One of my favorite restaurants when I was a kid was a place called Stone Soup. I remember going to Tanforan mall one day with my mom and being really sad because it went out of business. It was a small cafeteria style place like Pluto’s or Jack’s Urban Eats. I think part of the reason I liked it so much was the story behind the name.
During his travels, a poor weary wanderer comes upon a stingy old lady. He asks her for some food, but she lies and says she doesn’t have any. He asks for some water and says that he will teach her how to make stone soup. So he sets a pot upon a fire, fills it with water and finds a stone to drop into the water. The cheap old lady is intrigued. What a cheap meal! All it takes is some water and a stone. The traveler says, “this stone soup is good by itself, but it would be even better with some meat.” The cheap old lady says, “Oh, I might have a tiny bit of meat,” so she goes and grabs it, and the traveler adds it to the pot. In the same way he comments that the soup would be better with some vegetables, and so the cheap old lady somehow finds she has some vegetables. In this way the traveler cajoles the old lady out of a hearty meal, and the old lady comes out a winner too, thinking she has a new found way to make a cheap meal. I guess there are several morals to the story, but the one that sticks out to me is that the meal at the end is more than the some of its parts.
The last meal we cooked in our RV was kind of like that pot of stone soup. We scrounged up all the leftover bits of all the meals of the week and threw them into the pot. Cabbage from a couple of days ago, tomatoes, yesterday’s beef stew dinner, some ramen noodles, some ham leftover from our sandwiches, some green onions leftover from our fish soup– we threw it all together and somehow it came out good. Really, really good. I ended up eating four plates.
The whole trip was kind of like that. It was made up of a bunch of little experiences. Here are the ones that I can think of right now-
- Arriving at Hang’s apartment at 5am wondering how we will all fit in his tiny studio. It was like a game of tetris trying to fit all of us on the floor.
- My first korean bbq taco. Rawr.
- Korean barbecue buffet. Enough said.
- A good sermon at the local Korean church Hang attends. Meeting all the pastors and staff and realizing that I miss this sort of small church feeling.
- Exploring the UCLA campus, watching all the sorority girls in their rush uniforms. Jim saying, “nice job.”
- Asking Jim later what he meant by “nice job,” and then laughing my butt off when I realized where it came from.
- Eating an Ozzy’s at Pink’s. I’ve never been so full off of one hot dog.
- Almost getting our car stuck while trying to drive to the spot that google maps said was the closest possible drive to the Hollywood sign.
- Spending the night in front of a Von’s (socal version of Safeway). Realizing that it makes me a bum, but that in an RV it’s actually cool.
- Seeing dolphins and sea lions up close, but not in a fake environment like Sea World, wild dolphins and sea lions swimming in the ocean.
- Seeing a ginormous aircraft carrier and a huge navy hospital ship from our dinky fishing vessel.
- Feeling a bite and a tug on the line as I reeled in a fish, pulling it up and finding that it was smaller than the palm of my hand. The crew of the ship making sarcastic comments like, “Monster!” or “Huge one!” Chuckling slightly each time.
- Viewing the painted desert sunset at Joshua Tree.
- Cleaning fish by the cool glow of moonlight and LED lanterns.
- Eating the most tasty fresh fish dinner that I could ever remember.
- Climbing up to the top of the rocks at Joshua Tree and looking down on the small lights of all the campfires around us.
- The ridiculously long drive through the barren wasteland between California and Arizona.
- Dumping our sewage for the first time. Filling our water tanks. Returning to the water tanks the second day and realizing that we stupidly filled our water tanks with the non potable water. Realizing that we really really should pay better attention to signs.
- Walking the Grand Canyon rim trail by the light of a full moon and marveling at the amazing timing of it all.
- Hiking through the trees at the rim trail, turning a corner and suddenly finding the canyon in front of you. Realizing that even though it’s now my third time at the Grand Canyon, it still takes my breath away.
- Scrambling on rocks to get the perfect picture of us on the edge of the cliff. Feeling my legs shake as I look over the edge.
- Seeing deer through the window of my RV, grabbing my camera and rushing outside. Realizing how amazing it is that a group of deer just wandered through our campsite.
- Hiking down from the rim to the 1.5 mile rest house and finding that it was only half way down. Wishing that we had more time so that we can hike down to the canyon floor.
- Hiking back 1.5 miles uphill, all the while thinking “dahhhhhh I’m so glad we didn’t hike down to the canyon floor…..”
- Winner winner chicken dinner at the Canyon Village cafeteria. Laughing cuz Dave ordered the wrong chicken dinner, which looked like a fast food kid’s meal.
- Driving east towards Desert View, slamming on the brakes for a bighorn sheep taking its time crossing the road. Realizing that’s not something you get to see every day. Trying to come up with a “Why did the sheep cross the road?” joke in my mind but failing miserably.
- Taking a star trail shot at the watchtower at Desert View.
- Finding the sign that talks about God’s glory is still there. It says, “All the earth worships Thee, they sing praises to Thee, sing praises to Thy name.” Wondering if it will be taken down sometime in my lifetime.
- Using my ultra wide lens at the watchtower. I actually bought this lens before the last time I came out to the Grand Canyon. Realizing that I’m a slightly better photographer now than last year.
- All the random bits of laughter on account of Jim’s Taiwanese fobbiness, but laughing together in good fun.
- Spending the night in an RV area just outside of Phoenix. Finding that we were the only non senior citizens. Having pleasant conversations with polite seniors.
- All the tasty meals cooked in the RV, and that final dinner, a ridiculous conglomeration of all the previous meals. Finding out how tasty a ridiculous conglomeration can be.
- Realizing how blessed I am for having such good friends. We spent an entire week in a tiny cramped RV, literally bumping into each other constantly. We were dirty, smelly, and exhausted. But somehow I can’t remember any drama at all between us. Truly amazing. That kind of friendship is truly rare and special.
- At the end realizing how the trip all came together. The night before we picked up the RV, we literally had no clue what we were going to do. In the end I found that it couldn’t have come out any better. It was as if God provided for us, finding us a nice play to stay at each night, providing places to dump off our waste and fill up our tanks and replenish our food at just the right times.
In my last post I ranted about how we don’t really have amazing fish tales in our generation. Now I realize that the tale of our lives is bigger and greater than the sum of its parts. It’s just like that bowl of stone soup. All the ingredients come together and form something magically tasty.