The Magic of Stone Soup
By Carol Castanon
Secure Beginnings Parent Consultant
Sheltering in place has been a dramatic reminder of the power of meaningful connections. We might be plenty worried about others, or not, but the shifts in our daily lives revolve around the change in the proximity of relationships. Relationships at the market, the playground, work, school, childcare, or the neighborhood have been altered. Those we live with might require a new choreography to get through our day’s rituals of loving, working, cooking, and cleaning. How we harvest food into our cupboards and fridge might look different. What we prepare might be based on what is now available. There is a flexibility which we are being called on to exercise.
The littlest among us still need their grown-ups to be loving, available, and at times fun. They do not need a perfect parent but rather grown-ups who are humble, honest, available, and forgiving. Tell your little ones the plan for now and next, how you feel, what you are doing, and where you might be going. You might say, “I am going potty and I will be back. You waited!” Or, “Oh dear, I see tears. Waiting is hard. I went potty. We are holding each other now and next we will eat.” Maybe you will say, “I feel frustrated. Waiting to eat is hard. I’m making soup and next we will eat. Mama and Papa, sister and you will all eat soup together.” The idea is a teaching of not being alone. We accompany each other with all our feelings.
Below is an adaptation of the Stone Soup folktale from the 1700s. The older tot and young child can help. Tell a very simple version to the young tot, and let them help too! Feel free to change the story so your young child might understand best. Look in the produce bin together for what you all might find and add.
Include even the littlest baby in seeing the soup, smelling and stirring. Name the vegetables and beans! The bigger the child, the more they can help. Remember to slow down when you can and literally savor the moment. And of course, look for the perfect stone together!
“Boil stones in butter and you may sip the broth.” (Fuller 1732)
Once upon a time, there were many people who were hungry. There was not enough food for all the people in the village.There was a great famine (which means there wasn’t enough food to go around). The people in one small village didn’t have enough to eat, and definitely not enough to store away for the winter. People were afraid their families would go hungry, so they hid the small amounts of food they did have.
One day a traveler came into the village. She asked the different people she met about finding a place to eat and sleep for the night. “There’s not a bite to eat in the whole village,” they told her. “You better keep moving on.” “Oh, I have everything I need,” she said. “In fact, I would like to make some stone soup to share with all of you.” She was very clever. She pulled a big black cooking pot from her wagon. She filled it with water and built a fire under it. Then, she reached slowly into her knapsack and, while several villagers watched, she pulled a plain gray stone from a cloth bag and dropped it into the water.
By now, hearing about the magic stone, most of the villagers joined the traveler and her cooking pot. She sniffed the stone soup and licked her lips. She said, “I do like a tasty stone soup. Of course, stone soup with cabbage is even better.” Soon a villager ran from her house into the village square, holding a cabbage. “I have this cabbage from my garden.” she said as she held it out for the pot of soup. “Fantastic!” cried the traveler. The traveler cut up the cabbage and added it to the pot. She said, “You know, I once had stone soup with cabbage and a bit of beef, and it was delicious.” The butcher said she thought she could find some beef scraps. She ran back to her shop, while other grownup villagers and their children offered bits of vegetables from their own gardens–potatoes, onions, carrots, celery.
Soon the big black pot was bubbling and steaming. When the soup was ready, everyone in the village ate a bowl of soup, and it was delicious. The villagers offered the traveler money and other treasures for the magic stone, but she refused to sell the stone. She had many offers for a cot to sleep on that night. The next day she traveled on her way.
You might ask a young child:
How did the traveler and the villagers work together?
Was the stone magic?
How do you know?
Who were the helpers to the traveler?
How did the traveler help the villagers?
May we all find the joy of helping each other and working together.