Sarah Borealis traveled to Mexico on a research trip with Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies, and while there, discovered a tasty tradition brewing in El Tule. Below, she describes the ancient tradition of making stone soup.
In the summer of 2008, I traveled to the town of El Tule, in the state of Oaxaca, to visit a private archive of early 20th century documents. A friend of mine who is a Mezcalero (a maker of Mezcal, an alcoholic beverage produced from the agave plant that grows abundantly in the region) was good enough to drive me to my appointment. On the way back, we received a call from a friend who was dining on “stone soup” nearby. Because we were traveling along the highway en route to Oaxaca City, we decided to stop and check it out.
It ended up being the highlight of an incredibly magical day trip. The soup reminded me of the “stone soup” fable from my childhood- the idea of making soup from stones appears in several cultures, and has a way of uniting people through both memory and active sensory experience.
Caldo de Piedra, or
“stone soup,” is a dish that represents the Chinanteco cultural
tradition. The Chinantecos are one of several distinct indigenous
ethnic groups living near the mouth of the Papoloapan River, in the
northern part of the state of Oaxaca. According to the Gachupin de Dios family, their ancestors’ nomadic way of life began to change as Chinantec peoples developed new ways to use fire in the preparation of food.
The river stones, used to cook the soup, are heated in
an open flame until they are red-hot. In individual jícaras, (bowls
made from the dried gourd of the native Oaxacan calabash tree), fresh
tomato, onion, chili pepper, garlic, cilantro, epazote, salt, red
snapper, shrimp and water are combined to make the soup. The
ingredients are boiled when the hot stones are dropped into the
naturally heat resistant “soup bowl”.
Stone soup has a
gendered twist; women do not participate in the preparation of this
unique and delicious dish. In the spring, the optimal time for
gathering the required river stones and fresh ingredients, Chinantecan
men work an entire day to produce the organic delicacy. Their labor,
and the soup itself, is a collective offering of unity, respect, and
honor for women, children, and older individuals as distinguished
members of the community.
While the Chinantecos historically
prepared the soup along the banks of their beloved river in the
highlands, since 1999 Cesar Gachupin de Dios and his family have been
transporting the stones and other key ingredients to offer “stone soup”
(caldo de piedra in Spanish) to a wider audience in a more accessible
location. In their beautiful and breezy palm thatched roof restaurant,
aptly named “Caldo de Piedra,”
located at Kilometer 11.9 on the state highway running between Oaxaca
City and the town of El Tule, tourists and locals enjoy the exotic and
For more information, see the restaurant’s website: www.caldodepiedra.com
For reservations call: (045) 951 550 84 86 or (51) 51 78318 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org