The other day as I was making dinner, the Preschooler was rambling on and on about something, so I proceeded to turn the elevator music in my head up to its highest volume. After a while, he got all up in my face and asked me point blank, “Are you listening to me?” To which I replied, “I’ll listen to you as soon as you’re quiet.” (Not one of my Top Ten parenting days.)
Alas, the quiet the never came: “Blah, blah, blah…book…blah, blah, blah… soup…blah, blah, blah…rocks from outside.” Then he shoved his book, Stone Soup, two inches from my face. I had recently bought him that book because I remember the story from when I was a kid. About how a whole village comes together around a common meal. Someone starts with a pot of rocks and water, and, bit by bit, with everyone’s generosity and cooperation, it evolves into something delicious.
I also liked the illustrations in this particular version by Jon J Muth, but we hadn’t had the chance to sit down and read it all the way through, yet.
Anyway, the Preschooler was very excited about the prospect of making stone soup. Since he never likes soup, I figured I’d better indulge him if I wanted to make any progress on that front. I told him to sit down (quietly) and make a shopping list. So, he did, diligently copying down the ingredients on each page. The list seemed long, but I didn’t care because I like quiet. Plus, I figured we already had most of what we’d need: onions, carrots, celery, maybe a potato or two.
Here is the list he brought over:
Oh, good. And I cursed that book. There was a second column, too, with such things as lily buds, lychee nuts, and steamed buns. But, at least we had the rocks.
The next day, we made a special trip to the Asian market to get supplies. They were fresh out of cloud ear, taro root, winter melon, and pea pods (WTF?), but I explained that that’s the beauty of stone soup. You make it with whatever there is, it’s different every time, and it’s always delicious. God, I thought, I hope I’m right.
Back home, the Preschooler stayed with me throughout the entire cooking process (highly unusual). We sautéed the onions, ginger, garlic, and carrots in a big pot. We added, like, 10 cups of water (in case we had to share with the other villagers). We threw in two well-scrubbed stones the Preschooler picked out, diced yams, shredded cabbage, a can of baby corn, soy sauce, rice wine, loads of salt and pepper, and a bit of cayenne. We simmered that for a little while, then added noodles and pork dumplings from the market’s handy freezer section. Then, we added enoki mushrooms and diced tofu. And when it came off the heat, we stirred in mung bean sprouts. I was sure there was no freaking way this kid was going to eat this soup.
BUT HE DID. I very nearly crapped myself. He ate three spoonfuls of broth PLUS he fished out a noodle PLUS a baby corn PLUS a piece of tofu. Tofu. Who among us here on the Internet even likes tofu? (He said it looked like cheese but didn’t taste like anything.) And, I’ll be honest, both Husband and I really enjoyed this soup. Enough that we said to hell with the rest of this damned village. No one ever makes soup for us.
That’s the spirit.