This past weekend, Brooklyn resident and New York Times metro reporter Annie Correal conceived a delightful experiment, born of an abundance of soup and a general faith in her fellow New Yorkers. The premise was simple: she wanted to send a container of unaccompanied lentil soup on the G train to a friend who would intercept it a dozen stops away. The motivation was practical (she'd made too much soup), but the implications were philosophical: What kind of city do we live in, and is it one where a bag full of lentils can ride an uncrowded train without human supervision on a Sunday afternoon?

Correal tweeted a brief summary of her plan on Sunday, followed by a photo of her soup beginning its voyage from Carroll Street. A note pinned to the bag explained to any curious passengers that it was a meal for a friend. Then she waited.

About 20 minutes later, the soup made it to Greenpoint Avenue without a hitch—definitive proof that the fabric of New York remains intact, or that many G train riders agree with Bobby Flay about lentils. Regardless, it was the hottest soup on a subway story since Princess Nokia tossed a butternut squash bisque on a racist L train rider.

On Monday, we reached out to Correal to get some background on her successful experiment. While in transit to her office (carrying soup, for herself), Correal dashed off a few thoughts about what she'd learned. Her reflections on the experience, lightly edited for clarity, are included below:

First — I didn’t think this was going to get noticed in the way that it did when I tweeted it, though I guess there is always that possibility. But it was not meant as a stunt or a gotcha or a way to say anything at all about the MTA. Nor was I doing it in my capacity as a journalist. What happened was I made too much soup.

I offered some to my friend who likes leftovers. Like, he will eat things most people will not, though I should say this was relatively fresh. I had made it a few days before in an attempt to eat out less that didn’t go that well. So he said, 'yes, but I can’t come get it right now.' And I said I could just send it on the G and then I was like, 'wait—I could just send it on the G!!!'

I put it in a royal blue tote bag and pinned a note to it. Stuff like people’s lunches and sometimes their shopping bags get left on the subway all of the time, so I didn't think it would raise alarm. I guess to avoid scaring anyone, I could have put it in a clear bag.

Anyway, I pinned the note on it explaining it was a meal for a friend who would pick it up in Greenpoint. It said, ‘please do not remove, thanks!’

Inside was a plastic spoon and, in case my friend preferred to eat his lentils one by one, some chopsticks. I figured the worst that could happen would be that I would be out a Tupperware and a tote bag. And someone would eat it or throw it away.

He checked how long it takes for the G to travel between our respective stations. Carroll Street and Greenpoint Avenue. It was 21 minutes. I told him at 5:07 I had left it on the last car of the train and took the photo I sent, noting it was near the middle of the car. He waited, checked the first train that came in — nothing. It was on the second train that came into the station. He rushed in and grabbed it, taking that video, which he sent me at 5:29.

So yeah, it looked like it had taken just over 21 minutes, as promised. I tweeted the video with the caption, “It worked!” And people started liking it and retweeting it.

I think this resonated just because this is the kind of thing that twitter is fun for. Someone tweeted something like ‘Lentil Twitter is blowing up’ which made me laugh.

I think also lentil soup is so humble and homey it was an odd juxtaposition. And also, the G train has an enduring bad reputation. I am old enough to remember a time when it would take what felt like 20 minutes for it to arrive. And then there’s the fact that it sometimes gets canceled on the weekend or runs in sections, disrupting plans and relationships.

So it’s cool when it just works exactly as it is supposed to — like it did for the soup.


As a postscript, Correal also noted that the subway was relatively empty at the time of her experiment, which might've had something to do with its success. She says she does not endorse using the subway as a delivery service for soup or any other items, noting the potential for disruption.

Her friend said the soup was delicious.

We've reached out to the MTA for their take on soup train, and we'll update if we hear back.

UPDATE: A spokesperson for the MTA, Max Young, tells Gothamist, "While we love both soup and sharing food with friends, leaving an unaccompanied bag on a train could disrupt thousands of people and divert first responders’ time from other important work. We’d ask our customers to not repeat this experiment, and to avoid leaving unattended objects on the subway."

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