Bowls and Stones

Last night Nathan and I met with Mark, Janet and three of their friends in the nearby bowling alley. I hadn’t hung out with Mark since I finished school last year, so it was definitely nice to see him again. We all had quite a good time bowling terribly low scores (Poor Nathan chalked up a 46, and my measly 84 was the highest of the night). Plans are in the works to establish a bowling night as a regular event, and that should allow us all to improve.

Several days ago I mentioned that I had stone soup. I knew the name sounded familiar, but couldn’t place it at the time. Yesterday I decided to research Stone Soup and was reminded that it comes from an old folk tale that emphasizes the importance of community and sharing.
The story, which has many versions, tells of a traveller during a time of famine. He arrives at a village where he decides to spend the night. Upon asking what is available to eat, he is greeted with answers that there is no food in the village. The villagers are selfishly hoarding their food in secret from even their close friends and family because of the famine.
Sensing this negative behaviour, the traveller takes out his large travelling pot and an ordinary looking stone. He fills the pot with water and drops the stone in, loudly telling that he is preparing stone soup, the most delicious soup in all the world, and intends to share it with the villagers, since he has all he needs to deliver a feast. Enticed by this, the villagers all gather around the man, who tastes the soup and appears satisfied.
“Stone soup is delicious,” he exclaims, “Of course, it’s even better with carrots!” Warily, one villager approaches with carrots she had been hiding in her home. The traveller adds them to the soup, tastes it and remarks, “That is much better, but beef would make this fit for a king!” The butcher eases out of the crowd with a piece of meat he had been saving for himself.
The traveller continues his hints at new ingredients and is soon offered additions to the soup from all the villagers. When done, the soup is indeed the best the villagers had ever tasted, and they offer the traveller much wealth for the stone that so obviously must be magical. The traveller refuses and instead moves on with his stone. For years to come the villagers remember the best soup they had ever tasted. They begin to understand that the magic was not in the stone, but in working together as a community with everyone contributing to projects.
My brief research uncovered many different versions of this story, each featuring the same framework, but with varying protagonists and settings. Much like any enduring folktale, it has evolved with our societies. One recent version is set in post-war Europe and features three French soldiers as the travellers. I’m always facinated by the universal myths that stay with us over the ages.
Inspired by the story and the actual soup I was so fortunate to taste on Sunday, I made my own soup with mixed ingredients. Chinese spices, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, green peppers, stewing beef, lentils, beans, peas, chick peas and several other ingredients ended up in the mix, and it has provided a large pot of thick, hearty soup. There’s a great pleasure and reward to be had in making meals entirely from scratch.

1 comment on “Bowls and Stones

  1. I remember Stone Soup! They had a book of it when I was in elementary school. Good story.

    Bowling rocked, we really do need to set that up regularly. But definitely on the day after payday.

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