“Bridging a Community:” A Few of my Favorite Things with Isabel May ’23 and Anne Jennings ’23

Welcome to “A Few of My Favorite Things” — arts edition! In this series of Q&A interviews, The Bates Student sits down with students involved in the arts on campus to learn about their favorite parts of what they do. Today we’re exploring the culinary arts with Isabel May ’23 and Anne Jennings ’23. On their intentionally-humorous Instagram page @RealCommonsSoupReviews, the duo and their friends attempt to try and review as many Commons soups as possible.

As might be expected from the pair of girls who run an Instagram account that rates Commons soups on precise scales, such as 5.86 out of 8.64 and describes them with words such as “congealed-ness” and “alarmingly sweet,” Isabel May ’23 and Anne Jennings ’23 are funny people. It takes a carefree sort of joy to post daily on an account whose Instagram bio advertises to “destigmatize [C]ommons soup” with hashtags like #SoupActivists and #StopSoupSlander. From the moment they sit down for our chat, they are giggling about everything from jokes made in their morning classes to the fact that they are about to be interviewed for The Student.

The duo’s friendship has strong and deep roots. May and Jennings met their freshman year on the women’s cross-country team. Varsity athletics and a demanding schedule of academics — May is a Environmental Studies major with a focus in global politics and a French minor, while May is double-majoring in Neuroscience and Gender and Sexuality Studies — keep both of them busy. Maybe that’s why they are also running a soup-reviewing Instagram account, Jennings quips: “Our creativity needs some outlet!”

May and Jennings started reviewing soups early this academic year “when we were in Commons one day,” says Jennings. “I was like, ‘I love the soup! And I’m kind of self-conscious to get it.’” Spurred on by her own soup craving, May joked that they should start reviewing the soups on Instagram, and the account was born. The duo took a cue — and an Instagram handle — from their friends who review Commons desserts at @RealCommonsDessertReviews; or in other words, as May laughs, “Yeah, we totally stole the idea.” (The dessert reviewers, who have been at it for over a year, have a slight edge, with 73 followers to the soup team’s 65.) May and Jennings’s page features frequent guest reviewers, mostly from the women’s and men’s cross-country teams, and persistent lightheartedness. 

At the most fundamental level, May and Jennings run the account for themselves — for the laughter and diversion it provides; for the fact that it gives them a way to feel like “I’m connecting with my friends in a different way,” according to May; and it acts as a gateway to expand their culinary horizons. With giggles, memories, and joyfulness abound, this duo shared with us a few of their favorite things about soup, about curating their Instagram account, and about the joy of the simple connection that sharing food with friends can bring.

Favorite thing about running the account:

“I love the memories and laughs it brings,” says Jennings. In a year when the men’s and women’s cross-country teams are combined, the account has helped foster interaction.

I feel like I’ve met more people on the men’s team or talked to them because they want to try a soup!” Jennings says that the account is “a cool way to interact with them outside of practice,” and that soup makes for “a good conversation topic … you’re not just talking about running or school.”

May agrees. “We have people guest review a lot … [and] it’s a very good way to get a sense of who people are and the things that they like,” she says. “This sounds so cheesy and, like, way too deep, but it feels like I’m connecting with my friends in a super different and unique way,” she says as she fights to talk through her laughter.

Favorite Commons soup reviewed:

Jennings, who is vegetarian, is a particular fan of the potato-leek soup, while May lends her support to the carrot-ginger: “it’s so good!”

Favorite soup ever:

“O.M.G.!” says Jennings, without a second of hesitation. “Okay, so there’s this ramen place in Portland called Mainely Noods,” at which customers can design their own ramen. Jennings ordered one called the Portland, which had “a curry broth and tofu and a bunch of veggies.”

May – who drops the scandalous bombshell that while she enjoys it, soup is “not anywhere close” to her favorite food – chooses Panera’s broccoli-cheddar soup. The bread bowl that she always orders inspired her and Jennings to hollow out a dinner roll from the Commons bakery to serve as a soup container. It was a little squished, she admits, but it was “a fun creative endeavor.”

Favorite memory from their time with @RealCommonsSoupReviews:

Both identify their dinner at Connecticut College’s dining hall while at a cross-country meet as particularly memorable. “They had soup, and it was delicious,” says May. “Both of us really, really liked it. And then we gave it to someone on the men’s team and he did not like it. He was, like, bending underneath the table to spit it into a cup. It was really funny.”

Jennings also gives a shout-out to the team’s assistant coach, Art Feely, who often guest-reviews soups for the account. “He’s always funny. He always comes up with something hilarious.”

Favorite spot in Commons:

“I’m like a back left circle [table] person,” May says, “like by the windows.”

Jennings agrees. The back left is “where the cross-country teams sit,” and she is an ardent supporter of the circle tables over the rectangles. “The rectangles are just, like, not good energy, and they’re not too sticky.”

Favorite class at Bates:

Jennings most enjoyed an Environmental Studies class called Land and Livelihood taught by Ethan Miller, who has since departed. “It was basically talking about the origins of property ownership and colonization and systemic racism … whether they’re really embedded in our society, like unpacking those ideas” from an environmental standpoint.

“I think my favorite was probably Cognitive Neuroscience,” says May. Taught by Nancy Koban, who has also left Bates, “it was just an awesome class and super fun and interesting.”

Favorite life lesson learned from running @RealCommonsSoupReviews:

Together, with collaboration and giggles, May and Jennings construct two fundamental lessons.

First, there is the overcoming of social anxiety. “The origin was that we were self-conscious to get soup, like we want[ed] to,” says Jennings. “Sometimes you’re socially anxious or nervous, but if that’s what you want, you should go for it! … People are not watching what you’re doing and analyzing your every step, so it’s like, go get soup!”

“Am I self-conscious about getting soup anymore? No!” says Jennings.

They have also realized that connecting with new people isn’t as hard as it might at first appear. “I used to be more socially anxious at the idea of talking to the men’s team,” says May. But inviting members of the men’s team to guest-review soups with theme has provided an opportunity for starting conversations and building new relationships. “Now it’s like I don’t feel weird about going up to them and talking to them.”

“Something as simple as soup,” May marvels, and Jennings adds: “It bridges a community!” And then they collapse, once more, into laughter.


May and Jennings’s efforts can be followed on Instagram at @RealCommonsSoupReviews. The account’s bio says that students can “DM us for a chance to guest review.”