Soup Loop

Once upon a time, a Pedlar, Thomas by name, arrived in a village called Scarcium which was in the middle of a great plain,  a great distance from its nearest neighbour.  It was very rare for strangers to come to Scarcium, so everyone in the village looked out of their windows and peered from behind doorways watching Thomas walk down the main street.

He was wearing a warm hat and gloves and a brightly coloured coat with deep pockets, and his collar was turned up against the wind.   Although they watched him, not a single resident of Scarcium opened their doors to him and no-one greeted him.  He walked the length of the street, and when still no-on had addressed him he turned, retraced a few of his steps and knocked on the door of the first house he came to.

Now, what he didn’t know was that the cold winter had followed a poor harvest and everyone in the village was worried they didn’t have enough food to last them to Spring.  So when Mrs Potts opened the door of her cottage a tiny crack and he asked if he might buy some food from her, she cried out ‘No, we have nothing to spare.  We have nothing at all’, and shut the door in his face.

Thomas stood for a moment, before he knocked on the door again.  ‘I have a magic spoon that might help.’

‘Magic Spoon?  Whatever do you mean?’ Mrs Potts spoke through the closed door.

‘When I stir the ingredients with the spoon any soup will taste delicious, and there will be enough for everyone to eat until they can eat no more.’

‘What nonsense.’ Mrs Potts retorted.

‘You won’t know unless you test it.’ Thomas said.  ‘Maybe I should go to your neighbour to ask if they would like the magic spoon to stir in their pan.’  He turned to walk away.

Mrs Potts opened the door.  ‘Show me.’

Thomas reached deep into his right hand pocket and pulled out a wooden spoon intricately painted with leaves and birds highlighted in red and gold which he waved slowly in front of Mrs Potts’ fascinated eyes.  ‘I will exchange the spoon for a little of the supper you  make with it.’

Mrs Potts watched the spoon in silence for a moment longer.  ‘You will give it to me?’ she reached out her hand to take it.

Thomas drew his hand back.  ‘First I will show you how it works.’  He stepped inside the door.  ‘It will be a great show.  Your neighbours should come to watch.’

Mrs Potts pointed to the stove ‘There’s only carrots.’

Thomas lifted the lid and stirred the miserable contents with his spoon.  ‘It’s starting to work.’

Mrs Potts sent her eldest son Toby to the neighbour’s house, ‘tell them to come and see the magic spoon, maybe it will improve their scraps too’.  She already had a plan of how she could rent out the spoon to if it worked, when it was hers.

Word of the magic spoon spread quickly through the hungry village.  Mrs Brewer arrived with three green potatoes ‘They’re all we have left’ she said as she handed them to Thomas.  Mr Baker came with a pot of dripping that had been covered in a coat of green mould before he’d scraped it off, but everyone agreed it smelled all right.  Others came later with vegetable peelings and leftover bones.

Each time, the Pedlar took the meagre offering, lifted the lid on the pot so no-one could see inside, and stirred in big wide circles with his magic spoon.

After several hours Thomas lifted the lid on the pan and, holding his face for a moment in the escaping steam, declared that the soup was ready.

He served it into bowls for everyone there; and he was right, the spoon had transformed the scraps and leftovers into a delicious broth of which there was plenty for everyone.  And there was laughter and dancing that night in the village for the first time since the previous Spring.

Thomas left Scarcium the following morning, Mrs Potts, a little colour restored to her cheeks,  stood on her doorstep and waved her precious new spoon in good-bye.

It’s a daft little morality tale, or one very like it, that I learned in Second Grade; in fact I think we even performed it, as I have a memory of making scenery.  But it’s something I think about it every time I make soup; probably because although I like soup, I only make it when I notice that there are vegetables which are going off in the bottom of the fridge, or if I have a carcase left after having roasted a chicken.

I can’t bear to throw food away, so I peel and chop limp carrots and slightly sweaty parsnips, chuck in a handful of lentils and boil them all up together and then whizz up the results with a hand held chopper/blender thing.  There’s never any way to predict what a batch will taste like, and today’s will be very different from last week’s, but there is real pleasure in the frugal creation of something out of not very much.

Oh aye, there’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

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  1. margaret nickels

     /  April 5, 2011

    love soups.Read this today :Les souvenirs sont des iles qui flottent dans l’océan de l’oubli.Il y a dans cet océan des courants, des remous, des profondeurs insondables.


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