This traditional story is a good one to share this time of year, and I always try to make at least one batch of Stone Soup to warm up the crowd on cold evenings.
Stone Soup (France and Portugal)
Many years ago, a soldier, recently discharged from the army and returning home after many years of service, came upon a small village.
The villagers, suffering a meager harvest and the many years of war, quickly hid what little they had to eat and met the man at the village square, wringing their hands and bemoaning the lack of anything to eat.
The soldier thought to himself, and then spoke to the crowd. "Your tired fields have left you nothing to share, so we will share what little we have: the secret of how to make soup from stones."
Naturally the villagers were intrigued and soon a fire was built, and water brought added to the town's greatest caldron. With all the village watching closely, the soldier dropped in a large, smooth stone.
The water soon boiled, and the soldier stirred the water carefully, taking small sips and exclaiming to about the subtle flavor.
"This is fine soup, indeed,” said the soldier; "but a pinch of salt and some parsley would make it better!"
Up jumped a villager, crying "What luck! I've just remembered where some's been left!"
Off she ran, returning with an apronful of parsley and a turnip.
The pot continued to boil, and the soldier said, “This will be wonderful soup, true, but think how it could improve if only we could add some carrots or onions.”
Another villager volunteered that he might have a few old carrots and some dried-up onions in the cellar, and soon he brought back a large basket of carrots, onions, and a bit of garlic as well.
“Oh,” said the soldier, “this will be a tasty soup now. If we but had a bit of beef, and maybe a handful of barley for the pot, a superior soup is what we would have.
As the pot boiled on, the generosity of the village improved: soon barley, carrots, beef, potatoes, beans and cream had found their way into the great caldron, and a cask of wine was rolled into the square as all sat down to feast.
Together, the soldier and the villagers ate and danced and sang well into the night, refreshed by the feast.
In the morning the soldier awoke to find the entire village standing before him.
They offered him a satchel, filled with food.
"You have given us a great gift,: the secret of how to make soup from stones", said an elder, "and we shall never forget."
The soldiers turned to the crowd, and said: "There is no secret, but this is certain: it is only by sharing that we may make a feast". And off the soldier walked, down the road.