Thursday, January 01, 2009

Stone Soup

Wherever we go, whether it's the beach, the mountains or even walking around the neighborhood, we always seem to come back with a few rocks or shells or bits of wood rattling in our pockets. Growing up, trips to the coast would always involve significant amounts of time trolling the tide line (and invariably getting soaked by the surf) for treasures to bring home.

And I'm not talking about a casual activity, but something that's deeply ingrained in the family DNA. It's instructive to note that my mother, before she passed away last year, insisted that her ashes and those of my father be mixed with her favorite collection of agates (we're talking, like, hundreds here) and tossed into the ocean off the coast where they'd been collected so that her great-great grandchildren might find those same stones washed up on the beach.

So it should come as no surprise that, when my son was growing up, a story we read over and over again was about a traveler who arrived in a village, carrying a large pot that he filled with water and tossed a stone into. The villagers asked him what he was up to and he said it was a stone soup, but that it might need a little garnish to improve the flavor. The villagers ended up contributing a stalk of celery here and a carrot there, some bits of meat and a few herbs, and at the end of the story the town and the traveler shared a fine meal for their communal effort.

We actually searched for a special stone to use for that same purpose, and somehow that stone (and the contents of the vegetable drawer) always ended up making the most delicious soup.

Vegetable Drawer Soup

Basically all you need is stock or water and a bunch of vegetables, but here's what I had on this particular day:

2 Tbsp. olive oil (vegetable oil or bacon fat are also good)
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 potato, diced
1 stem broccoli, chopped
2 large leaves of chard, chopped
1 c. corn kernels
8-10 c. broth (I used vegetable stock, but water or any other stock works, too.)
Salt to taste

Heat oil in large soup pot. Sauté onion, celery, carrots and potato till onions are tender. Add remaining vegetables and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for an hour or so. Season to taste with salt.


Mary Bergfeld said...

I do love this story and the way you shape your words. A very nice post.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Gosh, Mary, thanks...and thanks again for reading!