Thursday, January 10, 2019

Stone Soup

Honestly, I thought everybody had heard the story of stone soup, but when I mentioned it to Cliff, he wasn’t familiar with it.  I think I first heard it on Captain Kangeroo, while waiting for time to catch the school bus.  For others who aren’t familiar with it,  I’ll share the story here:

“Once upon a time, somewhere in post-war Eastern Europe, there was a great famine in which people jealously hoarded whatever food they could find, hiding it even from their friends and neighbors. One day a wandering soldier came into a village and began asking questions as if he planned to stay for the night.
"There's not a bite to eat in the whole province," he was told. "Better keep moving on."
"Oh, I have everything I need," he said. "In fact, I was thinking of making some stone soup to share with all of you." He pulled an iron cauldron from his wagon, filled it with water, and built a fire under it. Then, with great ceremony, he drew an ordinary-looking stone from a velvet bag and dropped it into the water.
By now, hearing the rumor of food, most of the villagers had come to the square or watched from their windows. As the soldier sniffed the "broth" and licked his lips in anticipation, hunger began to overcome their skepticism.
"Ahh," the soldier said to himself rather loudly, "I do like a tasty stone soup. Of course, stone soup with cabbage -- that's hard to beat."
Soon a villager approached hesitantly, holding a cabbage he'd retrieved from its hiding place, and added it to the pot. "Capital!" cried the soldier. "You know, I once had stone soup with cabbage and a bit of salt beef as well, and it was fit for a king."
The village butcher managed to find some salt beef . . . and so it went, through potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and so on, until there was indeed a delicious meal for all. The villagers offered the soldier a great deal of money for the magic stone, but he refused to sell and traveled on the next day. The moral is that by working together, with everyone contributing what they can, a greater good is achieved.”

Gabe and I were out of bed at 3 AM, as we are most mornings.  Once I’ve taken him outside and have my morning coffee made, I usually surf and read and play games online until Cliff gets up.  However, while my fingers are dancing on the keyboard, my mind is often working on what we’ll have for our noon meal, which we call dinner.  Sometimes I’ve taken care of that decision the previous night, but not this time.  I went to the deep freeze on the back porch and peered into the depths.  In a basket on the top were some small freezer bags with parts of our Christmas ham parceled out amongst them, which made me wonder whether I had any split peas in the cabinet.  It’s been awhile since we’ve had split pea soup.  

I kept digging in hopes I’d find some frozen peaches for our cereal this morning, and I did find one bag from a couple of years... slightly freezer-burnt, but they would have been fine, except that I was distracted by a larger freezer bag with some chicken skin and bones (all that was left of a Costco chicken) I’d saved for soup.  Undecided, I took that out, and a pint bag marked “ham for beans”.  Back in the kitchen I checked for split peas and found exactly one cup, the amount needed for the recipe I use.  I tossed the frozen chicken bones into a large pan, ran water over them, and started them cooking.  I remembered a large beef bone in the cross top freezer I’d been saving, and put that in with the chicken bones.  Then I went to my easy chair and began my morning computer time.  

My original thought was to strain the bones and skin out of that broth, get what tiny pieces of meat I could off it, and maybe freeze it for another day... but it smelled so good!  You see, I do get up early, but I never eat breakfast until Cliff is out of bed, usually around seven.  It doesn’t take much to start my stomach growling.  So I put some potatoes, carrots, and onion in the broth.  I kept thinking of other things to add, as the soup bubbled and simmered:  cumin, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, celery.  Toward the end I thought of a little dab of meat from the beef short ribs I cooked three days ago and tossed that in.  When everything was almost done, I remembered there’s a head of cabbage in a crisper drawer, so a little of that went in.  

As I added first one thing and then another, I realized that’s the way the stone soup in the story came about, and happily spent the rest of my time until Cliff got up thinking about Captain Kangaroo, Bunny Rabbit, and the Stone Soup story.  Meanwhile, my stomach growled.  

When Cliff came through the kitchen, he said, “What smells so good?” 

“Stone soup,” I answered.  Then, since he wasn’t familiar with that, I told him a brief version of the story and explained how I’d taken some bones and turned them into a meal.  “I’ll fix you a bowl of cereal if you like, but I’m having soup for breakfast.”

“That’s what I’m having too,” he said.  

And that’s how we had stone soup for breakfast, without the stone.  I’ll still make the split pea soup, and maybe freeze it for a day when I don’t want to cook.

Yours truly,


Adirondackcountrygal said...

I believe there is a children's book called Stone Soup. Pretty much the same storyline except without the war time.

The Feminine Energy said...

Oh yes... what a yummy breakfast indeed! It looks delicious! Now that my husband is retired, we eat our main meal at noon too. I made potato-cauliflower soup with cheese. It tasted good on a cold winter day. Love, Andrea xoxo PS~ It is 2:57am as I type this, here at my house, and my insomnia has kept me awake all night. And I'm guessing right about now you're getting up for the day. Too bad we don't live next-door to each other.... I'd have you over for coffee. :-)

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

That soup sounds delicious! I'd probably do the same as you. But I don't start cooking anything that early.

krueth said...

Mmm! your soup looks so tasty. On Tuesday, I pulled out my ham bone from Christmas and make homemade baked beans in the crockpot overnight. My Daycare parents as they came in Wednesday morning all wondered what was smelling so good. I put them in 1 cup increments in my freezer and have quite a few meals of beans. I have been hungry for soup so need to go look for a package of chicken legs to toss in and start cooking for supper tonight. Wendy

Margie's Musings said...

You folks are so innovative! I am not an innovative cook. I have to have a recipe. I so admire you that just put everything together with what you have on hand.

Margaret said...

Thank you for the reminder of Stone Soup; I had forgotten all about that story. I love soup this time of year, and remember the inspiration of the story of all the people contributing and working together.