Story time

Garlic Soup
as remembered from Highlights magazine

There was a kind man who owed a great debt to his landlord. The man was poor, for nearly all his money was spent trying to pay back the loan, but he managed to survive on what little he had.

One snowy night, there was a knock at the man's door. He opened it to see an old woman, dressed in rags and weak with hunger. Of course he invited her in to warm herself by his fire.

Presently she asked if he had any food to spare. Upon checking his pantry, the man found only a bulb of garlic and a tiny lump of butter. But he was used to such limitations, and before long the smell of roasting garlic filled the house.

He returned to the table carrying a steaming bowl of garlic soup. The butter he had mixed into it pooled on top and made hundreds of tiny rrops of gold on top.

The old woman smiled at him and said, "You are a good man. You have taken me in and offered me your food. This is how I will repay you. Close your eyes and count to one hundred. When you open your eyes, for every golden circle in this bowl of soup, you will have a gold coin."

The man, surprised, nonetheless did as she said. When he reached one hundred and opened his eyes, the woman was gone, but the bowl which had held the garlic soup was overflowing with gold - enough to pay off his debt entirely and live in comfort for the rest of his life.

The next day, the man went to his landlord to repay his debt. When the landlord saw the gold coins spilling out of his tennant's purse, he raised his eyebrows and said, "Robbed a bank, did you?"

"Oh, no," said his former tennant (for now that the debt had been repaid, he owned his own house and was no one's tennant). "I just ... got lucky, I suppose."

But the other man pressed him, and he eventually related the incredible story of the old woman, the garlic soup, and the gold coins. The landlord (he was still a landlord, for many other people still owed him debts, and he was a rich man) thought about this for a long time.

That night, it snowed again. The landlord paced up and down his living room, stopping every few minutes to glance out the window. Finally, he saw a hunched figure making her way down the street.

"About time!" he said, and he rushed outside and dragged the old woman into his house. "Here, sit," he snapped, shoving her down into a plush armchair by the fire.

"Thank you, kind sir," came her voice slowly and creakily. "Might I trouble you for -"

"- some food, of course, fine!" the landlord barked, racing to the kitchen. He grabbed a bulb of garlic and tossed it into a pot of boiling water, then dumped in a large block of butter. He than carried the entire mess out to the old woman and set it before her, saying, "There! That's more food you've seen in a long time, I reckon."

The old woman said, "You will be repaid for your generosity. Close your eyes and count to one hundred. When you open your eyes, for every golden circle in this bowl of soup, you will have a gold coin." And as the greedy landlord closed his eyes and excitedly started to count, he thought he heard a small, creaky laugh.

The landlord counted slowly at first, then faster and faster still. When he reached eighty-six, he couldn't take it any more. He opened his eyes and turned to the large pot where the soup had been.

And in its place, he found just one coin. And this is why. When the large block of butter the greedy man had dumped into the pot melted, it did not form tiny drops as a smaller amount might, but rather collected around the edge of the pot in one large, greasy ring.

What the story's moral is I leave to you, but I take it to mean, "Cook with care."

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