July 24, 2007

Stone Soup, Part Two

By Tim Ereneta. Feel free to share, re-write, or tell this version, under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

So the town that learned how to share made Stone Soup part of their everyday lives. And everyday, each household brought their contribution to the soup: one house brought onions, another brought carrots, another salt, still another meat. And often they told the story of how three strangers came to town, and showed them the secret of stone soup, and how they had changed, and how much better the community was now. They shared with visitors when they came. In fact, the town became a bit of a tourist attraction. People from all over came to see Stone Soup being made. And they went home, and sometimes they made stone soup in their hometown, and sometimes they didn't.

One day a nonprofit consultant visited the town, and marvelled at the soupmaking process, and told the townsfolk: "You know, you've got a replicable model here that can synergize local constituencies to achieve social change amongst community stakeholders!"

"Say what?" they replied.

"This Stone Soup. You could share it with the world. There's a lot of good you could do."

The townsfolk thought about this.

"That's true," one of the townsfolk said. "But why would we leave our village?"

"We've got no problem sharing. Let them come and eat with us. We've got plenty of soup to go around," said another.

A few months later a businessman visited the town, tried the soup, loved it. "Hey, with what you folks know about soup, you'd be really good in my sector. I help startups in the soup industry."

"Tell us more," the townsfolk said.

"There are a lot of new entrepreneurs out there in the restaurant business, and in groceries... hot prepared food is a niche that's taking off. But these hotshots with MBAs, they're all about the whizz bang soup technology. Don't know a thing about ingredients. That's where you come in."

The townsfolk thought about this.

"No, thanks. We're doing fine here. If these kids want to learn about soup. Have them move here."

A few of them did.

One brought noodles to add to the Stone Soup. "People like noodles," she said.

"Sorry, no noodles," she was told. "Stone soup doesn't have noodles. Stone and Noodle Soup, that has noodles. But we don't make that kind, we just make Stone Soup."

She packed up her noodles and moved away. As she was leaving the village, she passed a young man coming into town with a suitcase and a bag of dumplings. "Good luck with that," she told him.

The fellow with the dumplings stayed until breakfast, then headed off to places unknown.

A few years passed.

A young woman from the village decided to see the world. She went on a long journey, taking her recipe for Stone Soup with her, and learned many things. When she returned home, she told her family and friends about what she had seen.

"There are quite a number of places now that make Stone Soup," she said. "It's not just us."

"Not as good as ours," said her auntie.

"You can find Stone Soup in cans. You can find it in individual serving size cartons. You can find it in warehouses stacked on pallets in family size containers. You can find miniature versions wrapped in foil with little tiny stones in them..."

"That's pebble soup. Not the same thing," said her uncle.

"There are companies that deliver Stone Soup to your door. There are outfits where anyone can add any ingredient to make brand new styles of soup!"

"Why on earth would anyone want to do that?" said her brother.

"Some people subscribe to a soup-of-the-month club. There are clubs where you can meet other people from all over the world and trade soup recipes."

"We have people from all over the world here," said grandmother.

"Some people heat their soup with microwave ovens, and some in slow cookers, and some use the energy from the sun to heat their stone soup!"

"If it's not cooked over an open fire, it's not stone soup," admonished her mother.

"Next thing you know you'll be telling us you brought home a video camera so you can show off our Stone Soup making process on little movies that people can watch from their very own homes!" roared her grandfather.

"Er, actually, yeah. About that..."

"Not on our watch!" shouted the twins, who began jumping up and down on the young woman's backpack, creating various electromechanical onomatopoeiac breaking sounds with each landing.

"What?" She was bewildered. "You're fine with visitors sharing our Stone Soup, but you don't want to broadcast it to the world? That makes no sense."

"If people want what we have, they can come visit."

"They can't. They don't even know you're here! This town isn't even on the map!"

"They'll find us. They do. Look at whatshername. Wandered in eight years ago, been happy as a clam ever since. She's good with the carrots."

The young woman took a battered bound book out of her backpack. "Well, at least I've got this. It's a blank book. A binder really, with looseleaf paper. I thought we could all add our own thoughts and tips for making soup, and then we'll have this archive."

"Bah," said her aunt. "We don't need that. We've got Eratosthenes. He's brilliant. Anytime we get a good discussion going over soup, he writes it down in his journal."

"Every time?"

"No, just sometimes. We're not scintillating conversationalists every night. Which reminds me, bring up two more bottles of wine."

The young woman was silent for a while.

"Okay. It's time for me to move on. It's been great here, but I have to leave."

"You don't have to do that."

"Yeah, I kinda do."

"Stay and have some soup."

"I'm good, thanks."

The young woman picked up her backpack, hugged her family, and headed out of town.

"Hey, when you're out there in the world, be sure and tell folks about us. Send some folks our way. We love visitors."

"I know." At the village gate, she paused, then reached into her pocket and took out a handful of something.

The townsfolk couldn't quite see what she had in her hand.

She placed one of those somethings down on the path right outside the gate, and started walking. A little farther down the path, she stopped again, and place whatever it was in her hand down on the path, and she kept doing that as she went.

"White pebbles?" asked one boy.

"Bread crumbs?" asked a girl.

And soon, she was out of sight, and the townsfolk went back to enjoying each other's company, and enjoying their Stone Soup. There would be time to see what was on the path outside their village gate tomorrow. Or the day after that. Maybe next week.


Limor said...

I love the analogy...:)

Smilin' Simon said...

Just got around to reading this. Love it. Brilliant on so many levels and the ending is just perfect!
Thanks for sharing this Tim.