on daily routines, stocked & stacked :: i’d really like a bowl of soup

1 :: she’d man the diner daily. from the stroke of dawn. for a group of irregular regulars. her strokes predictable. navy button-down. black trousers. our steps varied. stewed & stirred from overnight shifts & morning meters. clothed in cranberry wools, brown plaid overcoats, & cotton tees. 

2 :: her charges came from all directions. the no. 1 most popular – two eggs (any style), two strips (any meat). the no. 5 most vain (eggs benedict & virginia ham). counter requests. booth bets. booster seats. high-back chairs. all stocked & stacked.

3 :: her movements were as regular as our orders. check cutlery. secure caps. brew (regular & decaf). baste (turkey & time). refill (syrup, mugs, stalls). her tasks as complex as the menu. bold font. laminated. wiped clean daily.

4 :: the chalkboard home to the day’s soup. a rotation. tomato. beef. chowder. chili. i wondered if any came from a can. tables never pry, she’d say. 

5 :: a warhol original behind the register. campbells. stacked and stocked. an eight by four grid. her map. all tables sorted. clam chowder & chicken noodle. cream of mushroom & vegetable bean. tomato rice & green pea. thirty-two tables. souls to serve. to the power of four. sometimes more.

6 :: “mind your noodles,” she’d quip. “chill like the chili.” then click. clack. snap. crackle. rice krispies to the left. frosted flakes to the right. two percent or whole milk. wholesome & home baked. 

7 :: we’d flock to the diner like the rain. seeking jam. craving shelter. a bunch of grapes. some sour. over-ripe & always hungry. for stock. stuff. seasonings. soup. everyone eats.

8 :: until the day the diner failed to open. not debt. destiny. she was called to other duties. of a higher degree. & in a place where the lights were always on & the doors always open, none of us got to say goodbye. to the woman who spooned, served, & savored our daily special. 

Jen Schneider

3 Questions for Jen

What was your process for creating this work?

This piece is an ekphrastic inspired by Andy Warhol’s Campbell's Soup Cans 1962.
Source: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/79809

What is the significance of the form/genre you chose for this work?

I read that Warhol’s inspiration for the piece was borne out of repetition. He would eat the same lunch daily, for twenty years. I got to thinking about the spaces in which the uniform blends with the original, as a way of inspiring both forward-focused and introspective reflection.

What is the significance of this work to you?

For me this piece represents the beauty in repetition and the power of the pause. It’s a celebration of the routine and the connections that simmer in the related spaces.

Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. Recent works include A Collection of Recollections, Invisible Ink, On Habits & Habitats, On Daily Puzzles: (Un)locking Invisibility, On Crossroads and Fill in the Blank Puzzles, and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups.

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