Once upon a time, not far from here, there was a great famine. People jealously hoarded whatever food they could find, hiding it even from their friends and neighbors. One day a pedlar drove his wagon into a village, sold a few of his wares, 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 and ordinary looking stone from a velvet bag and dropped it into the water.
By now, hearing the rumor of food, most of the villagers had come to the square or watched from their windows. As the pedlar sniffed the “broth” and licked his lips in anticipation, hunger began to overcome their skepticism.
“Ahhh,” the pedlar said to himself rather loudly. “I do like a tasty stone soup. Of course, stone soup with cabbage, that's hard to beat.”
A villager approached hesitantly, looked around, and pulled a small cabbage from under his coat. When he discreetly added it to the pot, the pedlar beamed. “Excellent,” he cried, “You know, I once had stone soup with cabbage and a little morsel of salt pork, and it was fit for a king.”
Then it was the village butcher who approached. He had a little piece of salt pork under his apron. And so it went, some potatoes, some onions. Carrots, mushrooms, and so on. Until there finally was, indeed, a delicious meal for all. The villagers offered the pedlar a great deal of money for the magic stone, but he refused to sell and traveled on the next day. And from that time on, long after the famine had ended, the villagers reminisced about the finest soup they'd ever had.