leftovers are alright. sometimes, like with my mom's mennonite borscht, the dish tastes even better on the next day's reheating. most people would probably agree, though, that's it's good to vary what appears on the table. catering to cravings or an interest in healthy balance, the pot on the stove turns chicken into broth one day and potatoes into mashable softness the next. and in the democratic kitchen of the u.s., i'd say the melting pot is being put to excellent use, set over the fire, making stone soup.
the united states is, to its credit, a country of readers. books, magazines and newspapers are published with relative ease, available for reasonable prices, delivered even to a person's mailbox if they so choose. librarians will rarely have a hard time finding a job. the new york times' best seller list is a veritable river of bubble and change, new titles constantly appearing. and almost everyone i know harbors fond memories of being read to as a child.
books are valued, and with good reason. at their best, i think they're the finest looking glasses on the market. take, for example, the story of stone soup. it's core is the same, the details malleable, the questions it raises about the human condition eternally relevant. a quick search for the title in amazon.com alone yields 280 results; a tale poking around at faith, mistrust, community, trickiness and epiphany is, doubtless, a recipe for a classic.
and it's a classic that merits another telling: ****
once upon a time, there was a famine in which people jealously hoarded whatever food they could find, hiding it even from their friends and neighbors. one day a wandering soldier came into a village and began asking questions as if he planned to stay for 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 not, hearing the rumor of food, most of the villagers had come to the square or watched from their windows. as the soldier sniffed the "broth" and licked his lips in anticipation, hunger began to overcome their skepticism.
"ahh," the soldier 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 soldier. "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 soldier a great deal of money for the magic stone, but he refused to sell and traveled on the next day. ****
the immigration reform bill may not have passed this time around, but outside the storybook, soup soup commands a much longer prep time.
in the meantime, i'll admit it's not easy to wait. it's also difficult to listen to the skeptical villagers' comments. i had a terrible time keeping my cool when hearing that fox news anchor brit hume described marchers carrying mexican flags as "a repellent spectacle." it requires some painful struggle, resisting the adoption of his mentality which appears to be rooted in fear. by calling him a repellent spectacle, which is still an almost overwhelmingly temptation, i'd be surrendering to my own fear that people really believe him. in the end, i'd prefer to have more faith in the u.s. than that.
and faith is the most fantastic part of this stone soup story, unfolding in fits and starts in communities all over the country. a republic works best if people really believe in it, and i think it would be hard to find more fervent believers in the ideal than the immigrants who sacrifice so much to be a part of it. a considerable part of patriotism, it seems to me, lies in a deep trust that the system of government and what it stands for will continue to work in the interests of the people who call it home. if that's the case, i wonder if immigrants, legal and otherwise, have a greater capacity for patriotism than the fearful citizens who want them to leave. i find the immigrants' faith in congress, in spite of decisions that continue to directly and negatively affect them, both astonishing and fundamentally admirable. as with the soldier/stranger in the story above, there exists an understanding that, with patience, the skeptical might still discover the value in working with the outsider who arrived uninvited.
i'm optimistic. this isn't the first time an immigrant wave has brought conflicting feelings to the national surface. it's hard to believe, now, that the irish also once arrived with incredible controversy in their wake. the current situation, then, is a new variation on the old recipe, keeping the country's political kitchen healthy and interesting in the slow preparation of a one-day delicious, more spicy stone soup.