STONE SOUP, A SYCAMORE THANKSGIVING TRADITION
by Christy Durham, co-founder/director
Schools all over the county typically celebrate Thanksgiving with a student party filled with stories of Indigenous peoples and pilgrims, food, and art projects. At Sycamore, we take a different approach that we feel is more true to the spirit of the holiday… we make a community soup!
We started our Thanksgiving tradition in 2015, figuring that the best way to celebrate the holiday would be to make soup for the entire school community to gather around and enjoy together. That first soup was inspired by the folk story, Stone Soup. In that story, three strangers arrive in a town where everyone claims they are too poor to feed them. The wiley strangers suggest that they can make soup simply using some stones. As the stones boil, the newcomers suggest that the soup would be much better with a little onion. One villager volunteers that they could supply that. In the end, each member of the small village contributes an item to help make a soup that the entire community enjoys together. (This tale has since been retold by many different countries and cultures from all over the world.) Every year since, we chose a new story about community to help inspire that year’s soup.
One of Sycamore’s hallmark Mindsets is “collaboration.” What better way to embody this mindset than to have each student contribute an ingredient to add to our meal, just as the villagers did in Stone Soup? When the time comes for a particular ingredient to be included, we ask if anyone has it. “Our soup would be so much better if we just had some carrots…” Kids excitedly jump up with their item and run to the kitchen where they help to prep and add to the pot. By adding their ingredients to our meal, Sycamore students have the opportunity to reflect on how they participate in the community and how lots of small contributions add up to something great!
Over the past 7 years we have made stone soup, chicken soup, Incan stew, rice dumpling soup, and bone soup. This year, our soup, pozole, was inspired by the Indigenous peoples of the Southwest and Mexico (see the story of Jueves Pozoleros below). Pozole is a dish that the founders of our soup event, Karla and Christy, both enjoyed growing up. It was a very personal and meaningful way to bring our community back together after our event was cancelled last fall.
Shared by Tia Leticia (Karla’s aunt)
Thursdays are known as Jueves Pozoleros (Pozole Thursdays). This tradition originated at the end of the seventeenth century in the mountains of Guerrero, a state in Mexico. There, the last of the harvests were collected in the month of September. Because the temperature began to drop in the mountains, the corn would begin to rot much faster than in the warmer months of summer. The people of Guerrero would gather the left-over corn on Wednesdays, and a large community party would be organized where they would prepare a maize-based soup called pozole. This party was organized as an act of solidarity with the farmers that did not have a good harvest that year, as the people of Guerrero preferred to share their bounty with the community before giving it to the animals for feed. The celebration would continue into Thursday. Often, there would still be more corn leftover so the community would reheat the pozole, add the remaining corn, and the party would continue. The reheated pozole was thicker and more flavorful than it was on the previous day, so the people would wait for Jueves Pozolero to enjoy this delicious community soup. This tradition would continue during the next several centuries, and Thursdays would become the preferred day to gather and eat pozole, fresh or reheated.