Why is it called stone soup

The stone soup

A story from Portugal

One day a monk knocked on the door of a rich farmer from the Ribatejo and asked for something to eat. The stingy farmer was about to turn him away when the monk took a large round stone out of his pocket and claimed that one could make a wonderful soup from this stone. All you need is a pot of water and a fireplace.

The farmer hesitated a little and asked the monk to prove this claim. He called his neighbors together. The neighbors passed it on. And finally all the residents of the village gathered in the market square. They made a fire and put a pot of water on it. The monk took the stone and put it in the water. Then he boiled the stone, tried the water and said that a pinch of salt wouldn't do any harm. He was given salt.

The monk continued to cook. A neighbor said that she still had a head of cabbage in the garden that could be cut into strips. Another woman brought potatoes, a third onions, a fourth carrots, and a fifth beans. The monk tried again and then declared: "Now only a few cubes of bacon are missing".

The stingy farmer of all people brought a large bacon from his cellar, which was cut into cubes. The monk threw the dice into his soup and rounded it off with a little pepper. Then he tasted again and divided the soup into the hastily fetched cups. The residents of the village ate until they were all full. And they agreed: it was the best soup they had ever eaten.

This story comes from Almeirim, a small town in the Tagus Valley, about 100 km northeast of Lisbon. There is still the "stone soup" there, which is called "sopa da pedra" in Portuguese and is prepared according to its own local recipe. And then as now, the stone is an indispensable part of this recipe.

When we started our Mexico project three years ago, I asked myself: "Who should pay for that? The community has no money!" More precisely, she already has money, but very little. And that's just enough to secure the building maintenance and pay the staff.

After three years I am ashamed because I have to realize that we have reached our donation target and even exceeded it. And the community has not become poorer either. This project is like a stone soup: we had nothing - except a pot of water and a stone. But everyone has done their part. And so it turned into a delicious soup that not only fed the Mexicans but also us.

Before we eat a real Portuguese stone soup together, I may say a grace: "Lord, we're coming to dinner, / let's not forget you, / because you are the bread of life. / Eat the bodies, strengthen the souls, / whom we now command to you, / stand by us in every need. / Help that after this earth / we become your guests in heaven. Amen ".


Niko Natzschka

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