Portuguese “stone soup” is a perfect main-course soup for those chilly autumn and winter evenings. Original from the Ribatejo province (famous for its horses), it is said to get its name from the kidney beans it contains, often referred to in Portuguese as “pedras,” that is, stones.
However, folklore gives other origins to this staple dish of Portuguese cuisine.
The trope of the “stone soup” repeats itself all over Europe. The pattern is always the same: some hungry stranger convinces the people of a given village to each share a small amount of food to make a meal that eventually everyone ends up enjoying.
It's clear the Portuguese moral is the value of sharing.
According to Portuguese folklore, a homeless, starving, poor mendicant friar who had not eaten in days was passing through a small village just north of Lisbon when he was hungry but found that he had nothing to eat. He stopped by a house and knocked on the door, asking if he could borrow a pot in which he could make a delicious and filling stone soup.
The friar reached into his deep pocket to produce a smooth and well-cleaned stone that he promptly dropped into the boiling water in the ironclad cauldron in the fireplace. He ended up boiling a stone in water, to make himself a “stone soup,” as he had nothing else to add to the pot.
A little while later he tasted the soup and said that it needed a touch of seasoning. So the wife brought him some salt to add, to which he suggested that maybe a little bit of chouriço or pork belly would be better. Graciously, she obliged and dropped several thick slices into the pot. Then, the friar asked if she might not have a little something to enrich the soup, such as potatoes or beans from a previous meal. Smiling she agreed and added a healthy portion into the bubbling water.
Finally, the friar announced that he had indeed made a very delicious and filling soup. When the soup was done, the friar fished the stone out of the pot, washed and dried it off, and plopped it back in his pocket for the next time.
He and the family ate a delicious soup for dinner after which he told them many stories from the bible. When the family woke up in the morning, they found the friar had already gone but he had left enough soup for them to feed the poor and hungry in the village.
The story is still told today, and has a clear moral: the importance of sharing.
As can be seen in the story, this soup can be prepared with as many ingredients as desired, and is usually shared and prepared among friends and family.
Keep a stone in your pocket and you’ll never go hungry.
Maybe that’s why many people collect rocks from other countries.