EatingOxford: Filling Empty Bowls This Valentine’s Day

When I asked Pantry board member, Barbara Smith, to explain the inspiration behind the organization’s annual Empty Bowl’s fundraiser, she shared the following parable with me.

“There’s a story about a man who left this earth and was taken on a tour of the inner realms,” she said. “He was shown a room where he saw a large group of hungry people trying to eat dinner, but because the spoons that they were trying to eat with were longer than their arms, they remained frustrated, not being able to reach the spoons to their mouths. ‘This,’ his guide told him, ‘is hell.’ ‘That’s terrible,’ exclaimed the man. ‘Please show me heaven!’ ‘Very well,’ agreed the guide, and on they went. When they opened heaven’s door, the man was perplexed to see what looked very much like the same scene: There was a group of people with spoons longer than their arms. But as he looked more closely, he saw happy faces and full tummies, for there was one important difference: the people in heaven had learned how to feed each other.”

Much like the parable shared above, Smith said that here on Earth, we can also learn to feed each other.

Now celebrating its 13th year, the annual Empty Bowls Pantry Fundraiser will be held on Valentine’s Day, Tuesday, Feb. 14, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Oxford Conference Center at 102 Ed Perry Boulevard. (The event has been held at the OU Methodist Church in the past, but the church is currently undergoing renovation.)

“We will have an abundance of parking spaces, a great choice of soups and bread donated by our generous restaurants and, of course, beautiful bowls donated by the UM Mud Daubers and local artists,” Smith said.

Your $20 admission fee includes a handmade bowl of your choosing, a bowl of soup, piece of bread and water.

“The bowls are a reminder of the meal’s purpose…that someone’s bowl is always empty,” Smith said.

The annual Empty Bowls fundraiser is one of the best ways for the all-volunteer-staffed Pantry to raise money, according to Smith.

“We are funded by our annual fundraiser luncheon, community organizations, food drives and individual donations,” Smith said. “Individual churches and civic groups volunteer on a monthly basis to service the client distribution of groceries, and last year we fed 1,000 individuals per month, on average.”

Mark your calendars and join your neighbors for a Valentine’s Day lunch that is sure to fill your belly with delicious soup and your heart with the joy of giving.

The Soups!

If you’re wondering about the soup lineup, you can’t go wrong. No matter which soup you choose, it’s guaranteed to be delicious and served with love.

• Ajax — Chicken and Sausage Gumbo and Cornbread
• Boure’ — Steak and Potato
• Camp Lake Stephens — Taco Soup
• Country Club of Oxford –Seafood Chowder
• Fat Eddie’s — Pasta e Fagioli
• Grit, A&N Catering — Vegetarian Minestrone
• James Food Center, Mayor Pat Patterson –Lots of Chicken and Rice Soup
• Lenora’s — Chili
• McAlister’s Deli — Parmesan Kale and Turkey Sausage
• McEwen’s — Zuppa Toscana
• Newk’s — Chicken Tortilla –
• No Time 2 Cook — Shrimp and Crab Bisque
• Oby’s — Broccoli and Cheese Soup
• Old Venice Pizza Company — Chicken Noodle
• Oxford University Club — Chicken Gumbo
• Proud Larry’s — Chicken Florentine
• Rafters — Gumbo
• Ravine — Sweet Potato Bisque
• Saint Leo – parmesan rind broth soup with kale, white beans and croutons.
• Taylor Catering — Jambalaya and Cheesy Potato Soup
• The Main Event Catering — Indian Lentil/Tomato
• Volta — Soul Soup

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Liz Barrett Foster is the EatingOxford editor for, an award-winning business journalist and author of the recently published Pizza: A Slice of American History. Liz ran the popular restaurant information site from 2009 to 2015. Liz can be reached at

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