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Martha’s Table doesn’t whip up a vat of soup the way you and I do. They don’t decide, Hey, let’s do a lentil with sausage and some fine spices, and then go out and procure the ingredients.

The process at D.C.’s industrious soup kitchen works in the opposite direction. Ingredients come first, type-of-soup decisions follow.

Dominick Musso, Martha’s Table’s director of facilities and food programs, calls it a “dynamic process.” “If someone gives us potatoes, carrots, and onions, we have three ingredients there,” says Musso. “And if Chipotle gives us beans and rice, we’ve got five. So it always turns out…robust.”

Robust applies to quantity as well. Anne Brookover, the kitchen’s director of development, says, “We put out 65 gallons of soup every night.”

Reporting by Ted Scheinman