What Do You Make for a Cheap Dinner? Stone Soup
One of my favorite stories as a child (okay, as an adult, too) was "Stone Soup." The story is old, and it has been told in different ways by story writers in different countries and from varying cultures. The version I recall had a soldier traveling to return home from a war. He was threadbare and hungry. The soldier came to a little town and asked for food, but no one would provide it to him because everyone living there was poor. So he told some of the villagers, "no matter, I'll make stone soup." The soldier took a pot from his pack and began boiling some water. Then he took a large stone from his knapsack and added the stone to the pot. The townspeople were curious and asked if that was all he needed. He assured them that it was but that perhaps a few carrots would help the broth. Someone provided them. Then others asked if that was all. Yes, but maybe a few herbs would help. Someone brought them...you get the idea. Eventually, the pot was full of a variety of vegetables and meat. The soldier and the townspeople all ate well, enjoyed each others company, and declared the "stone soup" the best soup they had ever eaten. The soldier showed the people that they had more food than they thought--plenty to share--as well as the power and comfort of enjoying a meal together.
So, how do you make Stone Soup at home? You raid your refrigerator and add what you have to a pot. In my case, I looked around my frig and found a container--the limited remains of a Sunday chuck roast dinner--with some leftover beef broth, carrots, and onions in it. I dumped the container contents into a big soup pot. I discovered a small bowl with a bit of the leftover roast in it--far too little for a meal. In went the leftover meat. Then I found some leftover dumplings. I added those to the pot. I found some leftover diced potatoes. In those went. Hmm. Some of my vegetable drawer celery was looking a little limp. In that went (chopped). I decided I needed some tomatoes, so I found a big can of crushed tomatoes and added those. Then I added some Italian herbs, parsley, salt, and a little pepper. I surveyed my frig again. Oooh. A little container with peas--not enough for dinner, though. Those peas, yes, in they went, but I added them last to preserve their green color. How was my Stone Soup? Really, really good! Hearty, filling, and incredible comfort food. Making the soup also ensured that nothing in my refrigerator went to waste and gave us something new to eat--not the same old leftovers that no one really wanted. I didn't, however, add a stone to my pot. The only thing I had to fish out of the pot before we ate the soup was a bay leaf (or two) that had been hiding in the beef broth.