The Story Behind Dolly Parton's Stone Soup Will Warm Your Heart

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Just in time for winter, we're dishing up the recipe so you can recreate it at home.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

Throughout her 77 years on Earth, Dolly Parton has uttered many unforgettable quotes. One of our all-time favorites?

"When I wake up, I expect things to be good. If they're not, then I try to set about trying to make them as good as I can 'cause I know I'm gonna have to live that day anyway. So why not try to make the most of it if you can?"

That’s such a lovely perspective no matter what you've been through—or are going through. It also aligns beautifully with the story behind one of Parton’s signature Dollywood dishes: stone soup.

The Origin Story of Dolly Parton's Stone Soup

Parton grew up as one of 12 kids in Eastern Tennessee. At the time, home was a rural two-room log cabin in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. While the family's size was abundant, funds were not.

Parton pays tribute to this in her song Coat of Many Colors: "Although we had no money, I was rich as I could be."

To this day, that make-the-most-of-what-you have philosophy makes appearances throughout her empire, including Dollywood, Parton's popular Tennessee theme park. At "Tennessee Mountain Home," a replica of her bustling family’s Smoky Mountain cabin, you’ll find Aunt Granny’s, a restaurant with another Parton quote emblazoned on the wall: "We didn’t have money, but we were rich—there was enough love, kindness, joy, and faith around our dinner table to last a lifetime."

At Song & Hearth, another food establishment within Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort, guests can order a variety of Southern classics like fried okra, cornbread, collard greens, pork ribs, and a beloved dish from Parton's childhood: stone soup.

Each night, guests can spoon up a bowl of the comforting vegetable soup, just like Dolly and her siblings scooped up often as kids. In addition to the root vegetables, tomatoes, onions, cabbage, chicken stock, and ham hock, you'll find one item that's not meant to be eaten: a rock.

In Parton’s 1994 memoir Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business, the singer, songwriter, philanthropist, actor, and entrepreneur recalls that her mom Avie Lee turned to Stone Soup when one of her 12 children needed a little TLC.

"Mama had a way of sensing which one of us kids needed a little extra attention, which one might be a little down. She would announce that we were having stone soup for supper and send us all out to pick out a pebble," Parton wrote.

Each of the 12 would head outdoors to search for the perfect stone.

"We took it seriously, as if the stones actually had some power to make the soup better. I suppose if that many kids believe a rock can make soup taste better, it can," Parton explained.

After meticulously analyzing all of her rock options, Avie Lee would always choose the one selected by the kid who was in need of some extra love and support.

"I can remember the feeling of having my stone picked to go in the soup. It’s a warm feeling, a sense of being needed, and of knowing, or at least believing, that you have had a hand in feeding your whole family for a day," Parton reflected. "In that sense, there was magic in those stones and a lot of wisdom in that mother."

Related: Our Most Nostalgic Soup Recipes That Serve Up Comfort By The Spoonful

How To Make Dolly Parton's Stone Soup

Song & Hearth used to pass out Avie Lee's Stone Soup recipe—the same one featured on the menu—for guests to recreate at home. It has since made waves all around the internet, and we’re delighted to dish up the heartfelt recipe (courtesy of Dollywood) for you here so you, too, can make new cozy memories with your family.

Dolly Parton's Stone Soup Recipe

In a large soup pot, combine 2 qts, chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth; 1 lb. of russet potatoes, peeled and diced; 1 (14 ½-oz.) can diced tomatoes; 1 small head cabbage, coarsely chopped; 1 lb. of turnips, peeled and diced; 2 large carrots, diced; 1 small onion, chopped; 4 garlic cloves, minced; and a smoked ham hock. Add the clean stone, if you opt to use it.

Over medium-high heat, bring this mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring every so often, until the soup is thick, and the firmest vegetables are fork tender. This should take about 2 hours.

Use tongs to carefully remove the ham hock from the pot, then use a fork or knife to remove the meat from the bone. Using a knife, chop the ham into ½-inch pieces, then stir the meat into the soup.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Dish into bowls and serve piping hot, alongside crusty bread for dunking and a cup of ambition, if desired.

Listen to Dolly Parton's Biscuits & Jam Podcast

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