Mexico’s Stone Soup

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

delicious dish.

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: caldodepiedra@hotmail.com

Comments

  1. Good Gravy
    October 27, 2010, 8:44 am

    Fascinating article, never ceases to amaze how people have learned to utilize the natural resources around them in order to provide food.

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    February 11, 2013, 9:49 am

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