An empty bowl can be a beautiful thing, but if you’re hungry, it can be a heartbreaking one. The annual Empty Bowl event uses beautiful, handmade bowls as the vehicle for reducing the number of people confronting empty bowls at mealtime. The Empty Bowls fundraiser, scheduled for March 31 at the historic Garten Verein in Galveston, benefits The Jesse Tree and its programs connecting people in need the resources they need to rebuild their lives.

At the Empty Bowl event, ticket holders choose a bowl from hundreds made by local potters, and fill it with soups donated by Galveston restaurateurs and volunteer cooks. After an evening of sampling soups, breads and desserts, attendees take home the bowl they selected.

There will be more than 350 bowls to choose from, made at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Galveston County. “The bowls are looking really good this year,” bowl chairman Madeleine Baker said. “We meet weekly to make bowls. People really enjoy the process.”

In addition to the bowl that is included with each $50 ticket to the Empty Bowl event ($60 at the door), Baker noted that there are special bowls available as auction items. “We had an expert potter throw some large bowls, and then asked local artists to paint them,” she said. “Most of the bigger bowls are fitted for hanging, so they can be hung as works of art as well as used for serving.”

The proceeds of the event support The Jesse Tree’s nutrition programs, which include food distribution fairs throughout the county that feed more than 50,000 people. The food fairs distribute more than ten tons of produce each year at the weekly food fairs, providing a nutritious supplement to low-income diets. The nutrition programs also include delivering food boxes to residents of Holland House, Gulf Breeze Apartments and The Oaks who cannot attend the food fairs, and nutrition management classes for people with chronic conditions.

Once they find their new homes, those handmade bowls will be ready for more soup. Baked potato soup is always popular (one grocery store on the island calls their potato soup the “local favorite”) because it is easy to make and even easier to customize with all the standard baked potato toppings like chives, bacon and cheese.

Tomato soup sometimes gets a bad rap because people think of the salty, gummy canned kind as the real thing. Tomato soup doesn’t have to be an orange nothing; made with roasted tomatoes for an earthy, smoky note, and balsamic vinegar for a tangy accent, it can be satisfying and delicious. Plus, that red-orange color will look great in a hand-painted bowl.

For more Southwestern flavor, posole combines hominy, pork and chilies in a steamy broth that also invites an assortment of toppings. Traditionally, shredded cabbage, sliced radishes and cilantro go on top, adding crunch and color.

Advance tickets to the Empty Bowl can be purchased at jessetree.net for $50, and tickets will be available at the door at the Garten Verein for $60. The event runs from 6PM until 9PM on Friday, March 31.

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