Sunday, May 15, 2016

Stone Soup

Some time ago, when I was cooking in, and later managing, restaurants, it was often my job to come up with a daily special soup. Occasionally, when I had a fair amount of leftovers to clear out of the walk-in cooler, I'd tell my customers we were having "Stone Soup". This of course often elicited puzzled looks and questions, so I would tell them a story I remembered from my childhood.

A wandering band of vagabonds or gypsies comes to a village and fills up a large pot with water, lights a fire underneath it, and places a round smooth stone in the water. When the curious villagers begin to gather, and ask them what they are doing, they reply that they have a magical stone, and that by boiling the stone in water, they can create a delicious soup. 

As the water is heating, one of the travelers says, "This is going to be such a wonderful soup, but it would really be remarkable if only it had a carrot or two in it."

One of the villagers admits that she might have a few carrots, returns to her home and gets them, and they are quickly chopped up and added to the magic stone soup.

Little by little, the villagers are conned into contributing to the soup, and at the end of the tale, the entire band of travelers and the village feast on the Stone Soup.

I applied those principles to my creation of Stone Soup, and would grab random complementary ingredients from the cooler; a tub of mixed veggies from a few nights back, some diced onions getting a little mushy, leftover roast beef, and maybe some kale from the salad bar get the picture.

I just happened to be thinking about stone soup this morning as a friend was creating Bloody Mary's with the spices available in a borrowed kitchen, and decided to google the name, to see what the Internet remembers of the tale, and got a serendipitous surprise, the probably source of my recollection of the story. 

"The story is the basis of Marcia Brown's 1947 children's book, Stone Soup (1947),[6] which features soldiers tricking miserly villages into cooking them a feast. The book was a Caldecott Honor book in 1948[7] and was read aloud by the Captain (played by Bob Keeshan) on an early episode of Captain Kangaroo in the 1950s, as well as at least once in the 1960s or early 1970s"

I am betting that my early childhood library contained a copy of Ms. Brown's tome. 

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