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Photo: Meagan McGovern

All of the ingredients for Stone Soup

Do you all want to hear a happy story, a good story, a cheerful story?
Of course you do.
It’s a long one, but you’ll like it.

So, our farm is called “Stone Soup Farm.”
Mark’s last name is “Stone,” which is a fantastic last name for someone steady, and I, of course, am the world’s best soup maker, so it made sense.

I grew up, for lack of a better term, “food insecure.”

We always had food, but sometimes it was weird. Sometimes it was potato chips and Coke. Sometimes it was fast food. Most of the time, though, my mom was able to have a pot of soup on the stove. Pea soup, stews, chicken soup, whatever. Whether we had just the four of us girls for dinner or whether we had 12 teenagers, there was always a pot of soup going.

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I am excellent with soup, and I’m firmly convinced that no one else knows how to make it right — nothing makes me more sad than a badly seasoned bowl of potato soup in a restaurant.

Photo: Meagan McGovern

So, when we went to name the farm, Stone Soup was the winner, because of the story:

A bunch of soldiers coming home from war are starving, but because every village is suspicious, and because times are hard, no one will give them any food.

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The head cook, who is a very smart man, goes into the town square, sets up a huge pot of water over a fire, and says, loudly, “I’m so glad that we have all of the ingredients for Stone Soup! I just need the perfect stone for it, and we’ll have enough to share with the whole village!” And the soldiers scramble to find the perfect soup stone, and the villagers peek out of their windows, wondering how they’re going to make soup from a stone, and when the soldiers come back, the cook rejects most of the stones, and finally chooses one and says, “YES! This will make most excellent soup. THIS is the stone!”

And so he puts it into the pot, and starts the water boiling, and looks into it and sighs.
“If only I had an onion. One onion would make all of the difference. It’s just not soup without an onion.” (CAN CONFIRM.)

And a little old lady, who is also a good cook, and who understands that there really IS nothing worse than soup without an onion, goes under her bed to where she’s hidden her stash, and rolls one out the door to the chef, who smiles and says, “Look! An onion just appeared! We are saved! I mean, it would be better with carrots, especially if we’re sharing with all of these good people. But I can make stone soup without them, I guess.”

And suddenly, a window opens, and a few carrots hit the ground by the chef.

And as the soup begins to boil, and the smell of hot food comes over the tired village, offerings of potatoes and cabbage and even a bit of meat come out, and in an hour, the chef is standing over a pot of the best soup the village has ever had the pleasure to serve, and there is a feast, and sharing, and everyone walks away with a full belly, despite the fact that two hours before there was no food to be had.

Stone Soup is a miracle of optimism and sharing, and of finding joy in times of distress, and of trusting your neighbors and your friends, and of the power of an onion to connect people.

And so we named our farm Stone Soup Farm, and we have five freezers, and three refrigerators, and a pantry full of food. We have beef, and a friend works processing chickens, and I always have too much food. And so it was time to put this to good use.

There is a neighbor’s group on Facebook where I am the “outspoken liberal newcomer” who is always causing a ruckus. GO. FIGURE. There are a few people in the group who actively are suspicious of me, and to be fair, they’re also not my favorites. But we share a town and a school district, and so we all talk about current events and which restaurants in town suck, despite our alternate realities and opposite choices in cable news.

And I posted two days ago that I was going to bring soup to sick people. I said that I’m cooking up chicken soup, and if a neighbor or a friend is sick, or needs help, I am delivering, and please just send the address.

And because we are living through a warped dystopia which we all thought was something else until four years ago, I got messages like “Oh Megan thank you me and 76 year old man out in small house both with the cough I don’t want to go out .I got front porch stoop and when better I will pay it back .”

And “Thank you — I have taken in four teenagers who have nowhere else to go and can’t feed them,” and “My son and I have Lyme disease and can’t leave the house and would love soup — we’ve been so sick.”

And so, while I was gearing up to deliver, I kept getting responses on the neighbor group that I am “an angel,” and that I’m “what a neighbor should be,” and that I’m “restoring faith in humanity.”

YOU people, my FB crew? You know me. You know that I am doing this because I like to make soup. You know that I am doing it to light a candle in the dark, to make *myself* feel better. I’m doing it because it keeps me busy and distracted, and gives me a project. It makes me feel like my paranoia about having five freezers is justified and quashes my guilt about getting all of this free food from the Gleaner’s Pantry while other people go hungry. I mean, there’s a snarky part of me that wants to show the group of conservative grumps that not all liberals are evil, and that you don’t have to be a Christian to be kind. I want to show my kids how to do the right thing. This is not coming from the goodness of my heart — it’s a survival mechanism that makes ME feel good. There is no sacrifice on my part, though I do feel a slight qualm about all of my canning jars going away.

And then, I swear this is real:
People started messaging me.
“I have extra onions. Can you use them for soup?”
“I have a ham. We don’t eat pork. Can you use it?”
“I made three dozen muffins. Will you take them with you?”
And, “I don’t have much, but I’m too old to can anymore. Will you take my canning jars and put them to good use?”

And last night, we made three stops to pick up soup fixings, and muffins, and the magical bag of onions, and then delivered quarts of soup to nine families.

And tucked into the canning jars was $90 cash with a note to please go buy more stuff for soup, since she’s older and can’t get to the store, and to please keep delivering.

I’m not crying, I swear.
It’s just the onions.

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