As the old folktale goes, a hungry stranger enters a town and asks for food. No one will give him any, so, in full view of the townsfolk, he announces he shall make stone soup.
The villagers are intrigued, but wary. The visitor sniffs his broth and declares that he loves stone soup, but remembers that it is better with cabbage. A curious bystander decides to contribute one. And so it goes, until the pot is filled with cabbage, carrots, corn and beans.
When the soup is ready, the entire town enjoys it and they dance all night. Stone soup becomes the town's new favorite, and, in the process, they learn how to share.
The Boys & Girls Club of Hernando County's Westside Unit used this story as its theme for a recent Kids Night Out, to teach some valuable lessons.
"Boys & Girls Club is character-building, and the kids are learning how to give back to their community and their friends, and that is going to make them happy," said unit director Maria Figueroa. "The story really shows if everyone pitches in, no one will be hungry."
Kids Night Out is something the Boys & Girls Club offers a few times a year to give the children a fun evening away from home while parents have a couple of hours off.
The recent evening naturally included lessons. The children learned teamwork while preparing a dinner of stone soup. They were also asked to bring in nonperishable food for selected families to help them learn the value of donating.
"They're going to donate (it) to people who don't have much food to survive," said Westside Elementary School third-grader Lukas DiMarco, 8.
"We're trying to help the poor kids that don't have food," said Westside Elementary third-grader Angelysse Orengo, 8. "Kids need food. They can't be empty. They need food and water for energy."
The children spent a couple of weeks preparing for this special night. Some decorated empty bathroom tissue tubes, which became napkin rings. Some made or helped decorate paper centerpiece cornucopias for the tables.
One interesting activity the night of the soup dinner was the cornucopia-shaped crescent rolls. The children donned plastic gloves and fashioned — or, for the younger ones, tried to fashion — cones out of aluminum foil. Some actually did resemble cones.
The next task was to wrap the aluminum cones with crescent dough. Again, some resembled cornucopias. One child looked at another's attempt and said it looked like a chicken leg. Another child declared that his own attempt looked more like Harry Potter's wand. Surprisingly, though, they looked fine baked.
With soup in the slow cookers and crescents in the oven — with pumpkin pies baked and biscuits and corn bread on the table — the children took time to read the classic story and act it out.
The soup the children helped prepare for dinner was a little more complex than the stone soup of yore. They added broth, chicken, potatoes, peas and pasta to the cabbage, carrots, corn and green beans. Their soup did not include a stone.
The children contributed to the dinner in many ways.
"We all got to add a different ingredient," said Westside Elementary School fourth-grader Alexis Martinez, 9.
"I liked making pie," said Westside kindergartener Jusiah Poindexter, 5.
"I liked making those," said Westside kindergartener Germani Grant, 5, taking note of the crescents.
"Me and my friends did the dry ingredients (for the pie filling)," said Westside fourth-grader Blair Johnson, 10.
So they cooked, decorated and played. Then they had soup.
And it was, said Germani, "Delicious."