From stone soup to a hearty stew

Memories of Thanksgiving are flying away like the last dried leaves of fall and soon we will be knee deep in jingle bells, tree baubles and (whisper) the white stuff.

Memories of Thanksgiving are flying away like the last dried leaves of fall and soon we will be knee deep in jingle bells, tree baubles and (whisper) the white stuff.

I was over-the-moon grateful my kids made it home for Thanksgiving and things are looking hopeful for Christmas as well.

Truth be told, sometimes I throw a pity party for myself after talking to parents who have adult children living nearby, but then it occurred to me when my kids come home, they come home. They move into their old bedrooms and for a few days and nights we’re the family we used to be. Only taller. And with a daughter-in-law.

The only challenging part is the cooking. I have never been particularly gifted in the kitchen and these days making supper for the whole family reminds me of that Stone Soup story, only told in reverse.

For those who haven’t heard it, the story starts with a man on the roadside with a fire, a pot, some water and a stone. People passing by stop to ask what he is cooking and he cheerfully replies, “Stone soup!”

The people start to add whatever ingredient they have to spare; a potato, some meat, a handful of herbs. By the time the pot comes to a boil it has morphed from stone soup into a hearty stew.

Stew is good. In fact, when it comes to family fare, I am a huge fan of one pot meals. Stews, soups, salads and casseroles are where it’s at. However, our immediate family now consists of a vegetarian, two vegans and two carcass ripping carnivores with a vocal aversion to all things tofu.

Mealtime can be complicated. Add in the extended family and their assorted health issues, allergies and aversions and suddenly it’s not just a tussle between the vegans and the carnivores, but nuts, seeds, onions, kiwi, bananas, broccoli, kale, tomatoes and even potatoes are struck from the menu as well. When you’re not an inventive cook to begin with it can seem like the only choice for a one pot meal is to toss a stone in a pan and tell them to come and get it.

Instead our holiday meals entail creating a variety of dishes with lots of add-your-own choices to ensure no one dies or goes hungry. As I piecemeal things together I find myself stopping to think about each person individually … and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I pull the entrails from the turkey with no malice for the carnivores. I place the tofurkey in a pot and tuck a variety of vegetables around it with no irritation for the herbivores.

Nuts, cheese and onions go in separate dishes on the side. It works. And when we’re finished we will sit around the table with our drinks; drinks as diverse as our food. We have wine sippers and abstainers, java bean connoisseurs and those that prefer the dishwater blend.

We will sit together elbow to elbow and sip our wine or our coffee; our almond milk or our herbal tea and we will all enjoy one thing equally…each other’s company. And that’s pretty wonderful.

Not to go all melodramatic on you, but it gives me hope for world peace. You might think that’s a pretty big leap, but I don’t think so. I believe world peace starts at home. If you can’t respect the differing dietary, political or religious views of your own family what hope is there for the world?

Being part of a family is like attending World Peace University. It’s not easy earning your degree. When you feel like smacking Uncle Dick upside the head for his antiquated views on women you get a D.

When you actually smack Uncle Dick upside the head, that’s an F.

When you get curious why he thinks the way he does and are able to accept a viewpoint different than your own without needing to change how either of you think that earns you an A. When you can accept the possibility a person’s viewpoints on one subject doesn’t necessarily make him evil to the bone and he may even have some redeeming qualities…A+!

When it occurs to you there just might be things about yourself that are less than perfect and drive other members of your family nuts, well that’s another A+.

When you decide that love doesn’t come with conditions you’ve made the honor roll. The holidays are sort of like mid-terms. And with only two months until Christmas it’s time to start cramming!

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from Northern BC. You can catch up on past columns by visiting

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