“We shall never go hungry now that we know how to make soup from stones.”
~from a tale of Stone Soup
Summer presents the perfect opportunity to make a Stone Soup kind of meal. Stone Soup is an old folktale in which hungry strangers enter a town and cleverly convince the fearful townsfolk to share what they have, creating an impromptu feast for everyone. As friends and family offer us their unique gifts of the garden, late summer dinners can be an opportunity to collaborate efforts as well.
Last year our own garden was sparse. By the time school finally got out at the end of June here in the Northeast (thanks a lot, snow days) and family vacation was over, summer was also half over, and we didn’t have a garden. My mother-in-law brought us a handful of plants: beets, kale, chard, lettuce, parsley, tomatoes. I stuck them in the ground more out of a sense of duty than my usual hope, wonder, and anticipation, and that was that. No fanfare. No planning, weeding, or watering. An afterthought, really.
The result? Well, you reap what you sow. Although there were slim pickings, and the tomatoes were an embarrassment, what we did harvest was delightful. Then an amazing thing happened–friends showed up and filled in the garden gaps. One friend brought us an abundance of tomatoes, large and small, green and purple bell peppers, and even an eggplant. Not only have I never grown eggplant, I’ve never cooked one either. But it was gorgeous, and I was up for the challenge. Surely my Fannie Farmer Cookbook could help.
Another friend, a science teacher, offered us a unique gift–”black trumpet” chanterelle mushrooms he found growing in his yard. (With all the rain we’d had, it would behoove us to learn mushroom identification!) The mushrooms are slightly salty and meaty.
I chopped up those gorgeous greens from my own garden along with the veggies and black trumpets, sautéed them in my trusty cast iron skillet with garlic and onions, added some of Mom’s basil at the last minute, and we had a lovely primavera for pasta. Proving once again that it takes a village to raise the taste buds. Aren’t we better people when we work together?
This makes sense to me. We need each other. I recall a couple years ago when my parents had a bumper crop of cucumbers, but their beets didn’t produce. I had the opposite scenario. So we shared what we had with each other. I find this is often the case. Maybe that should remind us that we rely on our neighbors, even if it’s only to add variety to our salad. We can share our bounty, too–whatever it is.
(First published in Plymouth Connection, July, 2019.)