What Stone Soup Means to Me

Healthy food at home. Happy family in the kitchen. Mother and child daughter are preparing on the cooker.
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Recently, I’ve been reading a version of Stone Soup to my 4-year-old girls. It’s a story about hungry travelers who encounter a village of stingy folk. They creatively devise a plan to get the townspeople to share their food without even knowing it—all concocted through a “secret recipe” for a dish called Stone Soup. To me this book is not only about sharing, it is also about the discovery of good cuisine—in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Even a simple three-ingredient recipe can be amazing! Take watermelon, feta and basil for example. Each ingredient is great alone, but when combined they provide a delight to the taste buds. It’s a satisfying blend that incorporates sweetness of the watermelon, creamy saltiness of the feta and a nice basil kick. The same goes for recipes of all types: vegan, meat-loving and all that’s in between.

After reading this book aloud to my girls several times, we decided to make it a project for my girls’ preschool class. I will read the story out loud while the class reenacts each scene from the story. We will have the clever hungry travelers, the town mayor, a butcher, a banker, a farmer, and each of their wives. And each character will have his or her specific ingredients as described in the tale. Then, we will set up a pot on the stove and, one-by-one, each ingredient will be added until we’ve created our very own Stone Soup. When it is done, we will break bread with the lovely warm meal we’ve created as a community.

While my soups are often creations from what I’ve got available in my refrigerator (broccoli, carrots, green onions, a whole grain such as quinoa or barley), I find the basics of the “Stone Soup” recipe to be quite full-filling:

  • A pot of water
  • Milk
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Chunks of beef
  • Seasonings and spices

In fact, with these ingredients I could also make seasoned beef with a side of potatoes and carrots; or grind the beef and create a shepherd’s pie. Simple ingredients make the ability to create a variety of dishes a no-brainer. Well, that is if you’ve got a bit of creativity and some good recipe resources. Some of my favorite inspirations come from my social media foodie friends, a variety cooking magazines including Saveur and Bon Appetite, and the Food Network.

I’m finding the more I create, the more I find my own rhythm in creating quality cuisine. Trial and error, yes! But experience and knowledge too!

Understanding the relationship of ingredients, chemistry of cooking, and ethnic cuisine all help to educate on a culinary road to satisfaction—and good health. And the best part is that I get to use the ingredients I choose and know just what I’m adding to my meal. I can make flavorful food that is low in sodium, fat and sugars. Or, I can make it as rich and “naughty” as I want, eat a sensible portion, and share the rest. This will satisfy my craving, keep me from over-indulging, and provide a treat for others!

What are some of my own inspired-eats? Check out this pumpkin recipe and more from my blog and you’ll see how I create, love and enjoy good-for-you food.

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Lauren O'Connor, MS, RD
Lauren O’Connor, MS, RDN, is a Los Angeles-based private practice dietitian, recipe developer and owner of Nutri Savvy Health, a program focusing on mindful eating and family nutrition. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.