As a former soup entrepreneur, I couldn't help but notice the table at Baltimore's downtown Sunday morning farmers market from which Eula McDowell was selling various kinds of bean soup in jars. My original interest was about the prospect of doing a post for Unique Culinary Adventures relating to a kind of business where I'd actually had some personal experience. A couple weeks later, Eula and I met to talk about it all at the Woodlawn home she shares with her husband Marvin and their two young sons. When we finished, she gave me a still hot 32 ounce jar of her "Black-Eyed Peas w/Smoked Turkey" soup to try when I got home. Within a half hour, I'd scooped some into a bowl with a large spoon, and the taste took over.
With a flavor profile to die for, I found that black eyed pea with smoked turkey soup to be delicious beyond comprehension, completely superior to any other black-eyed peas based delight I'd ever tasted. It was just one from a line of numerous bean themed soups that Eula sells at the farmers market. They include navy bean with smoked turkey, black bean with shrimp, navy bean with vegetables, split peas with turkey ham, and lentil with onions. Soon, the business of "Savory Soups from Eula's Cuisine" will be reaching a new level.
At present, Eula is in the final stages of arranging to have a black-eyed peas with vegetables soup and a navy bean with vegetables soup commercially produced at the Mama Vida's facility in Randallstown. From there, she'll begin making the rounds to stores like Eddie's and Graul's, various cafes, and wherever else high-end gourmet products can be brought in free from the obstacle courses posed upon small producers by the big chains and their distributors. By bringing her soups to market in jars rather than frozen or in cans, Eula will be something of a pioneer. The idea, she explains, is to showcase them in a way where customers will be able to first perceive visually what they'll be serving and enjoying. Assuming everything goes according to schedule, the first run will happen just as the farmers market closes down for 2007 in late December. That leaves four opportunities remaining for anyone to taste these soups and purchase them as prepared by Eula herself in a commercial kitchen not far from her home.
As Eula tells it, the commercial production of these two soups is little more than a beginning. Many dozens of soups, spreads, salads, and pastes are already on the drawing board, and Eula has already trademarked a name for the bean themed shop/bistros she envisions. As we speak, I find myself constantly interrupting to bring her back to the present. And with each interruption, it occurs to me how much greater the commercial success of my own past line of soups might have been if launched from a table for the crowd at the farmers market rather than for the masses at a cannery.