Stone Soup

by Cynthia

“Reuse, Refurbish, Recycle”. It’s a trendy slogan, and it’s something I find rewarding.  Tim and I were going through boxes in the attic yesterday. We were hauling the Christmas decorations back to their storage spot until next year and got distracted. We found a box of knick-knacks he had collected from his parents’ house after they died; little porcelain bells, a mother of pearl encrusted pill-box,  red glass salt and pepper shakers, and some carved wooden animals. With a bit of polish, the salt and pepper shakers were usable, and the wooden animals made  a great addition to the cows and horses and sheep in the grandchildren’s collection of farm animals.

Sometimes I cook with the principle of recycling in mind. Perhaps it is laziness, or the fact that I hardly ever throw food away, but I sort of enjoy going through the refrigerator and seeing if I can make something delicious out of the bits and pieces of past meals. Sort of like making stone soup. I’d been in the garden earlier in the day and collected a basket of kale and lettuces and spinach.  The lettuces and spinach would make a salad, and I wanted to use the kale in something warm.

I opened the refrigerator and began looking through the bins. The first find was encouraging. A half used package of bacon!

The smell of bacon frying is the solitary reason I will never understand vegans. I think of vegans in the same category as priests and nuns who pledge to give up sex forever as a religious practice. No sex? No bacon? Come on, life is too short for those kinds of sacrifices.  I suppose there are some people who actually don’t like bacon, but then again, that is sort of diagnostic, don’t you think?

If you want to make stone soup, begin with some kind of savory fat or meat.  If bacon, fry 4 pieces of bacon very crisp and drain off most of the drippings. If you are a nerd like me, you pour it into the little round aluminum canister like your grandmother used to collect bacon grease. It even helpfully has the word GREASE pressed into the side in case you get confused. Your stuffy foody friends will cringe at the sight of it, but grandma knew a thing or two about flavor. The rest of you can pour your grease into something non plastic and throw it out later, but why? Crumble the bacon into a large soup pot.

I had an abundance of shallots this year so I chopped a handful along with  2 cloves of garlic and a few pieces of celery I found in the crisper. Onions would work just as well. Chop them fairly fine and then saute them in the drippings until they are soft. Put the garlic and onions/shallots and celery in the pot with the bacon.

Since I had a big bunch of kale, I cut out the ribs and chopped it before wilting it in a skillet with some olive oil. I then put the wilted kale in the soup pot. Cabbage or spinach would also work nicely.

I found some  red fingerling  potatoes and a few carrots in the fridge.  I chopped them up and put them in a small covered saucepan to boil until they were on the soft side.  Then I put the potatoes and carrots and the water they were cooking in all into the soup pot with the other vegetables and bacon.

Now you can go a bit crazy here and create your own version of stone soup. What’s in the fridge? I found a cup of white gravy left from last week. I also found some roasted root vegetables and some white beans.  I put them all in the soup.  Then I took 2 quart jars of tomatoes I canned this summer and poured them into the pot, along with 2 cups of chicken broth. Then I sprinkled on some dried thyme and few sprigs of rosemary, a bit or salt and a grind or two of pepper.

So the basics are the following; a savory fat or bit of leftover meat,  an assortment of vegetables, some broth and seasonings. Be sure you have enough liquid that the soup can cook down a bit and not get too thick. Let it sit on the stove and simmer on low for a couple of hours.  Make yourself a cocktail and relax while your soup simmers. It will smell heavenly and whomever you live with will think you a culinary goddess.

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