Try A Relaxing, Tasty ‘Soup Tub’ – April 1, 2012

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Finnish Country Sauna’s Stan Henerson, Ida Gianopoulos, Barbara Henerson and Japhy’s Josh Solomon brew some savory stew. TMc | Eye

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

FIFTH & J STREETS – Adapting to today’s harsh economic conditions requires flexibility and innovation, and two resourceful Arcata businesses have found a synergy that benefits both.

Finnish Country Sauna and Tubs has formed a partnership with Japhy’s Soup Kitchen to offer new “Soup Tubs” out behind Café Mokka at Fifth and J streets. There, three of the Finnish-style hot tubs have been reassigned to tureen duty, offering patrons a relaxing, nutritious and newly flavorful tubbing experience.

“People have always used terms like ‘soothing,’ and ‘refreshing’ to describe what we offer here,” said owner Stan Henerson. “Now we’re hearing ‘yummy,’ too.”

On Monday, one tub is partly filled with dried lentils, another with split peas and a third with beef boullion cubes. The tubs are then filled with hot water, and as the ingredients rehydrate, a chef from Japhy’s pays a call.

“We chop fresh vegetables on the deck next to the tub and just slide ’em right in,” said Japhy’s owner Joshua Solomon. “By the time we leave, soup’s on!”

Marketing the bathwater bisque has predented more opportunities for innovation. As they enjoy their tubbing session, patrons may eat all they want by simply leaning back, submerging to nose level and opening their mouths.

Also, for a $5 surcharge, one may bring a thermos, fill it up and take home a complimentary serving. To offset that charge or to take a $5 discount on a tub session, you may elect to bring an ingredient to donate to the mix – a head of celery, some radishes, onions, carrots or other organic-only veggies.

No leeks, though. “No one wants people taking leeks in the tub,” Henerson said.

Customers have embraced the concept. “We love it,” said regular patrons Dave and Rachel Hendry. They’ve even learned to work subtleties of the new system to advantage.

“We come on Mondays to eat light, because the broth is still a little watery at that point,” Rachel said. “And besides leaving well-nourished, the garlic and carrots do wonders for my skin!”

By Wednesday, though, the ingredients – including those donated by other tub-users – are well-cooked, flavors have flourished and the soup stock is thick and bracing for a cold winter’s night.

“Best of all, I go to work the next day exuding a musky lentil aroma,” Dave said. “My co-workers seem to like it – they go running for the door as soon as I arrive. Instant munchies, I guess. They must be rushing off to get some soup of their own.”

Josh confirms that the tub-brewed soup gets more tasty with each passing day. “They say too many cooks spoil the broth,” he observed. “That obviously isn’t the case here.”

By Friday night, the mixture has thickened into a stew-like sludge, and by Sunday morning has the consistency of wet cement. Interestingly, it tends to set like cement too, so at this point the tubs are scraped out and the remaining contents donated to food banks.

Henerson said that with the success of the soup tubs, he’s looking into modifying the business’s saunas as well. At first he was going to use them as veggie cookers and offer a “Sauna and Steamed Veg” service, but now he has other ideas.

“Some government suits visited the other day,” he explained. “They said their ‘chemtrails’ and Smart Meters weren’t working as well as they’d hoped – whatever that means – and that they had certain ‘additives’ they wanted to put in the sauna water. They gave me a whiff of it, and I felt I had no choice but to obey. So that’s a go.”

Note: An earlier version of this story was first published April 1, 2009. – Ed.