Posted by: samandal | September 21, 2010

Stone Soup

International Day of Peace

For Husayn, whose alms-bowl offers an empty space for an open heart.

“What man is there among you, of whom if his son shall ask bread, will he reach him a stone?”                                                                                                  (Matthew vii. 9, Douay-Rheims Version)

Stone Soup

A traveler, apparently wearied, arrived one morning at a small village that lies to the north of Schaffhausen, on the road to Zurich. A good woman sat spinning and singing at the door of her cottage; he came up to her; talked first about the roughness of the roads, and then of the prospect of a luxuriant vintage along the banks of the Rhine: at last he asked her if she had any fire?

“To be sure I have! How should I dress my dinner else?”

“Oh, then,” said the Traveler, “as your pot is on, you can give me a little warm water.”

“To be sure I can! But what do you want with warm water?”

“If you will lend me a small pot,” said the Traveler, “I’ll show you.”

“Well! you shall have a pot. There, now what do you want with it?”

“I want,” said the Traveler, “to make a mess of stone soup.”

“Stone soup!” cried the woman, “I never heard of that before. Of what will you make it?”

“I will show you in an instant,” said the man. So untying his wallet, he produced a large smooth pebble. “Here,” he cried, “is the principal ingredient. Now toast me a large slice of bread, hard and brown. Well, now, attend to me.”

The stone was infused in warm water; the bread toasted and put into the pot with it. “Now,” said the Traveler, “let me have a bit of bacon, a small quantity of sauerkraut, pepper, and salt, onions, celery, thyme.” In short, he demanded all the necessary materials. The good woman had a store cupboard and a well cropped garden; so that these were procured in an instant, and the cookery proceeded with great success.

When it was finished, the kind hostess, who had watched the operation with some anxiety, and from time to time longed to taste the soup, was indulged. She found it excellent. She had never before tasted any that was so good. She produced all the edibles that her cottage afforded; and spreading her table, she, with the Traveler, made a hearty meal, of which the stone soup formed a principal part.

When he took his leave, he told the good woman, who had carefully washed the stone, that as she had been so benevolent to him, he would, in return, make her a present of it.

“Where did you get it?” said she.

“Oh,” he replied, “I have brought it a considerable way; and it is a stone of that nature, that if it be kept clean, its virtue will never be exhausted, but, with the same ingredients, it will always make as good soup as that which we have this day eaten.”

The poor woman could hardly set any bounds to her gratitude; and she and the Traveler parted highly satisfied with each other.

Proud of this discovery, she, in general terms, mentioned it to her neighbors. By this means the recipe was promulgated; and it was in the course of many experiments at length found, that other pebbles would make as good soup as that in her possession. The viand now became fashionable through the Canton, and was indeed so generally approved, as to find its way to most of the peasants’ tables, where stone soup used frequently to be served as the first dish.