One of the first recipes I ever learned to make was called Brown Soup. It was a favorite of my grandfather J.D., who would make it on Saturday mornings at our duck camp in Arkansas, usually after the hunt and before his first Bloody Mary. The recipe was dead simple, which is why I still remember it. You just open six cans of soup—cream of onion, vegetable, tomato, minestrone, consommé, and chili with no beans—mix them together in a big pot, heat, and eat. I recommend adding a few oyster crackers on top, but that may be getting too fancy. It also goes well with college football, and it has a narcotic effect that tends to bring on naps. After a big bowl, J.D. would fall asleep in a wicker rocking chair, sometimes snoring so loud it rattled the windows.
Though the soup is actually brown in color, it happened to get its name from a man named Schlater Brown, a friend of J.D.'s from Nashville. I don't know much about Mr. Brown, but I've always appreciated his recipe, which couldn't have been better suited for our hunting camp. It was easy to prepare, impossible to screw up, and ideal for a hungry crew who weren't too particular. I looked forward to it, not so much because of the flavor (a bit salty) but because it was a ritual we celebrated as a family. Even at age 12, I could help make it, and that meant something. J.D. has been gone for more than 30 years now, but some of my most vivid memories of him are tied to that recipe.
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I haven't made a pot of Brown Soup in years, and perhaps that recipe should stay in the Evans family archives, but it's nice to know that I could still throw it together in a pinch. And if you're out there somewhere, Mr. Brown, I owe you a heartfelt thanks.