Group Goulash: Fandango Stew by David Davis
Slim rubbed his grumbling belly as he rode into the town of Skinflint. "I'm so hungry I could eat a boiled boot," he said to his grandson Luis.
"Neither of us has a peso, Abuelo," said Luis. "Looks like fandango stew for supper again."
"CHILI'S GOOD, SO IS BARBECUE.
BUT NOTHING IS BETTER THAN FANDANGO STEW."
A hard-scrabble prairie town by the name of Skinflint doesn't look to be a profitable place for panhandling for a pair of peso-less vaqueros, and the flinty-eyed sheriff collars the two as soon as they tie up their pintos. But these two saddle-weary drifter grifters know how to cook up a deal wherever they land.
"We're not aiming to lasso a handout," said Slim. "My grandson and I rode in to treat Skinflint to a pot of fandango bean stew."
The sheriff narrowed his eyes. "I never heard tell of fandango beans."
Slim pulled a small bean out of his vest pocket and held it up in the air. He sang,
"CHILI IS GOOD; SO IS BARBECUE.
BUT NOTHING'S BETTER THAN FANDANGO STEW.
And we're off in this rootin' tootin' reprise of the familiar folktale Stone Soup. Slim and Luis whip out their well-worn kettle, drop in the fandango bean, and ask to trouble the penurious citizens of Skinflint for a bit of water to start the soup boiling. Even Skinflint can spare a gallon of water or so, and besides, every nosey soul in town is already gathering to see how these loco hombres plan to make a pot of soup out of just one bean.
Silver-tongued Slim sweet-talks the storekeepers and good ladies of Skinflint into pitching in whatever they have lying around, and before you can say "traditional trickster tale," the pretty schoolteacher, the Skinflint Culture Club, and even the sheriff are vying for the chance to add their heirloom tomatoes and garden-fresh veggies to the stew. Soon there's a savory soup simmering on Main Street, enough for everyone to have more than a taste, and the good wives hang up paper lanterns, pull out their best linens and crockery, and set up tables for everyone.
The mayor burped. "Isn't this the best stew shindig you buckaroo's ever saw?"
"Before you go, tell me where I can get some of those fandango beans," said the storekeeper.
"Any bean makes a fine fandango stew," grinned Slim. "Just add generosity and kindness."
David Davis' just published Fandango Stew (Sterling, 2011) gives a spicy Southwestern zest to this timeless tale of community cooperation, an evergreen story best known in Marcia Brown's Caldecott classic Stone Soup (Aladdin Picture Books). For classroom compare-and-contrast fun, pair these two, or add one of the more recent versions by Jon J. Muth, Stone Soup (Scholastic), with its Chinese setting, or Heather Forest's lovely Stone Soup (August House).