As I peered into my refrigerator the other day attempting to determine what to cook up for dinner, I found an abundance of vegetables all on their last few days of freshness. While every vegetable has its own peak ripeness and storage length, it seemed that mine had synched up. The cabbage, carrots, broccoli, corn, celery, and the various herbs were shouting, “please eat me soon!”
Between the vocal veggies and the cooling Vermont weather, it was clear there was only one solution – vegetable soup! My luck to have all the ample food in my fridge and pantry dawned upon me as I began preparing my soup. It was not just an embarrassment of riches as some might say but also a recognition of the most delicious food anyone could ask for.
While stirring the soup my mind wandered to thinking about the folktale, Stone Soup. The illustrated version of the folktale by Jon J. Muth is one of my favorites and is worth sharing with all ages. The story is of a hungry traveler who comes upon a town during a famine carrying nothing but an empty cooking pot. The townspeople confused, at first, say that they don’t have food to share. At which point the traveler pulls out a “magical stone” and says that instead, he will make stone soup to share with the townspeople. Before you know it, everyone comes out of their home bearing one vegetable or another to add to the soup. In the pot, a delicious, bountiful soup is made and there is a feast for the town that day.
Of course, the question is what kind of magic did that stone hold? Spoiler alert: it really was not a magic stone. The true magic was the human generosity that came from it, even in a time of scarcity. From just a small stone came not only a town that came together to share but also a well filled pot that led to full stomachs and hearts.
While it may be difficult to have a large socially distanced neighborhood feast at this time, it is very easy to ladle some soup into a container, walk next door and share it with our neighbors who like the townspeople in the folktale in some way, shape, or form are all in a bit of scarcity in these times.
After the delicious chunky vegetable soup that I had made was finished, that night I invited a few of my neighbors over to share it by the firepit. While it was cold and damp outside, it was one of my warmest nights shared in a long time.
Although I can’t easily share my soup with all of you, I hope I can share a simple way for you to use up those vegetables that like mine might be moving past their ripeness. If you are someone who will use vegetable stock for any of your holiday soups coming around the corner (or a page turn of the calendar), here is a very simple way to get a delightful homemade stock started:
Grab a big pot, throw your chopped vegetables in the pot, add some herbs (parsley and thyme work well plus a couple of bay leaves), add pepper and garlic (no need to chop those), and pour water over it all. Simmer uncovered for about two hours and then strain and compost/discard the solid vegetables.
While we all long for a magic stone in these times, I hope that this easy vegetable stock can bring you and your neighbors together. Thank you for being part of my community and enjoying the foods from Farmers To You partner farmers and producers.