Sunday, February 21, 2010

Stone Soup

You know the story of Stone Soup. There are probably hundreds of variations on the old folk tale; Ian has this one in his personal library. Two hungry travelers, denied food by the inhabitants of a mountain village, publicly declare that they can make soup from a stone. Only they need a large pot ... and a carrot... and a potato... and a few more ingredients to make it taste really good. Finally, everyone in the town contributes something, pronounces the soup "delicious and nutritious, incredible and edible," and learns that one needs only a few ingredients, and sharing, to make it again. I like this particular edition for two reasons: first, the illustrations are so beautiful, and portray an almost contemporary-looking and very diverse crowd of adults and children who are both responsible for making the magic happen, and second, there's a real recipe at the end, complete with "sharing" as an ingredient, and directions that encourage the reader to sing songs and tell stories with friends while the soup is being made.

This has been one of Ian's favorite books, on and off during the past year, and he really does seem to appreciate the lesson. Just recently, he's wanted me to read the recipe (which I used to skip because there are an awful lot of words on that page for a little person, even a very patient little person). He likes the litany of ingredients and directions, though. The other night, after we finished, Ian asked if we could make stone soup ourselves.

Sure! I said, promising that I'd put the ingredients on the grocery list for the week.

Now, of course, this is not really the way stone soup gets made. One is supposed to have friends each bring some small ingredient to contribute to the pot, so that it seems you've made something out of nothing. And perhaps some day we'll do it the right way. But for this week, it was enough of an adventure to go looking through Ian's treasures for a suitable stone (yes, we really did put a stone in my soup pot), to take out all of the other ingredients, to put a real (small) sharp knife in Ian's hand so that he could cut celery, and let him ladle all of the ingredients in himself so he wouldn't get too close to the hot pot.

But as the three of us sat down to dinner with steaming bowls of what was essentially vegetable soup, Ian said, "but mom, we forgot about the sharing! We have to share the soup."

"You're right," I said, proud of him for remembering this key ingredient. And we ladled some into a container to bring to my neighbor.

This recipe does make quite a bit, and while it's nothing fancy, it's much more fun if you share it, even if you don't make it with a friend.

Stone Soup

1 quart tomato juice
2 quarts water
1 stone
a few carrots, peeled and chopped
a few stalks of celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
a few potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tomato, chopped
small pieces of cauliflower
small pieces of broccoli
a handful of green beans, trimmed and cut
1 cup corn kernels
1 cup peas
1 cup small pasta shapes
handfuls of baby spinach
herbs of your choice: thyme, parsley, dill, etc.
salt and pepper to taste
a loaf of bread

Simmer the stone in tomato juice and water in a large pot until bubbling. Add carrots, celery, onion, and potatoes. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Add tomato, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, corn, peas. Simmer another 15 minutes or so. Add the pasta and spinach, along with any herbs of your choice, and simmer for 7 minutes, until pasta is cooked.

While the soup is cooking, sing songs and tell stories. When it's done, salt and pepper to taste, ladle it into bowls, break the bread so that everyone has a piece, and enjoy the meal together.
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