Did you Know that one of the most sought after Portuguese delicacies is "sopa de pedra", translated: "stone soup"? That is true, and there is a fable that goes with it!
Well, apparently a Franciscan pilgrim Friar, having arrived tired and hungry at the little village of Almeirim, which lies about 86 km Northeast of Lisbon on the south bank of the river Tejo, decided to knock on a few doors begging for food. Almeirim, being at the time a small village of poor farmers, had obviously just enough to feed its people and could not be bothered whether he was hungry or not. Having been denied of food a couple of times, the Friar did not waste any time and pulled out of his pocket a small white pebble he found on the way there and made his way to the next farmer's house. Soon he got refused again and replied:
- Well, in that case I think I'll make a stone soup!
He asked the farmer if he could at least borrow a pan with some water.
The farmer curiously obliged and the Friar added the pebble to the water and asked to leave the pan close to the fire to heat up
As the water started to boil, the Friar says:
- Well, it would taste even better with a little bit of fat.
The farmer gave him some fat and he added it to the water. The water boiled and boiled, and the farmer's curiosity increased
even more. At this stage the Friar tastes the water and comments:
- Hum, It needs a bit of salt.
- Here is some salt. Replies the farmer straight away. As the farmer hands him over some salt he comments:
- You can't imagine what it would taste like if we were to add some beans.
By now the farmer's wife had joined the party, and curious to know the outcome fetches some beans which he joyfully adds to the water.
As soon as the beans are cooked, the Friar says:
- Some cabbage would do wonders here.
And the farmer gets him some cabbage which he carefully rips in small pieces with his fingers and adds to the water. Some time later, as the farmer was getting nervous with curiosity, he
- A little bit of that smoked sausage of yours...?
The farmer grins and brings him sausages of various types. He blesses him for his good deeds and comments:
- Perhaps a bit of pork would not be so bad neither!
The farmer frowns but the mouth watering aromas emanating out of the pan only made him weaker. So he brings the Friar the pork he desires.
Now that the soup was spreading it's wonderful aroma all over the neighbourhood and neighbours gathered up to
see what was going on, the Friar digs a piece of bread and a spoon out of his bag, retrieves the pan from the fire, leans over it and proceeds to eat the soup slowly and with enjoyment. The farmer and his wife looked in amazement as the
Friar finishes off the last drop of soup and then the wife asks:
- How about the stone? Aren't you eating it?
To which he replies:
- The stone I shall now wash and take with me for the next time!
The afore mentioned "Stone Soup" is a delicacy in Almeirim and is still being sold at various restaurants which dedicate themselves specially to it's confection. It is rather "heavy" for some people, but it tastes fantastic and for those daring souls, there are other well served meat or fish dishes. Have a try if you happen to be around these parts of the world.