Story, Value, and Becoming More Real
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Sort of Stone Soup

September 25, 2023

Annie Nardone

Three soldiers trudged down a road in a strange country. They were on their way home from the wars. Besides being tired, they were hungry. In fact, they had eaten nothing for two days.

— Marcia Brown, Stone Soup – An Old Tale [1]

There are moments when the books of our childhood embody a truth like no other book or advice column could hope to aspire to. Stone Soup is that story. Those soldiers? My husband and I, not home from wars, but returning from a 2,000+ mile trip and a week of moving our kids into their colleges. Tired? Yes, and hungry. We ate well during our journey, but arrived home to bare cupboards and a fridge with ample condiments, old milk, and seemingly no options. At that moment, I was loathe to climb back in my car and drive to the store, so I pawed through my freezer and found a pack of sausage. The pantry had a few basics, and dinner started to come together like the recipe in Stone Soup. Thankfully, without the three smooth stones.

Read as an adult, Brown’s 1947 picture book, Stone Soup reminds us of the goodness and beauty in a simple life — hospitality, kindness, making the best of all circumstances, and how preparing a meal and feasting together creates community. Sharing a simple offering of soup and bread offers refreshment to the mind and soul in a gathering of villagers and their unexpected guests or between two empty nesters on their patio.

Stone Soup also illustrates the best approach of creating something delicious and satisfying out of a bit of this and a dash of that. My grown children keep the basics in their pantries for just such a time, when “soldiering on” through a rough day leaves one wanting for comfort. This recipe leaves plenty of margin for food allergies too! The next time you stock your pantry, purchase these basics. You’ll never be taken short for a meal again.

  1. A carton or two of stock or broth (some brands have created great options like pho, Tuscan, miso, veggie, and bone broth).
  2. A protein (I always keep canned beans, especially cannellini and black beans on hand).
  3. A package of frozen sausages (a world of options, even vegan).
  4. A can of diced tomatoes.
  5. Orzo or other small, dry pasta.
  6. A variety of oils. 

You probably already keep the standard vegetables like onion, garlic cloves, carrots, celery, but expand on those basics. Shallots and leeks add depth to flavor. Mince spinach and fresh parsley into your broth before serving to boost the vitamins.

This is the recipe for the “stone soup” I invented on the day we returned from our journey.

Tuscan Bean Soup

1 carton of stock (I used Progresso Tuscany broth, use what you like).

1 package of chicken sausage, sliced (I used Trader Joe’s Feta Chicken sausage).

1 leek, chopped and rinsed. (or an onion if you don’t have leeks).

5 garlic cloves (we like garlic).

Olive oil, your call on amount, but I used about 1/3 cup.

2 cans cannellini beans, drained.

1 can diced Italian tomatoes and the juice.

1 fistful of baby spinach, cut in slivers.

Pizza or Italian seasoning, to taste.

Fresh ground pepper.

Parmesan cheese for seasoning and serving.

Put the chopped leek, garlic, and 1/4 c. olive oil in food processor and course chop. Saute the sliced sausage, leek mixture, and more olive oil until the sausage is cooked through and the leeks are tender. Add stock, more olive oil to taste, beans, tomato, and seasonings and simmer for about 30 minutes. Mince the spinach and stir into soup. Simmer a bit. Serve with grated parmesan on top. 

You can also add pasta, like small tortellini or orzo, stirred in when you serve it. ALWAYS cook pasta in another pot, then drain, and add to the serving of soup. NEVER boil the pasta in the soup or you’ll have a starchy, heavy broth and mushy pasta. Refrigerate the leftover soup and pasta in separate containers.

Generously serves two.

In the morning the whole village gathered in the square to give them a send-off. “Many thanks for what you have taught us,” the peasants said to the soldiers. “We shall never go hungry, now that we know how to make soup from stones.”

“Oh, it’s all in knowing how,” said the soldiers, and off they went down the road. [2]

[1] Marcia Brown, Stone Soup – An Old Tale (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1947).

[2] Ibid.

The featured image is courtesy of Steve Moon and is used with his kind permission for Cultivating.


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