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Making Nail Soup

July 17th, 2010

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite stories was one called Nail Soup (also known as Stone Soup). It’s a traditional Swedish folk tale, here it is in my words as I remember.

There once was a traveler that came to small village carrying nothing but the ragged clothes on his back and bent rusty nail. The villagers tried to run him out of town saying that he was going to steal from them. “Oh no, I was coming to share some nail soup with you. All I need is a pot filled with water and I’ll make some soup to be enjoyed by all,” he said. One curious villager brought him a pot filled with water.

The traveler built a fire and got his rusty nail out of his pocket and dropped it in the pot. Soon the villagers started gathering around to see what nail soup was. After a while, the traveler tasted the soup and said, “If only I had some onions, that would really make the soup wonderful.” One of the villagers ran to grab a couple of onions. After adding the onions and cooking the soup for a while, he tasted it again and said, “If I only had a few carrots and maybe some peas, then the soup would be so much better.” Another villager ran to get a few carrots and another got some peas.

The stranger kept tasting the soup and each time he’d mention something else that would make the soup “just right” and each time a villager would run and get that item for the soup. After a while the pot was bubbling with the best smelling soup the villagers had ever smelled.

The traveler fished out his nail, wrapped it in a handkerchief and put it back in his pocket. Then he served up the stew to all the villagers, it was the most wonderful stew they had ever tasted. They were very impressed with the Nail Soup, although they could never replicate the recipe themselves.

Here’s another version of the story if you’re interested.

Last night I made a batch of nail soup, my version is a simple soup made with all the things I have that need used up. I thawed a venison steak and then proceeded to check in my freezer for anything else that needed used, I found a container of corn left from last year. I also found a head of garlic left from last year’s harvest in the basement pantry. Then I looked in the vegetable drawers in the fridge and came across some cabbage and a handful of the peas from the garden. I remembered that I had picked a pepper along with some onions and potatoes at my mom’s on Tuesday. I had a few beans from my sister’s garden and a big zucchini on the counter that I harvested a yesterday. I kept adding things as I’d find them, and pretty soon it was smelling quite delicious. After cooking in a pot for a few hours, I added a jar of my homecanned tomato soup and a few herbs from the garden to finish it off. It made for a lovely dinner with a side of freshly baked whole wheat bread.

I searched on-line trying to find the copy of the Nail Soup I had as a child, I think it may have been This One. This version of Nail Soup is updated and looks great as well. If you’re ever looking for a great children’s book to give someone, I’d highly recommend finding a copy of nail soup.

Did you have a story that you loved as a child?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.