The Oak Park Farmers’ Market hosts its annual Stone Soup event at the final Market of the season each year on the last Saturday in October. Prepared with ingredients donated by Farmers’ Market vendors, the Stone Soup is ladled up for Market customers free of charge to thank them for their patronage from about 9 a.m. until the pot is empty.
The Oak Park Farmers’ Market’s Stone Soup event is inspired by a European folk tale which has, for hundreds of years, called on people to live generously, even in times of need. The following version of the story was compiled by the Village’s Farmers’ Market Commission:
Story of Stone Soup
Once upon a time, somewhere far away, there was a great famine. People hoarded whatever food they could find, hiding it even from their friends and neighbors. One day a peddler arrived in a village, sold a few of his wares, and began asking questions as if he planned to stay the night.
"There's not a bite to eat in the whole province," he was told. "Better keep moving on."
"Oh, I have everything I need," he said. "In fact, I was thinking of making some stone soup to share with all of you." He pulled an iron cauldron from his wagon, filled it with water, and built a fire under it. Then, with great ceremony, he drew an ordinary-looking stone from a velvet bag and dropped it into the water.
By now, hearing the rumor of food, most of the villagers had come to the square or watched from their windows. As the peddler sniffed the "broth" and licked his lips in anticipation, hunger began to overcome the villagers’ skepticism.
"Ahh," the peddler said to himself rather loudly, "I do like a tasty stone soup. Of course, stone soup with CABBAGE -- that's hard to beat."
Soon a villager approached hesitantly, holding a cabbage he'd retrieved from its hiding place, and added it to the pot. "Capital!" cried the peddler. "You know, I once had stone soup with cabbage and a bit of salt beef as well, and it was fit for a king."
The village butcher managed to find some salt beef...and so it went, through potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and so on, until there was indeed a delicious meal for all. The villagers offered the peddler a great deal of money for the magic stone, but he refused to sell and traveled on the next day. And from that time on, long after the famine had ended, they reminisced about the finest soup they'd ever had.
Editor’s note: In various traditions, the stone has been substituted with other common objects, so the fable is also known as wood soup, axe soup, nail soup and button soup.