Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Iraqi Coin and the Old Cooker

Not the title of a folktale, but two items that caught my roving camera eye in the house this evening.

The coin is a bit of a mystery. How it came here is easy--Derek probably brought it back from his last tour in Iraq. How it came to be on the floor in my living room, behind the carved wooden man is anyone's guess. It wasn't there yesterday, I'm sure of that, and it wasn't there the day before when I swept the floor.

It's a pretty coin with its scalloped edges and palm tree. But I still wonder how it came to be on my floor.

The old and new ways of cooking? We found this old roaster at a yard sale this summer for 50 cents. It has a nice rack with lifting handles inside, and the outer handles swing up to carry easily. The little vent on the top operates smoothly; the only thing missing is the handle on the lid, which I will replace. It's a pleasure to cook in this pan. Last night Larry made a lovely roast and vegetables in it.

The microwave is handy, but it will never give me the same joy in cooking that the old cooker does. And it doesn't impart the same deep flavor either.

The title of this post could become a folktale, I suppose. Let's see...

Once there was an old man who spent his last coin. Desperate and hungry, he pulled his old cooking pot out of his sack and built a fire. He filled the pot with water and put it over the flames, then sat down to think. An idea came to him, and he began to smile.

It was not long before a young man passed by. "You look very happy! What are you cooking, old friend?"

"Stone soup."

"I've never heard of that. How do you make it?"

"It's simple, and for one coin I will give you my recipe."

The young man reached in his pocket and pulled out a silver coin with scalloped edges. "Here you are. Now tell me how to make this soup."

The old man slipped the coin in his pocket, picked up a rock and washed it carefully. He dropped the rock into the water and sat down again.

"That's it? That's all there is to it?" The young man sounded angry, but the older man smiled.

"Yes, that is the beginning. Have you never heard the story? Someone will come by and ask about our soup. We will tell them we need only an onion to make it taste delicious. He will give us an onion, and we will add it to the pot. Then another person will ask and we will say a few carrots would make a world of difference. They will give us carrots. Still another will provide potatoes, another will bring a soup bone, and someone will give us some salt. If we're lucky, we may get a cabbage head to add to it as well."

All came to pass as the old man said. Within a few hours the pot was boiling merrily, filled with good food and wonderful smells. Those who had contributed waited until the old man finally said, "Done!" Then each took a bowl of soup, marveling that such delicious soup could be made with only a pot, a stone and some water.

When all had eaten their fill, the old man packed his cooking pot, bade the young man good-bye, and went on his way to teach yet another village how to make stone soup. He kept the coin in his pocket, but he never needed to spend it to buy food, and he was never hungry again.

So there it is! A new-old folktale, ready for telling. There are many other variations on the stone soup theme. Here are a few:

The Old Woman and the Tramp and The Clever Pilgrim on D.L Ashliman's extensive folktale contributions at the University of Pittsburgh e-text site.

Morton Gove Public Library offers an extensive list of children's picture book variations of this tale and many other familiar folktales.

South Dakota Department of Education offers a full lesson plan for teaching healthy eating, based on the story of Stone Soup.

Singer-songwriter Tom Chapin has recorded the story as a song on his CD Mother Earth.

Nail Soup is a traditional Swedish version of the tale.

And I would venture to guess there are many other tellings that you might know!



Love it - applaud the skillfulway you have woven your personal objects with a folktale to make a NEW story! and isn't that why we love storytelling and the oral tradition.

Granny Sue said...

Thank you Ellouise! Do you know any other versions of the story? I'm sure I've seen more but can't recall them right off. Wasn't there one called Carrot Soup?

This was fun to do--I was feeling uninspired but wanted to write something, and the coin and the roaster were the prompts to get me going. Odd, that.

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