Once upon a time, on a dark and stormy night a traveller arrives in a small village, carrying nothing more than an empty pot. Suspicious of the stranger, and in the midst of a food shortage, the villagers hide away in their houses, and refuse him food and lodging. Seemingly indifferent to the hostile atmosphere, the traveller fills his pot with water from the village well, drops a large, smooth stone into it, and places it over a fire burning in the village square.
Despite their misgivings, curiosity overcomes one villager, and he casually asks the traveller what he’s doing. “Cooking stone soup” answers the traveller. “I've never heard of stone soup” replies the villager. “It's the tastiest soup you'll ever eat” says the traveller stirring the pot, “Would you like some?”. Food has been short, so the villager eagerly reaches out for the ladle. Just as he is about to take it the traveller hesitates. “Actually, stone soup tastes even better with a little bit of turnip” he says, “You wouldn't have a turnip we could add would you?”. Reluctantly the villager admits he may have and returns a few minutes later with the turnip and his neighbour, who would also like to try the soup.
“It's pretty good” says the traveller, tasting it “But it would be even better with some potatoes”. The neighbour sheepishly admits that he has some, and heads off to collect them. In the mean time, word has spread around the village, about the stone soup and the local priest comes by. He asks to try the soup and is told that it’s almost ready but, as the traveller explains, “It would be rounded off nicely by some meat”. The priest, who is an honest man, admits to having some dried beef put aside and agrees that, if it will perfect the soup, then he can spare some of it.
The traveller adds the potatoes and beef to soup and, with a flourish, serves up several bowls. Just as he is ladling it out, the baker comes over to see what is going on. The traveller, quick as a flash says “We were just sitting down with our stone soup, but we have no bread to eat with it”. The baker has never tried stone soup, but the neighbour explains that it is the finest soup known, and the baker agrees to provide a loaf of bread to eat with it, in return for a bowl.
Shortly afterwards the traveller, villager, his neighbour, the priest and the baker are all sitting down around the fire with empty bowls in front of them. “Stone soup is the finest soup I have ever tasted said the villager”. “Thank-you” says the traveller, reaching into the empty pot and taking the stone out. Wiping the stone, he puts it back into his pocket and begins to pack his belongings.