stone soup

Yesterday I mentioned to a friend that I needed to water my rock garden. She said, “So when the rocks ripen, are you going to make stone soup? Ha ha.”

My education has obviously been neglected, because I’d never heard of stone soup. But Mr. Google soon remedied that.

Stone Soup is an old folk tale in which hungry strangers manipulate the local people of a village into sharing their food. In varying traditions, the stone has been replaced with other common inedible objects, and therefore the fable is also known as axe soup, button soup, nail soup, and wood soup.

The story goes as follows:

Hungry travelers arrive in a village, carrying only an empty cooking pot. When the villagers are unwilling to share any of their food, the travelers fill the pot with water, drop a large stone in it, and place it over a fire. When the villagers become curious and ask what they’re doing, the travelers say, “making stone soup,” which tastes wonderful, but needs a bit of garnish to improve the flavor, which they are missing. The villager does not mind parting with a few carrots to help out, so those get added to the soup. Eventually every villager has contributed something and, after the stone has been removed, a delicious and nourishing pot of soup is enjoyed by all the travelers and villagers.

Slightly different versions are told in Scandinavian and Northern European countries, as well as in France, Hungary, Russia, German, and Portugal. The theme of making something significant by gathering lots of small contributions is used in, for example, the Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup computer game, which expanded on an abandoned project using contributions from many different coders; Stone Soup, a children’s literary magazine published by the California-based Children’s Art Foundation since 1973; the Stone Soupercomputer, a computer composed of many small units; and the Stone Soup Theater, which presents one act plays.

“Stone soup” is found in film, literature, children’s books, music, and television. Shel Silverstein’s song, “The Wonderful Soup Stone,” tells a version of this story. Jim Henson’s The Storyteller series used it in one tale called “A Story Short.”

And I discovered a food blog from Australia, which specializes in healthy, simple, five-ingredient recipes. I liked the look of the site and so I subscribed and received my free recipe book. If you’d like to check it out, the URL is http://www.thestonesoup.com

I haven’t checked out the recipes yet, but am hoping to find a couple that I can use on that momentous day in September when I expect my rocks to be fully ripe.

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