Jennifer Nettles has been entertaining since she was a kid in Georgia. At seven years old, she was "singing at almost every church and civic-club luncheon," she saysand experimenting with recipes for her grandmother's family suppers. The 36-year-old country-music star, half of the Grammy-winning duo Sugarland (with Kristian Bush), still loves cooking for a crowd, just like her grandmother did. "My grandmother used to say, 'Young'uns, I don't have a lot, but y'all can come over.' There'd be a huge spread of fried chicken and pie." But Nettles doesn't serve fried chicken ("I don't even own a deep fryerthey'll probably revoke my Southern card for that"). Instead, she often organizes her menu around delicious soups.
Nettles explains that the soup party is a family tradition. "It's an easy way to feed a large group, plus it guarantees leftovers," she says. She also finds hosting a soup party to be a clever way to please picky guestsvegetarians, for instance. (She herself has been a pescatarian since 2006.) Nettles invites friends to bring different soups, then sets out a table of toppings. "It's like a baked-potato bar," she says. "The meat eaters can add crumbled bacon, and the dairy-free people can skip the sour cream."
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In Atlanta recently, while taking a break from a tour to promote Sugarland's latest album, The Incredible Machine, Nettles decided to throw a soup party for a group of friends that included fellow country stars Karen Fairchild and Jimi Westbrook of the band Little Big Town.