Thursday, January 10, 2013

Nail Soup

Since I've never been a fan of January
with its wintery days and interminable nights,
over the years I've found a few ways to amuse myself
until February rolls in.

Of course reading is a great past time, 
and I love to read biographies and nonfiction. 
I figure if I'm going to spend the time reading,
I may as well learn something.
But when I was younger, I read a lot of fiction.
One of my favorite short stories then was Nail Soup.
This is the way I remember the story:

A man, hungry and cold,
traveled through the woods one winter night.
He came upon a small home where a light burned brightly,
and he knocked on the door.
The old couple within admitted him, but being stingy folk,
they lied and told him they had no food to share.

No problem, our traveler assured them. 
I can make delicious soup with just a nail, he said.
The old couple were skeptical, but their curiosity was piqued.
So they gave the visitor a pot of water to place on the fire
and watched in fascination as he produced a nail tied on the end of a string 
and submerged it in the water.

photo courtesy of

That's all there is to it? they asked.
Well, the traveler said, sometimes if I have them, I add potatoes.
Well the mistress said, I might be able to find a small potato or two.
The traveler added the potatoes and remarked
 that the soup would unfortunately still be a little thin
since he'd been making soup with the same nail for a few days.
Well, the master of the house said, there might be a carrot in the bin.
And so on and so on until the old couple unwittingly helped the traveler 
make a bountiful soup.

And I actually used the steps in this story 
to make my first pot of vegetable soup
when I was a young bride learning to cook for two--
before I had my cookbook collection or the internet.
Nowadays, I look at recipes online, in recipe books, and magazines,
especially when the weather is cold 
and I'm facing four weeks in January lacking proper holidays to celebrate.

Tomorrow, I'm sharing four soups that are very, very Virginia,
one for each week of January.

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