Healing Communities With Food: Stone Soup

Today’s recipe comes with one of my favorite stories I especially loved to tell when I began to teach how to use food as medicine. The story is a old folk tale called “Stone Soup,” and while there are several different versions, Jon J. Muth’s adaptation made a particularly strong impression on me while I worked to develop a community-based integrative health program to stop the growing trend of chronic disease. The organization was called NuGenesis Farm.

At first it was tricky to get area stakeholders on board. I was a bedraggled cancer patient and the community members I approached were much like the villagers, ducking into their homes to hide from the weary travelers that had stumbled through their gates. In the actual story, the strangers were monks who had devised a plan to trick the villagers into learning acceptance, compassion and community cooperation to better feed themselves in all aspects of there lives. An integrative approach to living perhaps.. 

The story goes: Villagers in a war-torn town had turned their backs on one another, hiding what little resources they could collect. When the weary travelers arrived, the town square was abandoned so they took out an empty kettle of water and started a fire to get it boiling. One monk tossed a large stone into the kettle while another mixed, using a long wooden spoon. It wasn't long before a little girl emerged from her home and cautiously approached curious to see what was happening.  The monks told her they were hungry and making stone soup, but it would taste so much better if they had some vegetables. 

 The little girl brightened up and told them she had carrots to put in the pot and ran home to get them. Then another villager approached and asked the same question. Each time someone appeared, the monks told them their stone soup would be so much better if they had onions, celery, potatoes and seasonings. One by one the villagers contributed to the soup and when it was properly cooked the seemingly endless supply restored joyful conversation and the community-wide commitment to take care of one another again.
Every time I make this soup it's a little different than the time before depending on who's contributing to the ingredients. However, it's always guaranteed to be a heartwarming way to get the conversation going. With every spoonful, I can feel the disease fighting nutrients flowing throughout my entire body. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Stone Soup

Serves 8

 2 tbs.        Olive oil

3                Stalks celery, finely chopped

3                 Carrots, chopped

1                Red onion, chopped

2                Red potatoes, diced

1                 Red bell pepper, chopped

4 cloves      Garlic, finely chopped

2 cups        Organic diced tomatoes

2 cups        Organic cannellini beans (pre-cooked)

8 cups        Chicken bone broth or vegetable broth

2                 Bay leaves

2-3 tsp.       Each of thyme, chopped rosemary, oregano and sage 

2-3 cups    Finely chopped collard greens and/or Swiss chard

½ tsp.       Fresh Ground Pepper

½ cup         Favorite cheese, fresh grated (optional)

                   Salt and pepper to taste.

1. In a large pot, add oil and when heated, sauté onions and garlic for 3 minutes.

2. Add carrots, celery, potatoes and sauté for 5 minutes.

3. Add tomatoes, beans, bell pepper, broth, herbs, salt and pepper. 

4. Simmer for 20 minutes.

4. Add greens and season to taste.

5. Sprinkle each bowl with your favorite cheese.