- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Every Monday, Sara Polon chops mountains of vegetables and wrestles with 50-pound bags of lentils and other fresh local ingredients and turns them into hot soups. By midweek, she delivers her product to dozens of homes and offices around the District.

On a cold winter’s day, there is nothing like a container of Kumbaya Winter Vegetable or the Audacity of Nutty Sweet Potato showing up at your door to save the day, or at least dinner. Ms. Polon is, after all, Soupergirl.

Ms. Polon started Soupergirl in November, a few months after realizing she wanted to be part of the local food movement. The former tech executive, stand-up comedian and travel consultant says she would have been a farmer, but she doesn’t “look good in overalls.”

“A friend said to me, ‘Soup,’ ” Ms. Polon recalls. ” ‘You and your mom make really good soup.’ I have always wanted to do something on my own. I had been looking for an idea that involved nutrition and healthy living.”

Soon, a business was born, and Soupergirl has 75 to 100 regular customers. Ms. Polon and her mom, Marilyn, make two soups a week (one smooth, one hearty) which people order via her Web site, www.the soupergirl.com. Pints are $6.75, quarts are $12.75. For a small delivery charge, Soupergirl will deliver to the door. Pickups also are available at various locations around town, including Balance Studio in Bethesda and the Fishbowl at George Washington University.

“We have a growing group of loyal people who really appreciate getting the food every week,” says Ms. Polon, who also offers whole-wheat pita chips and brownies for sale. “We feel really good about what we are doing. We are encouraging people to eat local products and eat healthfully. We are making a slow and steady difference.”

Jennifer Loukissas has been a Soupergirl customer since its start. She says she looks forward to her delivery every week.

“I had a baby in May, and since then, my time for cooking has completely evaporated,” Ms. Loukissas says. “It is wonderful to have at least one night of the week covered. I really liked this week’s soups - Soupdog Millionaire and the Curious Case of Lentil Apricot. They are very different, but equally yummy.”

The recipe adaptations usually come from Marilyn Polon, but Sara Polon comes up with the catchy (even kitschy) soup names. There have been Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin and Split Pea, Farmer’s Market in a Bowl, Party-Starting Black-Eyed Pea and Funky Greens, and the Prettiest Red Lentil Soup East of the Mississippi.

A detailed “story” about each soup is on the Web site, and customers can leave comments.

“This is where my comedy background comes in,” Ms. Polon says. “I let the soup ideas marinate in my head.”

Being in the soup business has been a learning process for Ms. Polon, who has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania but no prior food experience.

“We’re not trained chefs,” she says, including her mother. “We are just two gals who like to cook. It’s homemade soup. We’re not Citronelle. We’re learning what we like and don’t like.”

Ms. Polon says start-up costs were about $10,000 for a business license, required food-service training, kitchen equipment and the Web site. Soupergirl rents space in the small kitchen of a Northwest restaurant to prepare more than 100 quarts of soups on Monday and Tuesday. Any leftovers go to Martha’s Table, a District nonprofit that helps needy women and children.

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