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How soup helped a Seattle author heal from terminal cancer diagnosis

Caroline Wright's "Soup Club" features 80 plant-based soup and stew recipes. #k5evening

SEATTLE — Cookbook author Caroline Wright answers to the nickname “Soup Lady” with pride.

"Chunky soups are my thing,” she said, stirring a pot of Golden Borscht.

It’s one of 80 plant-based soup and stew recipes in her latest cookbook “Soup Club.”

"Making soup specifically is just sort of this magical thing," she said. "It's just taking disparate ingredients that are one thing, and then with time and the right proportions they turn into something completely different and I think that's so cool."

But Wright is also the first to admit, some ingredients can't be measured.

"I think soup is more a mood and a feeling. It is meditative,” she said. "It sounds really cheesy, but I do think love is part of it."

Wright learned her techniques at La Varenne Culinary School outside Paris. But her unique appreciation of soup — and what it can represent — came later.

At age 32, she was the mom of two young boys and moved with her family to Seattle. She started getting headaches. The results of an MRI changed everything.

"I was diagnosed with a glioblastoma, which is an incurable brain cancer,” she said. “Very, very aggressive, very rare."

Doctors gave her — at most — a year to live.

"While I was in that state, I'm the cook of the house. And I was eating takeout and we couldn't keep up,” she said. “Everyone asked how to help, and I asked for soup. We put a cooler out front, and it filled up, three times a day, for months. Months."

The cooler was filled by friends and strangers. Their soup kept her family fed and, for Wright, nourished something deeper. She realized there's a difference between being "cured" and healing.

"Curing is what healthy people think of as healing. But curing, you can't really control. But you can control whether you're healed from your experience, and there's always healing possible even if your timeline is short,” Wright said.

When the end of her year came, something remarkable happened. Wright beat the odds.

“I'm cancer-free! I am!” she said. “I've been cancer-free for fiveyears… I feel so grateful to be around and just watch (my kids) grow up."

Wright has devoted herself to paying it forward.

She started with "Soup Club," the activity — she makes and delivers soup every week to those who supported her.

Then, she turned those recipes into the cookbook. It shares her stories, features artwork and poetry from friends who brought her soup, and showcases the alchemy of tangible ingredients with heartfelt preparation.

"I really do feel that making soup is almost as comforting as eating soup,” she said.

Most people will never experience what Wright has been through. But everyone sometimes needs comfort.

She hopes her recipes will be a place to start.

"I just really hope that people feel taken care of,” Wright said. "There really is always hope."

Wright is also running a Soup Stand (in the spirit of a lemonade stand) at Book Larder in Seattle, to raise money for the Glioblastoma Foundation. It will be open on May 14 and 21 from noon – 3 p.m.

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