Stone Soup is a European folk story in which hungry strangers convince the people of a town to each share a small amount of their food in order to make a meal that everyone enjoys. The tale serves to illustrate the value of sharing. 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. To me, “stone soup” is the best ingredient because stone contains minerals.
Some travelers come to a village, carrying nothing more than an empty cooking pot. Upon their arrival, the villagers are unwilling to share any of their food stores with the very hungry travelers. Then the travelers go to a stream and fill the pot with water, drop a large stone in it, and place it over a fire. One of the villagers becomes curious and asks what they are doing. The travelers answer that they are making “stone soup,” which tastes wonderful and which they would be delighted to share with the villager although it still needs a bit of garnish (which they are missing) to improve the flavor.
The villager, who anticipates enjoying a share of the soup, does not mind parting with a few carrots, so these are added to the soup which has not yet reached its full potential. More and more villagers walk by, each adding another ingredient, like potatoes, onions, cabbages, peas, celery, tomatoes, sweet corn, even meat like chicken, pork and beef, milk, butter, salt, and pepper. Finally, the stone (being inedible) is removed from the pot, and a delicious and nourishing pot of soup is enjoyed by the travelers and villagers alike.
Although the travelers have thus ‘tricked” the villagers into sharing their food with them, they have successfully transformed it into a tasty meal which they share with the donors.
If you have young children in your family or you plan to interact with nieces, nephews, or grandchildren this month, you are invited to view an adaptation of this story with them.
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As one journalist observes, “We’re in the final weeks of the year, the rapid unfurling of the end of the spool.” For you, it may be a a time of reflection and of ritual, and so I wish you. . .
I will be offline (mostly) until the new year. Best wishes for a joyous holiday season!
In the meantime, a memoir minute: