“A rich man’s soup – and all from a few stones. It seemed like magic!”
Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
Besides the Teeny Tiny Woman, the other childhood story my parents frequently read to us was Stone Soup.
It’s a folktale of far reaching import…
In the French and Hungarian stories, a soldier who has been through many trials is returning home. On his way he passes a village. He is hungry, but has no food and carries an empty pot. The villagers, wary of soldiers and tired of war are unwilling to feed him. But their curiosity is piqued when he makes a fire, fills his pot with water, drops a stone into the pot and begins to heat up the water.
“It’s stone soup,” he informs one man, “delicious, but much better with carrots.” “Carrots, you say? I might have a few spare carrots.”
To the next curious inhabitant he mentions ‘potatoes’, to the next ‘celery’ and so on. Soon an eager gathering of townsfolk – previously suspicious and unable to spare any food – gather excitedly around his great pot with various offerings.
Hubby tells me that in the Eastern European version it’s hatchet or axe kasha.
In the German tale it’s pebble soup.
The Chinese version tells of three Zen monks who encamp outside a village with their pot of boiling stone (water). Villagers bring them rice wine, noodles, salt and pepper.
In the Hungarian story, the clever soldier actually sells his stone to the villagers after eating the soup!
Hubby and I leave for our Southern African travels in less than 3 weeks and I’ve stopped buying food. We have tenants in our house for the 5 weeks we are away, so we have to eat through our fridge, freezer and cupboards in order to leave them some space.
So today I’m making a kind of stone soup. There’s no stone, no monks, no soldiers or hatchets. But I do feel like I’ve begged, borrowed and stolen to fill up the pot.
I used up the last of a red cabbage soup I made last week. I’ve stolen the last of the frozen veg left in the freezer. I’ve borrowed a bit of celery from the salad drawer. I’ve chopped up our stash leftover chorizo. I’ve purloined herbs from the pots on our terrace. I’ve pilfered tinned beans and chopped tomato from the grocery cupboard.
A splash of wine, a pinch of spice and it’s almost ready for our Life Group meeting tonight.
Not sure what it will taste like? But one thing’s for certain – we are not going hungry!
P.s. In the Portuguese Stone Soup folktale the traveller is a monk. He makes is soup in the region of Almeirim and today sopa de pedra is considered a regional dish of Almeirim.
P.p.s. In the Native American account of Stone Soup, bears help by foraging for food.
P.p.p.s. Some say this folktale originated in Europe, others China. Nobody knows the original author and I think in the version I read as a child the stranger was a dirty tramp. But it’s clearly a universal story and I’ve never forgotten it.
P.p.p.p.s. In other news we have several largish seedlings in pots on the terrace which Hubby and I will plant out into the allotment over the weekend. Our greenhouse will finally be delivered on Saturday. And phew! We’ve managed to recruit some little allotment helpers for the 5 weeks we’ll be away. This is a huge relief, as the weeds are coming up quickly now and we’d be risking a yellow-card warning during our time away.