X for ‘Xception

Pepper Route has focused on ingredients we use in day to day cooking, during the 2023 A to Z Blogging challenge. This post is an exception… the exception that proves the rule. There is no ingredient in focus (unless you want to call ‘stone’ an ingredient!) but just some interesting facts and stories. Enjoy the ‘Xception!

The Stone Soup

Most of us know the story of the Stone Soup. Two weary travelers reach a village, exhausted  at the end of the day. Hoping for a meal, they look around but soon realize that the villagers are poor farmers who might be hard up themselves and no home was in a position to host two strangers. So they decide to do what they can.

They go to the river bank and pick up some stones… you know the pretty stones, smoothened by flowing water for centuries. Then they approach one of the houses and ask to borrow a cauldron to make some stone soup. The villager lends them a large pot. They take the pot, fills it up with water and take it to the village square, of course followed by the curious villager. There they set the pot on three stones and light a fire under it. When the water starts boiling, they drop the stones in it. And start stirring, frequently tasting the contents and passing comments. 

Now the villager is getting curioser by the moment and asks for a taste too. However the travelers inform him that the soup is extremely good but will taste good to a person only if they have contributed something to it. Eager to taste this fantastic soup, the villager goes and gets a few potatoes from home, which are promptly dropped into the pot. 

Soon many of the villagers going home from their fields stop by and all are eager to taste the soup when they see the stone soup being cooked. The travelers tell the same story, and soon there are more contributions coming… carrots, onions, cabbage, herbs… (maybe a chicken too) whatever the villagers could spare. And you guessed it… soon a delicious soup was simmering in the cauldron, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all. 

This is a European folk tale with many regional variations where the stones are replaced by axe, nails, pebbles etc. What is the moral of the story? That ‘sharing works best for all’ or that ‘apt communication can produce desired results’ or that ‘when everything else fails, trust your brains’? 

The Mouse King and His Queen

Then there is the story of the ‘Soup from a Sausage Skewer’ by Hans Christian Andersen, that master story teller. The mouse king hosts a party where everything is eaten up except for the skewers from the sausages. And someone mentions a soup with the skewers. The king is interested and declares that whichever girl mouse comes up with a recipe for a soup with skewers will be his queen. Four girls step forward and all present are invited to come back in a year and a day, to taste the soup that the contestants will prepare that day.

Soon the day arrives and three of the mouse girls tell stories of how they travelled far and wide through fantastic lands, had all kinds of wonderful experiences, and consulted with great chefs and philosophers only to come to the conclusion that alas, there is no such soup! And the fourth girl provides the recipe which she says she came up on her own. All that it takes is to boil the water, throw in the skewer and the mouse king to dip his tail into the boiling water and stir it round with the tail! Of course, the king was not stupid to try that recipe and he declared her the winner and his queen!

We can analyze this story many ways but I can only see one message… brains beat all else, all the time!

Read the full story here:  Soup from a sausage skewer

Caldo de Piedra

And now for the recipe… yes, there is such a soup and there is a recipe for that. The Caldo de Piedra, a regional dish, originating in Оахаа, Mexico. A traditional dish dating back to the pre-Spanish times, National Geographic published an article about it:  Stone Soup Rocks in Remote Oaxaca.

(You will need to login/ register for an account at National Geographic to read the article.)

In the documentary ‘The Path of Stone Soup’, filmmaker Sarah Borealis documents the dish’s unique origins and preparation. You can view a trailer here:  The Path of Stone Soup.

The ingredients are easily available… fish, tomatoes, onions, chilies, herbs and cilantro. It is the ‘how to’ that gets the soup the name, which is really quite appropriate.

2 thoughts on “X for ‘Xception”

  1. Love the stone soup from Oxaca. I thought I remembered something about cooking with a hot stone. I like that the men prepare the soup and the women rest. There should be lots of traditions like this.

  2. Very interesting stories and a very nice take on the exception to the rule. I need to try out the stone soup recipe :).

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