The Fragrance of Soup and Song

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Many of you are, no doubt, familiar with the concept of a house concert. For those who aren’t, it is exactly what the name implies: hosts invite friends and neighbors over, and a songwriter-artist plays a concert in their home. I have been doing more and more of these events the past couple of years and I find them to be extremely rewarding in terms of their informality, intimacy, and relaxed environment. Something magically simple happens when the stage is forfeited and the “show” is taken out of the show.

Imagine twenty or so folks in a large church sanctuary where they, as well as every ounce of their energy, are swallowed in the empty space between the person onstage and the chasm of vacant seats in the room. Now, plop that same number of people in a living room, perhaps put a glass of merlot or cup of coffee in their hand, and what you get is a concert setting as intimate and laid back as if the songs were being written right before your very eyes. I adore this about house shows: stories are told, connections are made, something warm, hospitable, magical and direct happens, and, from my perspective at least, I feel the freedom to be my typically squirrelly self. And surely everyone wants to see that spectacle.

Recently, I participated in a winter retreat at which I filled a small speaking role, led a few hymns, caught up with old, dear friends, and made some new ones. What made this retreat distinct (for me) was that I cooked lunch for the twelve or so participants. Early on in the event’s planning and unsure of how it would go over, I had offered to cook shrimp and corn soup, a recipe rooted deep in my upbringing. So, before arriving, I forwarded a list of necessary ingredients to the hostess, she graciously went to the grocery beforehand, and I showed up in the venue’s kitchen, tracked down a cutting board, knives, stirring spoons, and whatever bowls I could root out from the cupboards, and I began the work of prepping lunch. Every second of it was enjoyable, even the tears caused by the necessary slicing of onions. (Note: music must always be broadcast when chopping diabolical vegetables.)

Two hours later, long after suffusing the halls’ air with the scalding bouquet of a peanut butter-colored roux, like a meek six-year-old who’d just colored a picture for his dad and was hopeful for a broad smile in response, I helped serve bowls of steaming hot soup garnished with green onions, and side plates of salad to the guests. Wary that I’d made the soup too spicy for this particular assemblage of midwesterners, I could only hope for the best, that it would be at minimum mildly agreeable, perhaps even delightful to the palates present. Being a male of south Louisiana heritage, I tend to prefer my food altogether flavorful and not at all fat-free. Life is too short and too challenging for drab, flavorless food; as long as I live, there will be no excuse for it. There, I said it. Polite demands for the recipe led me to believe my labor was not in vain; this brought me tremendous pleasure.

It was an experience—an involvement!—I hope to replicate more often in as many homes and on as many retreats as hosts will have me. Life is way too short to partake of bland sustenance. I can only hope the songs I write and the art I dabble in fits that same expression.

[Click here for information on booking a show (and soup) in your own home or community.]

Eric Peters, affectionately called “Pappy” by those who love him, is the grand old curmudgeon of the Rabbit Room. But his small stature and often quiet presence belie a giant talent. He’s a songwriter of the first order, and a catalogue of great records bears witness to it. His last album, Birds of Relocation, blew minds and found its way onto “year’s best” lists all over the country. When he’s not painting, trolling bookstores, or dabbling in photography, he’s touring the country in support of his latest record, Far Side of the Sea.


27 Comments

  1. Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    If you’ve never seen Eric Peters do a house concert, you must. I sat in a dining room in Nebraska a few years ago and watched him bless a roomful of people (including myself), and the only thing that could have made it better was home cooked cajun food.

  2. Peter Paulson

    I believe the standard for chef-musican house shows has been set.

    I’m looking forward to the next opportunity in frozen north of Detroit Lakes MN to taste this spicy southern delicacy (referring to both the infamous Eric Peters as well as the Soup).

  3. Marissa

    Being at an Eric Peters house show certainly is a wonderful experience. I never would have thought it lacking — except now I’m craving that amazing looking soup. If you are ever back in Tucson, I hope we’ll get to try it. The spicier the better!

