woody Allen movie, layers of handsome black and grey fabrics billowing around her gorgeous silver hair and chrome bike. In reality, she’s just gotten off from work at Stina Sayre Design, and I downshift my pace just enough to say hello and explain my mission to her.

“I’m looking for soup. Vegetarian.”

“Here,” she says. “I have soup in my backpack. Vegetarian soup. In a mason jar. It’s for you; I want you to have it. I made it with some of the veggies I bought at your farm stand. I’m calling it Wake-Up Soup.”

Susie Middleton

She hands me the mason jar over my protestations that I can’t take her lunch out of her backpack. “I have more,” she says, jumping on her bike and blowing me a kiss as she pedals away.

Now listen, I’ve been writing this food column for three years and never once have I said, “Only on the Vineyard.” So you’ll have to forgive me this precious cliché this one time. Because honestly, where else on earth would you be walking down the street, trying to conjure up your ideal lunch, and run randomly into a friend who not only has just the thing you’re looking for (in a mason jar…in her backpack…on her bike), but has made this lunch from things you have grown in your own garden.

Back at work, I drink the hot soup and count the veggies in my head that Fae has put into her beloved Vitamix. And I think about how much I love soup.

I know I’m not alone. In fact, I think Islanders are kind of obsessed with soup, especially in winter. I recently went to a soup party in honor of cookbook author Kathy Gunst’s new book, Soup Swap. There were so many people and so many pots of soup in the kitchen that there was barely room to shake a wooden spoon. The concept is pretty cool: you make some soup and bring along mason jars or other containers to the party. You enjoy different soups at the party, then you get to take home a few to eat throughout the week. It didn’t surprise me that my Vineyard friends and acquaintances took to this concept so easily – there’s a ridiculously high proportion of excellent home cooks on this Island and they’re not afraid to fire up their stoves and show off their skills.

The next best thing to having a soup swap party (check out Kathy’s book for guidelines and delicious recipes) is to head for the Ag Hall on Saturday mornings (through December) and enjoy a cup of soup at the Winter Farmers’ Market. Sit in front of the roaring fire, listen to live music, and catch up with friends. Then shop for your favorite winter veggies to make your own soup at home.

Two of my very favorite winter vegetables are leeks and cauliflower, and I’ve made endless variations of “winter white” soups with these ingredients over the years. (Until I moved to the Vineyard, I’d never seen leeks like the three-foot-long wonders that Morning Glory Farm grows!) But I have to say the one I’ve included here is darn good. I ate the entire batch myself over three nights. I just wish I had made it for the soup swap party – and saved some for my friend Fae! I still have her mason jar, so I’ll have to make another batch.

The following recipe was originally published along with this article:

“Creamy” Cauliflower and Leek Soup