A year or two ago, my mother-in-law held a pot luck to make what she called Stone Soup. It was an intriguing idea; everyone brought a different ingredient for soup, and we ended up with a delicious (and diverse!) meal.
The idea came from an old folk tale. Many versions abound, but here’s the gist:
A weary traveller came upon a village carrying nothing but an empty cooking pot. She asked for some food, for she had nothing and hadn’t eaten in days; but nobody would help her. But she noticed a nearby river, and got an idea. She set up by the river, filled the pot with water, and put it over a fire. Then she added a stone from the river, and stirred.
Soon she got the attention of the villagers. When they asked what she was cooking, she replied: “Stone soup. A simple but very delicious dish. All it’s missing is a garnish–but I don’t have any.” The villagers, eager to try a new recipe, offered to add their ‘garnishes’ to the pot. And soon, they had a delicious soup indeed!
I like this story not only because it shows what a community can do when they work together, but also because this is how I like to cook. My favourite dishes are done by the “Stone Soup method:” keep adding stuff until it’s done. This is the best way to do soup, but also chili, tomato sauce, and so on. Sometimes having a recipe is essential…but more often than not it’s more fun to make it up as you go along!