Doodle Soup Is So Beloved In Tennessee That It Has Its Own Festival

Each year in September, a festival known as Doodle Soup Days is held in Bradford, Tennessee, where the small town buzzes with excitement to honor its unique soup recipe by organizing meals and enjoying rides and shows. Doodle soup has been celebrated in the state for decades, and local chefs have put their twists on the original recipe to satisfy palates. 

Made up of chicken drippings, vinegar, cayenne pepper, and flour, the dish has made a name for itself in the area. Locals eat the soup with crackers, while others serve steaming bowls with biscuits fresh from the oven. While essentially all recipes use flour as a thickener, it's left up to chefs how much vinegar, red peppers, and even sugar is included in the final concoction. The soup can also be ladled over proteins for a spicy, acidic punch. Vinegar is the dominant star in this recipe, with The Tennessean describing the flavorful dish as a "Southern version of Chinese hot and sour soup." However, the formula is far from exact, and chefs have adopted different ways to braise and roast chickens before using stock and drippings to make the soup. Though chicken is most commonly prepared for this soup recipe, rabbit, goat, pork, and other kinds of meat have also been used.

A soup that is celebrated

However, how exactly this recipe came to be is uncertain, with rumors pointing to meals served to Civil War soldiers. Other tales explain that the soup used the chickens raised along the railroad tracks, while some recall "doodle wagons" that would pass through the state selling supplies. However, the festival's origins are a bit clearer, with one local resident cooking up vats of the soup to sell at the town's park in the 1970s. The popularity of the soup setup prompted the establishment of the festival, and in 1980, over 30 gallons of soup were ladled out to attendees who could also feast on roasted chicken, barbecue, and biscuits as they participated in cake walks and other group activities.

Though the soup-inspired revelry paused in the 1990s, the town's Lions and Lioness Clubs kicked the festival back into gear and ran the show from 2000 until 2014. A new committee was formed in 2015 to oversee the festival's planning, and a lineup of scheduled events is posted for attendees to plan their visits and meal times strategically. If you like spicy, acidic flavors, this could be the festival for you. Now, you'll just need to find yourself in Bradford next September to experience the soup firsthand.