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RESOURCES: Feasting & Storytelling Stories are like seeds - both live from being held within a community, nurtured and passed on. In Scotland the tradition of the house cèilidh - an informal evening of story, song, music, discussion, music and dancing - is a hugely rich legacy. The cèilidh provides a cultural crossover space that interweaves the arts with political discussion, and nowhere is that more powerfully manifested than in story - so in the work of sowing the seeds of a better food system, we have found the story to be invaluable.

The Magic Porridge Pot Written and illustrated by Marylou Anderson

Telling stories is an age old art form that we are just recently reclaiming in more mainstream circles. Educators too now all seem to agree – tell the children stories. Over time and culture change stories have gone through many a retelling. It is the teller’s art to bring it alive. The face to face living experience is magical: the bits added, the altered pace, the moments connection with the listener. Stories have the power to educate, to heal, to entertain. They touch the spirit and awaken the imagination. Stories are seeds that grow soul food. Telling the Magic Porridge Pot comes alive for me in focusing on the connection with nature and community. The elements of observing the season changes, playing and communicating with nature, the earth providing, all spoke volumes to my heart. In traditional telling the story ends on a disaster note highlighting humans capacity for greed and waste. Leaving off at this point seems to dismiss the more positive aspect of how the young girl meets and is given a gift by the mother nature figure and how she holds the key to stop the avalanche of waste. So, in my retelling I chose to end on a more positive note.

The Magic Porridge Pot

This is a story about a girl called Rosa and her mum. They live in a flat at the edge of a small town. They don’t have a lot of money and so ever since Rosa was little her mum would take her into the forest to forage for food. When Rosa was old enough this became her favourite thing to do, because she loved the forest and she loved climbing trees. One summer morning she scooped up the basket and ran to into the forest to see what

she could fill her basket with. She loved to taste the zingy wild garlic leaves in spring and gather elderflowers from the trees to make juice. Now it was summer she filled her basket with brambles, wild strawberries, sorrel leaves and mushrooms. Brambles were her ideal sweet treat. After she’d filled her basket with enough for the day she set off for her best loved tree. She’d been practising jumping out of the tree at different heights every day. Today she was going to try the next branch. Sitting for a while to catch her breath and gain courage she felt calmed by the singing blackbirds and the earthy smell of the forest.

The tide of porridge washed down the stairs and oozed out the front door. By this time everyone in the street was either hanging out windows or wading down the street wondering what on earth was going on.

One, two, three and down she plunged to the forest floor rolling in the soft bed of last years leaves. What a thrill! With her skin tingling and her blood pumping she scooped up her basket and ran off down the path. In her delight she didn’t notice a woman coming round a large tree and bumped headlong into her, both her own and the woman’s basket tossed into the air and came crashing down in a heap. Rosa fell to the baskets trying to sort out the mess, crying about how all her berries were squashed. The old woman held out her hand and touched her face – ‘It’s not that bad, look.’ And she helped return the sticks of firewood to her own basket and the gathered food to Rosa’s. “Thanks for your help,” Rosa said, “would you like a berry?” “Oh I’d love one”, the woman answered. ‘Mmm sweet and morish, just as I remember.’ As Rosa was making off home the woman stopped her. “Here, I have something I’d like to give you.” She fetched her hand inside her silky green cloak and brought out a small cooking pot. Seeing Rosa’s quizzical look she whispered – “It’s a magic one.” Sitting the pot down she showed Rosa how to work the magic. “Cook, little pot, cook” she said. And it did. Leaning over the pot Rosa could smell the sweet savour of porridge. When the pot was half full the woman whispered – “Stop, little pot, stop.”And it did. She spooned out the porridge into a bowl. “I’ll take this”, she said, “and you take the pot.” “Oh thank you”, Rosa squealed, and ran off down the path excited to show her mum. And so things changed for Rosa and her mum. Whenever they were hungry Rosa would whisper the magic words and they’d have enough porridge to fill their bellies. Rosa still adventured in the forest bringing back nuts and berries to mix and make a delicious meal. One day when Rosa was off in the forest her mum decided to cook up the porridge herself. “Cook, little pot, cook.” She said. And sure enough the pot started to bubble and steam. When the pot was nearly full she said - ‘that’s enough little pot.’ But the pot kept on cooking. She’d forgotten the words to stop the pot. In a panic she started to call out all sorts of magic words – Abra-ca-dabra! Hocus pocus! Hey presto! – but nothing stopped the pot and soon the whole kitchen was full of hot, steaming porridge. The tide of porridge washed down the stairs and oozed out the front door. Soon there was a whole slew of sticky porridge covering the pavements. By this time everyone in the street was either hanging out windows or wading down the street wondering what on earth was going on. Coming back from her trip Rosa saw the river of porridge and shouted at the top of her voice - “Stop, little pot, stop”. And the pot heard her, and the pot stopped cooking. And so what else could they do but have a

porridge party. Everyone went back indoors for bowls and spoons and soon enough there was only a slick of porridge left on the pavements. They had such a lovely time chatting and eating together that it was decided that the magic pot could be used by everyone and noone had to have a hungry belly anymore.

Further Reading and Doing

Telling stories leaves a sense of wonder and an awakened imagination. There was a lot of joy and connection in speaking with the children after the story telling about believing in magic, and magic pots. Never having come across a magic porridge pot before the magic pot, in my mind, turned into a magic self watering plant pot to grow food in. It’s made out of a recycled plastic juice bottle but experiments have shown that recycled plastic milk bottles will do the trick too. •

‘The Wonder of Trees – Nature activities for children’ by Andrea Frommherz and Edith Biedermann. A season by season joy including storytelling and making story sticks.

‘I love my world’ by Chris Holland. Packed full of playful ideas on nature, community and creating your own stories. The Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh has a library with a great range of folktale collections you can browse.

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Resources: Feasting and Stories: Magic Porridge Pot  

A Seed Truck Resource

Resources: Feasting and Stories: Magic Porridge Pot  

A Seed Truck Resource