You've been invited to join a group of pals for a weekend in the country, or at the beach, or around a campfire in the Blue Ridge. And, lucky you, you're on picnic patrol, assigned to feeding your friends after the morning hike or swim or . . . fill in the blank.

Here's a suggestion that ventures beyond the usual Kaiser rolls and cold cuts but remains just as portable. It's a soup, the ingredients for which you can tote almost anywhere in a plastic grocery bag, to be assembled on site -- over a campfire or on the stove of a weekend cottage. (And if staying in is more your style, no worries; if you keep a few things on hand, you can make it in minutes in your own kitchen.)

This simple meal is based on a recipe for Southwestern Corn Soup that appeared in this newspaper about 15 years ago. All you need in the way of equipment is a pot, a can opener, a large spoon or ladle and a knife. A measuring cup is nice, but, honestly, the proportions can vary.

The only ingredients that need to be fresh are green peppers, garlic, scallions, cilantro and the jalapeno -- staples in many kitchens nowadays. This soup is meant to be served with a spoonful of sour cream and topped with some grated cheese, but dieters watching their fat grams can make that plain yogurt and grated low-fat cheese.

In addition to being easily portable -- i.e., you don't have to transport it in a pot, sloshing around on the floor of the car -- this soup is as versatile as they come. Add some diced chicken, and you've got a hearty stew. Stick to vegetarian stock, and it's a great meatless soup.

It's been a hit with my friends on country weekends for years. Try it after a long hike or a swim in the ocean. Put out some good crusty bread or tortilla chips and call it dinner. I've even included the recipe inside a stock pot as a wedding present, and my pregnant daughter-in-law gave it the ultimate compliment when she asked for the recipe to satisfy a craving.

Alice Reid

After a long hike in the woods, Eddie Gonzalez replenishes with a cup of tasty, nutritious soup.