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  • Writer's pictureThe Hammonton Gazette

The next time you’re hungry, try a pot of stone soup

courtesy photo

It seems an appropriate time to recount an old tale passed down through the generations: the story of stone soup. There are many ways to preface the story, but the best way to describe it is to say that teamwork and believing in something—faith—will overcome almost any problem.

The story has been told many ways. Here is one version.

Many years ago, a soldier in another land was walking down a dirt road, alone, with only his thoughts to keep him company. He was thin with hunger, and his clothes were torn and tattered. Upon his back was a knapsack, as threadbare as his clothing.

The soldier came upon a town, and his spirits were lifted. Perhaps there would be someone who could give him a meal and a place to rest. But the townspeople were hardened by years of infighting, and their generous nature had evaporated.

He went from one home to the next, asking for food or a bed, but the answers were always the same.

“We have barely enough for ourselves, and you expect us to feed you?” one woman said.

“There is no more food. Everyone is starving,” another man said.

And so on. Soon, the soldier realized that no one was willing to help him. He walked to the town square, sat down on the grass, and looked up into the afternoon sun.

Then he pulled a large pot out of his knapsack, went to a nearby stream and filled it with water, built a small fire are brought the water to a boil.

By this time the townspeople began to peek out from behind their windows. They all had the same question: What was this man doing?

The soldier, with great care, reached into his knapsack and pulled out a large stone. He stood over the pot and gently plopped the stone into the boiling water.

By now curiosity had the best of the townspeople. They gathered around the soldier and one of them asked him what he was doing.

“I am making stone soup,” he said, matter-of-factly.

Laughter went up from the crowd. Stone soup? Who had ever heard of such a thing? The soldier began to sip from a spoon he had dipped in the pot. When he died, he smiled a large smile, and licked his lips.

“It’s good. But it could use something. Carrots, maybe. Yes. That’s it. It needs carrots,” the soldier glanced over his shoulder at the crowd of people behind him.

A voice piped up from the back of the group.

“I have some carrots. Maybe I could go get them,” a woman said.

In a flash she was gone and back again, and the carrots were quickly sliced and put into the pot. The soldier sipped again, smiled again, then frowned.

“It’s so close. If only it had potatoes,” he said.

This time a man came forward and said he had potatoes. He went to his house and brought them back, with something else.

“I found some meat. I thought it would help make the stone soup better,” he said.

“It will. Now if we only had some bread to eat with the soup,” the soldier said.

And soon there was bread. And wine. Suddenly everyone in the town had something they wanted to add to the stone soup. Others brought side dishes, claiming soup was only part of a meal. Tables and chairs appeared. Musicians brought their instruments to entertain. The town enjoyed a feast like no one had seen in years. They ate everything, especially the stone soup, which they ate until all that was left was the stone in the pot.

At the end of the evening, the soldier stood, raised the stone above his head, and told the crowd he was giving the stone to them. They protested, saying they could not accept such a wonderful gift.

“Take it. The next time you are hungry, and there seems like there is nothing to eat, remember me and use the stone to make stone soup the same way we did here tonight,” the soldier said.

They all thanked him and went home to bed, their bellies and spirits filled. The soldier slept in the finest bed in the town, and rose early the following morning, thanked his hosts and walked out of town on the dirt road.

About five miles out of town he saw it on the side of the road. It was gray and just the right size. He walked over to the new stone, brushed the dirt off it and put it into his knapsack.

He continued down the road, whistling, toward the next town.

Gabe Donio founded The Gazette in 1997 and owned the newspaper until September 30, 2022. He was the publisher of The Gazette from 1997 to June 21, 2023. This is his final column in The Gazette.


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