What Is Stone Soup—and Is It Even a Real Thing?
Countless fables exist to promote sharing as a virtue. None, however, are as delicious-sounding as the famed “stone soup.”
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Stone Soup Story
Like a lot of folktales, there’s no one correct telling of the Stone Soup story. The legend varies depending on where and by whom it’s being told. Here’s our version of the classic tale, which includes many of the most popular elements:
A hungry traveler arrived in a village with nothing more than the clothes on his back and an empty pot. The villagers, wary of the traveler and suspicious of his sudden appearance, refused to give him any food.
The man was unfazed by this display of stinginess, however. He smiled politely at the unfriendly villagers, before setting up camp near a local stream.
Once he was situated, he wordlessly filled his pot with water, placed it over a fire, then dropped a stone into his makeshift “soup.”
By this point, a group of curious villagers had gathered around the man.
One nosy member of the audience couldn’t help but ask the traveler: “What on Earth are you doing?”
“I’m making stone soup,” he replied. “It’s delicious. I’ll be glad to share it with all of you when I’m finished—I just need to find a few more ingredients.”
The traveler tasted the soup as the villagers waited with bated breath—had the stone really worked its magic?
“Mmmm, yes, this is coming along quite nicely,” he said. “It’s still not quite right, though. Does anyone have some chicken broth?”
One of the villagers excitedly ran home and returned with the requested broth.
Upon trying the soup a second time, the man smiled.
“It’s perfect,” he said.
The traveler and his new friends spent the rest of the evening by the fire, enjoying the delicious results of their group effort.
Stone Soup History
Variations of the tale have popped up all over Europe since (at least) 1720, when it was printed in France.
In some stories, there is no stone. Instead, the soup is based around other inanimate objects. For example, in one version it is called “axe soup,” while in another it is known as “button soup.”
However, the moral of the story is consistent no matter where it is told.
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Is Stone Soup a Real Thing?
Of course, the story exists to teach a lesson: Sharing, a necessary part of life, makes everything better.
However, a dish called “stone soup” really does exist in Oaxaca, Mexico.
The Chinantec people used the rocky Mexican terrain to their advantage during the Pre-Ceramic period, according to National Geographic: Large boulders, heated with fire, served as cookware.
Stone soup, which is has an earthy and elemental taste, is still enjoyed today. It’s often prepared using a few different methods:
- In large boulders.
- In leaf-lined holes dug into the sand on the river banks.
- In individual jicaras (gourds). Each bowl usually contains a stone or two to preserve the natural flavor.