Revisited: Mexican Hat Soup in the Redwoods
Editor’s note: Corbin Shouse, our son Nate’s college roommate and now a dear friend of ours, is the guest blogger today, discussing the amazing soup he made us when he visited. He also roasted coffee and made me a cup every morning (heaven). And he invented the famous campfire-toasted peeps, which shall live in infamy. Enjoy!
By Corbin Shouse
Back in April, I had the great pleasure of dropping in to the redwood forest to see Tom and Judy, a.k.a. the New American Nomads, for a 10-day stay. I brought my little Runaway camper and set up in the “front yard” of their spacious campsite to weather the mists and rain with a couple of my favorite people in one of the most amazing places on Earth.
As Judy has already written about on this site, we had some fantastic dinners by the campfire, reminisced about life over excellent beer, and generally had a grand time in the Epic Van and around the North Coast.
Tom, ever the mobile gourmet, prepared a number of astoundingly delicious and complex meals in the small kitchen of the Roadtrek, much to my amazement. We also had bratwurst and grilled veggies from the campfire, along with the now famous Roasted Peeps with Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs.
As the amount of hospitality shown to me by the Nichols grew and grew, I wanted to offer a small token of appreciation in return, and it came to me instantly: my great grandmother’s Mexican Hat Soup.
Family lore has it that the recipe was conceived in the Depression as a means of utilizing the foodstuffs on hand, and the soup combines a variety of disparate canned ingredients into a medley of vegetables, legumes, spicy Mexican-influenced flavor, and Little Smokies sausages.
Also called Wastebasket Soup as a nod to its origins, the dish has a deeply intimate place in my childhood, occupying a recurrent space at the dinner table from my earliest memories. And it can be prepared with little effort and fanfare, making it perfect for the minimalist kitchen of the Epic Van.
We drove to the market in Arcata, and I picked up the requisite ingredients, mostly in cans, returning with them to our quiet sanctuary among the tallest trees on this planet.
Combining the ingredients in a large soup pot, we waited patiently by the fire as the soup simmered for the required one hour period. Finally, we topped it with Monterey Jack cheese and a sprinkling of tortilla chips and sat down to eat.
I must admit, it filled me with profound joy and gratitude to be eating such a cherished dish in a locale so far from my birthplace in Central Texas with people that I couldn’t imagine my life without.
Tom and Judy seemed to enjoy the soup immensely, and I felt I had done a reasonably good job in replicating the dish that my mother and grandmother made so skillfully on so many occasions. Our bellies full, we continued our wide-ranging discourse on the state of the world, and life was good in the Epic Van.
Recipe for Mexican Hat Soup
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 can Rotel tomatoes with Green Chilies
1 can chopped green chilies
1 small can Spicy V-8
2 cans pinto beans
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can small lima beans
1 small can sliced black olives
2 lbs. Oscar Meyer Little Smokies (cut in bite size pieces) – can substitute any similar sausage
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
½ teaspoon of onion powder
Salt to taste
Monterrey Jack cheese
1. Sauté onion and celery.
2. Combine all ingredients except cheese and chips and simmer for one hour.
3. Serve with chips and cheese.