Since my TT theme this month is saving money on the grocery bill, and since I like to entertain friends, I thought I’d share a fun idea about inexpensive entertaining. Often, the “but what will we fix?” question keeps us from having a group of friends gathered around the table, whether it’s a special occasion or an everyday get together. This is a fun variation on a pot luck that can easily turn into a tradition or build a great community of friends… without breaking the grocery budget.
You simply serve Stone Soup.
Have you heard the story of Stone Soup? Here’s what Wikipedia says about it (I found it amusing), or Google it to find plenty of versions of the tale. But the gist is this: Two travelers come to an impoverished town. There is nothing the town has to offer them to eat, so the travelers announce they are making stone soup. They put a stone in a large pot of water and, as it boils, they muse to themselves about how great the soup will be. The curious villagers listen to the travelers talk about how tasty the soup would be if they just had a bit of cabbage. Soon a villager comes forth with some cabbage. Another notices that they have no salt and pepper… every soup needs salt and pepper, so another villager offers the spices. Before long, the whole village has contributed just a meager ingredient or two. And there is a large pot of tasty stone soup, with beef, cabbage, onions, potatoes, carrots and spices, ready for the whole village to share. The moral of the story is that working together, you can create something from “nothing” for the greater good to share.
So, it’s easy to do for us too. If you’re hosting, ask each person you invite to bring an ingredient or two for the pot. You start it off (for us, with onions and beef/venison). Some ingredient suggestions to go with beef would be: carrots, potatoes, garlic, beer or red wine (add a little to the broth; use the rest for drinks), dried cherries or cranberries, mushrooms, cabbage, sweet potatoes or winter squash, hardy greens like kale or chard, etc. Someone can bring a loaf of bread to share as well.
We save our onions over winter from the garden, and we don’t have to buy red meat often, but I usually see stew beef on sale for under $2/lb (or buy a chuck roast on sale and cut it up yourself!), and Sunflower Market has onions for $.77/lb this week. So say you buy two pounds of beef and a couple onions to start your soup: that’s what, less than $6.00??
This can be done with SO many variations. A chicken stock with, well, about anything. A pork based one with fresh chili peppers, or pumpkin. How about a spicy vegetable stock with canned tomatoes, garlic, and fresh ginger and have guests bring carrots, bell peppers, onions or scallions, celery, green beans, lime or lemon juice, spinach, grated Parmesan cheese and some shrimp to throw in at the last minute.
A fun tradition to start with some friends (why not take turns hosting??), perfect for a game day, or just a simple get together. (Hey, you could play canasta or Wii while the soup simmers!)