  4. LauraP

    The Soup was heavenly. As was the music and the fellowship of the gathered. A sweet gift to be fed like that.

  5. Tom Murphy

    Eric, as you know, we are in the works of putting together a Memphis, Little Rock, Dallas, Ft. Worth (and possibly Austin) house show circuit. Thanks for writing this. This captures everything we are working (and praying) to form. You are one of those friends we want to support as lifelong patrons.

    Music (and food) form and deepen community. They are the essence of culture and bind us to one another. Thanks for cultivating our lives with your music (and food – although I’ve never tasted the Cajun goodness)…

  6. PaulH

    Preach the Gospel of Spicy, Eric!

    I can’t imgine you would someday evlove into the likes of that rockin’ chef dude in N.O. who cooks gumbo on stage while he plays Zydeco-Blues.

  7. Loren Warnemuende

    This is lovely on so many levels…and I’m drooling. Recipe? Or does that only come with house shows? If so, I need to get working… 🙂

  8. Ashley

    I love that this happened and wish we’d been able to stay for this portion of that weekend!

  9. JamaRowena

    I agree with Nicole! Would love it if you posted the recipe! My stomach is growling. 🙂
    And yes, there is nothing like a ceilidh!!!

  10. Barb

    The soup? Spicy and sweet, with a punch of liveliness and yet soothing too- just like the creator! EP house shows? Spicy and sweet, lively and soothing…. Can’t wait for him to my residence and shower us with that which makes us smile! Thanks EP!

  11. Joel Hendley

    Eric, I just wanted to reiterate again how much we loved the house show last year. Even though you were feeling a little under the weather, the show was amazing and getting to spend time with you and your wife was remarkable.

    Next time I’m proposing that you come for lunch before the show and help us enjoy your culinary concoctions!

  12. Jennifer

    You’ve whetted my appetite for both the songs and the soup! Are you going to be at the ‘Moot? (Like others, I would like the recipe…if it isn’t a family secret.)

  13. Zack

    Eric, I love your songs and shows of all kinds, and having you make your soup as well would be immersive. I hope I can be at one of these someday soon.

  14. Lyn

    Eric, I was one of the lucky guests who was lucky enough to experience you role in the retreat! The shrimp and corn soup was fabulous!!!! But having your presence, friendship, music and art was a blessing. Thanks for coming!

  15. Chris

    Great post. My wife and I were at a party this evening and as we left, we talked about how it would be a perfect place for a house concert.

    My family did a little trip across the states 2 years ago. We wanted to show the kids where we met and tell them stories of our dating, courtship and early marriage in the places we lived it out. We partly paid our way across (and back) by offering house concerts and I found that a lot of people didn’t quite get the idea.

    But the places it did fly were quite nice. I find it takes people (me included) a while to wade through a bit of awkwardness in settings like that. But if you stop fighting and settle in, the simple things always work their magic. Food, drink, music, stories, friends…what’s better?

  16. Jess

    Would somebody please post something else on here? Because every time I come to the Rabbit Room I am greeted by that picture of soup, which is killing me. So yummy looking.

  17. Tony Heringer

    EP, I love the house concert concept and even more so when served up with some good food. We have hosted a Christmas caroling party for many years now and hearty food is a staple of that event. It’s so much fun to gather together and share stories and life together. Then to add music to the event, whether in a house concert format, gathered round a piano (I attended a neighborhood party were the hosts had moved e their upright into the cul de sac) or house to house bringing tidings of great joy is a whole other level. Makes me imagine how great the Wedding Feast of the Lamb will be…Maranatha and laissez les bons temps rouler!

  18. Caleb

    @Tom Murphy
    I’d like some info on those DFW shows, please. I’m even willing to consider my house (in HEB) as a possible location if you’re looking. My living room could seat 30 or so pretty comfortably. I went to a Fort Worth show (though not a house concert) last year with family and friends and had such a good time! Definitely a highlight of last year.

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