With a chill in the air, it makes complete sense to feature Aundra Lafayette, endearingly known in Nashville as the Soup Lady. If you have ever encountered Aundra at the West End Farmers Market at Vine Street, then you know she casts an aura that radiates as she serves samples of her delectable soups. Soup for Aundra is a way for her to promote healthy living and use her boundless creativity as she experiments on new recipes daily. What is even more curious about Aundra is her past career as a dancer and dance instructor. This passion led her to workshops at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Philadelphia Dance Academy. She approaches cooking as she does dance — from the soul.
It is with great pleasure that we introduce you to one of Nashville’s most compelling women: Aundra Lafayette.
Are you originally from Nashville?
Proudly, I was born and raised in Nashville. After graduating from Pearl High School in 1966, I attended Philadelphia Dance Academy. My career in dance led me to compete in Russia with the musical “Hair,” and so many other opportunities.
Having been a dance instructor for many years and training with some of the best companies, like Alvin Ailey, how do dancing and soup commingle in your life today?
Good health has always been important to our family, and we ate good food all the time. Being a dancer, one knows that your body is your instrument. It has to be strong, fit and beautiful. Eating soup just worked for me. I get all of my food groups from soup, and it tastes good. When I prepare soup, I think of choreographing great movement. After you blend it all together with comfort, passion and love, you’ve got a great performance.
You are endearingly known as the Soup Lady in Nashville, selling your healthy, delicious soups at local farmers markets. What have you learned from this profession?
First of all, my clients come first.When I feed people, that is the most rewarding thing ever. When I sell my soup, you always receive a hug from me. That forms a relationship with my clients, plus it makes each of us feel good.
Also, I arrived as the Soup Lady through my work at a residential boarding school. We couldn’t leave the premises, so I would go to the Red Lion Inn to grab soup. They offered the most delicious soups, so I understood what good soup was. When I moved to Nashville, it was hard to find a good soup. I called The Tennessean to say, “I am embarking on something great, please come interview me.” They did! I started delivering soup in 2009 to friends and family. Now, I have soup for sale at several farmers markets in the summer and plan to expand.
Americans, especially Southerners, are known for eating processed foods. What piece of sage wisdom do you have for us?
Eating correctly is so important. Like building a house without a great foundation, it will not last. I consider our bodies the same way. Eating processed food creates a poor foundation for healthy living.
What is the next step for your soup business?
The next step for my business is to put my soups in a few more restaurants; so far The Picnic Tap at the Nashville Farmers’ Market purchases my soup once a week. After selling to more restaurants, I would like to have a soup bar in town! Where people can grab my delicious soup for lunch or dinner. My vision for the future of Lafayette Soup Company is outstanding. My big dream is to have a loft: imagine living upstairs and working downstairs. I would like to produce a cookbook, as well.
By the way, what is your most popular soup?
By far, my lentil vegetarian soup that has kale, okra, pepper and onions. I always have that at the farmers market.
Can you share with us one of your favorite recipes for the winter months ahead?
Sure! Here is the recipe for my chicken linguine soup with sage and rosemary.
- 6 chicken legs
- 3 cups water
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 3 sprigs fresh sage
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 lemon, sliced
- 1 turnip, sliced
- 1/2 (8-ounce) package linguine
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- Cumin (a pinch or two)
- Put 6 chicken legs in a soup pot.
- Cover with 3 cups of water.
- Boil for about 20 minutes.
- Cool for 10 to15 minutes.
- Drain, reserving the broth in the pot.
- Remove the meat from the bone. Don't chop, but pull off the meat. Return to the soup pot.
- Add the rosemary, sage, coconut milk, lemon and turnip to the broth and chicken meat.
- Heat for 20 minutes longer.
- Add the linguine at the end.
- Cook for another 10 minutes or so until the linguine is ready.
- Add the salt, pepper and cumin.
What is a valuable piece of advice you have been given?
The most important lesson I have learned is to be consistent, in spite of what is going on. Keep the clients happy, and keep them coming back.
Is there an event coming up that you are looking forward to attending?
The best event for me is looking forward to serving my market every Saturday. I look forward to preparing different soups to put a smile on their faces.
Is there a recent meal at a local restaurant that has wowed you?
What books are on your bedside table?
My bedside reading is, believe it or not, a stack of soup cookbooks. I visit the library twice a month to catch up on new ideas for different soups. Also, I like to compare different wines with different soups to add a better kick to the equation.
Do you have any irrational fears?
My irrational fear is people not liking my product.
Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
I have not been on a vacation in a long time. When considering a favorite vacation spot, I like Brazil and Cuba because of the spices and rich flavors of those countries.
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding God, family and friends?
Vegetables, water and wine!!!
The West End Farmers Market is open year-round on Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Thank you, Aundra, for taking the time to talk with us today and for sharing your delicious soup recipe! And thanks to Ashley Hylbert for today’s beautiful photography!