Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico
Down here at the tip of the Baja California peninsula, I have stumbled across an pre-Hispanic chile pepper soup that uses river stones as the heat for cooking. The Chinoteco tribe of Pueblo San Felipe Usila was a fishing based culture, and their fishermen used pear-shaped guajes, or gourd pots, told hold their fresh water while ocean fishing. But after the catch, they used guajes cut in half to make bowls for cooking their fish chowder because the gourds of course, could not be placed over an open flame. They heated up smooth stones in a fire to accomplish this according to the recipe below. Totally ingenious, and you can replicate it today!
Stone Soup, Chinoteco-Style
The “river stones” used to cook the soup are smooth stones, usually polished over centuries by moving water, that are about four inches wide and two inches thick. Similar stones are sold by nurseries as garden decorations. Use your barbecue grill to heat the stones as hot as you can get them and use long tongs with wooden handles to transfer them to the cooking bowl.
6 river stones, heated as hot as you can get them on the grill
6 large dried gourds cut like bowls or other large bowls
2 pounds snapper or other white fish, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 sprigs cilantro
2 springs epazote
2 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 serrano chiles, finely chopped
Water or fish or clam broth as needed
Mix all of the soup ingredients except the water or broth in a large bowl, and then divide it evenly among the 6 bowls. Add the water or broth until each bowl is 3/4 full. Add a stone to each bowl and let the soup boil for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the stones and serve the soup carefully.
Yield: 6 servings
Heat Scale: Medium
What about the gourds? Gourds typically are bitter and have to be processed. First they have to be dried, opened and cleaned out properly. You must wear a mask. There is mold and stubborn fiberous material containing seeds. save them to plant. After you have scrubbed your gourd thoroughly, soak it in many changes of water to get rid of the bitterness. Somebody correct me if I”m wrong.
To the above comment I would add that the bitter flavor coming from the gourd is what would affect the soup.