Once upon a time… The Stone Soup
Now that we’re on the road to nowhere economically speaking, Hungarian folk tales might give you an idea or two on how to make ends meet under harsh circumstances. These stories are not always about princes and fairies; sometimes they serve as an encyclopedia of common sense, survival techniques and how a touch of cunning and daring might get you through. Or, in cases like this, they get you a serving of Stone Soup.
The Stone Soup, both the story and the actual soup, was born in great poverty. Roughly about the end of the 1848-49 freedom fight, a young soldier returns from the war. Barefoot and hungry, poor and broken. If you were there on the first screening of FUNZINE-Odeon Film Club this fall, Miklós Jancsó’s Round Up gave you an idea on how rough and unforgiving life was for the homecoming soldiers. But hey, we’re Magyars, even our Summons (Szózat) says that we might be little but never crushed.
Patriotism aside, our hero is still in search of some food. Having knocked on every door in the village asking for a bite to eat, he’s only met with rejection, the dogs only bark at him and chase him away. But a defeated soldier can’t be defeated by selfish and scrooge countryfolk! He comes up with a cunning plan to teach the bastards a lesson in hospitality. He will cook his own meal, on somebody else’s expanse, of a stone.
A the next house he sees, he doesn’t knock on the door, but walks briskly in. When the old woman of the house hears that her dinner will be cooked by the handsome lad, she no longer has any objections. (Note. Old ladies in Hungarian folk tales are not fragile, white-haired dears. They’re sex-crazed (not always explicitly, but they are) old hags with witchy tendencies. Where did that image come from I wonder…) So, soldier-boy asks for a pot and some water to place the stone in. And some salt. And fat. And in order to compliment the flavor of the stone, some sausages. And vegetables. And voilá, delicious cooking smells fill the house. The soup is such a hit with the old bag that she buys the cooking stone off the poor soldier. And now the not-so-poor and full-bellied soldier can leave for another village and another silly old woman. He will never be hungry again.
Should you want to try the recipe at home, start with finding a nice, delicious-looking stone on the roadside. Rinse thoroughly, and put it in boiling water. Stone Soup, done.