Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Stone Soup for Clean Monday: Sharing the Hidden Ingredients

It's "Clean Monday" - the first day of Orthodox Lent - and I'm making soup (simple recipe shared below).

Remember the children's folktale "Stone Soup"? One of my very first school day recollections is when our first grade teacher told the story to our class.  It's about cooperation and sharing what we have with others. 

Vintage book by Marcia Brown
The short version is this: some hungry soldiers come to a village and ask the peasants for food. The frightened and selfish villagers are unwilling to share any of their food stores with the hungry travellers, and hide it all. 

The soldiers finally tell them, “We are three hungry soldiers in a strange land. We have asked you for food and you have no food. Well then, we’ll have to make Stone Soup.”

One by one, the villagers become curious and listen to the soldiers' ponderings - they need a pot, some water, and three stones. Intrigued, the villagers assist them. The witty soldiers assure them it tastes wonderful, although it's still missing something that would improve the flavor.  Each villager contributes a little bit of seasoning or ingredient to help them out. Finally, a delicious and nourishing pot of soup is enjoyed by all.

This simple story is perfect for the beginning of Lent, and we often shared it with our children along with a pot of soup at the start of Great Lent.  The "ingredients" of Lent are, after all, fasting, prayer and almsgiving (works of compassion and forgiveness of others) - which lead to repentance and joy.  

The primary aim in fasting is to make us conscience of our dependence on God. As an Orthodox Christian, I fast for 40 days from meat and dairy products, but fasting in itself is valueless if not combined with prayer and almsgiving. (You are welcome to read more here about "The Meaning of the Great Fast: The True Nature of Fasting".)

A practical ingredient to successful Lenten fasting is planning.  Another key is simplicity!  With the many prayer services we add to our already busy schedules, it's helpful to get organized.  Some families assign the same dish to each night of the week.  For example Sunday=fish; Monday=soup; Tuesday=pasta; Wednesday=shrimp; Thursday=beans...

I've also discovered a third help: shortcut ingredients - so I don't spend so much time in food preparation on the days I'm babysitting my little grandson.  Here are some favorites I use in for my soup:
Mirepoix: diced onions, carrots, and celery
Pre-peeled and cut butternut squash
Canned beans are so quick!

Vegetable Minestrone 
2 T. oil
1 carton of Trader Joe’s Mirepoix (or 1 med. onion, 3 carrots, 3 stalks celery, diced)
1 pkg of Trader Joe’s pre-cut Butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch diced pieces (about 2 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. dried thyme or summer savory
28 oz. can tomatoes, cut or diced, with juice
5 cups vegetable broth or stock
1 bay leaf
1-2 t. salt and 1/2 - 1 t. pepper
15 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked small pasta, such as orzo
8-10 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves
2 T. store bought pesto (optional)

  1. For pasta: Cook 1/2 cup dried pasta in boiling water, according to package directions, drain, set aside. 
  2. Heat 2 T. oil over medium heat in heavy Dutch oven type pot. Add mirepoix, squash, garlic, and thyme. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes, until vegetables begin to soften.  
  3. Add tomatoes, 5 cups of vegetable broth, the bay leaf, 1 t. salt, and 1/2 t. pepper to the pot (you can add more, if needed later). Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. 
  4. Discard the bay leaf. Add the drained beans and cooked pasta and heat through. 
  5. Adjust seasonings. The soup should be thick, but if it’s too thick, add water. 
  6. Optional: Just before serving, add the pesto and spinach, tossing with two big spoons (like tossing a salad), and cooking just until the leaves are wilted.
(Find more shortcut recipes with mirepoix, here)

My priest emailed this quote today.  I'm sure I'll have to re-read it many times before Lent is over as a reminder of what I'm aiming for during this time of Bright Sadness!

Fast as much as you can, 
make as many prostrations as you can, 
attend as many vigils as you like, but be joyful
Have Christ’s joy. 
It is the joy that lasts forever, that brings eternal happiness. 
It is the joy of our Lord that gives assured serenity, 
serene delight and full happiness. 
All-joyful joy that lasts forever, that surpasses every joy
Christ desires and delights in scattering joy, in enriching his faithful with joy
I pray that your joy may be full.
-Elder Porphyrios


  1. What a nice way to start Great Lent! I don't know if my girls have ever read the story of "stone soup," but we should!!! We do ♥ to make vegetable soup together...your recipe sounds wonderful! We went to Trader Joe's today, too.

  2. Yes, I remember the story of stone soup!

    Hope you are enjoying your grandchild, ours bring us such joy.