Encore: 'Latchkey Stew'20:48

(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)

Do you remember the last time someone shared with you?

Perhaps a friend shared a toy… or a sibling shared a book. Maybe a grown-up shared a funny joke.

It felt good to be shared with, right? And seeing how happy you were probably made that person feel good, too.

Well, in today’s story, we’ll meet some people who don’t know the first thing about sharing… until a young girl teaches them the lesson of a lifetime.

Today, our story is called “Latchkey Stew.”  You’ll hear versions of this tale in many countries, from France, Portugal and Sweden to Russia and Jamaica!

Voices in this episode include: Roseann Cane, Anne Undeland, Hana Kenny, Maizy Scarpa, Jacob Yeh, Jefferson A. Russell, Thom Whaley, and Jurnee Smollett-Bell. Grown-ups, you may recognize Jurnee from the television shows “Underground” and “Friday Night Lights.” And kids: you may know her from “Sofia the First” on Disney, Junior.

This episode was adapted by Rebecca Sheir, and edited by Jessica Alpert. Original music and sound design by Eric Shimelonis. Casting by Amy Lippens, CSA.

ADULTS! Print out this picture so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album on Instagram, and we’d love to see what you color. If you’d like to share your picture on Instagram, post your artwork and tag it with #CircleRound. We'd love to see it!

Things To Think About After Listening

What can you share today? It might be a thing you can see and touch - like a book, or even food! Or it could be something else, like a story, or a joke!

Now, share that something with someone, and draw a picture about how sharing made you feel. Then show that picture to a friend... or a grown-up… or, to us! Tell your grown-ups our email address is

Story Transcript

NARRATOR: It had been a long, hard winter on the small farm in the countryside. And after so many months of snow and cold, Rachel and her mother… who both lived on the farm... were tired... and hungry.

What little grain they had they fed to their cows… who provided a bit of milk… and to their chickens… who laid a few eggs every now and again. But otherwise, Rachel and her mother were left with grumbling bellies, as they eagerly awaited the spring.

MOTHER: Rachel, once all this snow melts, we’ll be able to harvest some vegetables and either eat them, or sell them at the market. But for now, we have next to nothing! How will we make it til spring comes? Do you have any ideas?

RACHEL: Well, we may not have much, mother, but we have each other. That’s the most important thing. As for finding something for us to eat … don’t you worry. I’ll set off down the road first thing tomorrow and figure out something.

NARRATOR: The next morning, Rachel hugged her mother goodbye and set off down the road. In her knapsack were some scraps of food and an old tin pot, so she could cook as she traveled.

She passed through dense forests and rolling meadows, she crossed rivers and streams. Every now and again she stopped to light a fire, and cook a meager meal in her tin pot.

By the third day Rachel was all out of food… and her stomach was empty as a scooped-out pumpkin! As she climbed down a big, steep hill, she found herself in a sunny valley. So sunny, in fact, that it felt far too warm to be winter.

RACHEL: Why, the snow is melting already! I can see the lush green grass poking up from the earth!

NARRATOR: But that wasn’t all Rachel could see. Tucked away in this warm, sunny valley was… a town. A comfortable-looking town, with elegant houses and tidy front lawns. Rachel noticed most of the houses had their windows open, to let the warm breeze blow in. But when she looked at their front doors… Rachel noticed something… odd:

RACHEL: Locks! Every single house has at least half-a-dozen locks on the door! Padlocks, deadbolts, latchkey locks… Hmm. I wonder what all these people are trying to protect!  Well, it doesn’t matter. Their houses look nice and their yards are pristine. They must have more than enough to be content. No doubt they have plenty of food to share with a hungry traveler.

NARRATOR: Rachel walked up to a lovely red house and knocked on the front door. A voice called out from inside.

WOMAN 1:  Who’s there?

RACHEL: Please, ma’am. My mother and I had a tough winter on our farm and we are very hungry. I’ve come a long way to ask for something to eat. Might you have any food to share?

NARRATOR: Rachel heard a series of jingles, jangles, clicks and clacks as the woman undid the many locks on her door. She opened it a crack and peeked her face out. Rachel noticed she was squinting her eyes suspiciously.

WOMAN 1: Some food to share? With a stranger? I’ve worked hard for everything I have, and I won’t even share it with my own neighbors! So the answer is no!

NARRATOR: And with that, the woman slammed the door shut, right in Rachel’s face.

Rachel was shocked. But... thinking of her hungry mother back home... she was also determined. So she walked down the road to another house.. and another… and another. Yet every time she knocked on a lock-filled door and asked for food, she heard the same thing.

MAN 1: Share food with you?

WOMAN 2: A complete stranger?

MAN 2: Do you know how hard I worked to get the food I have?

WOMAN 3: Not even my neighbors can get their hands on it!

MAN 3: The answer is…

MAN 1 / WOMAN 2 / MAN 2 / WOMAN 3: …NO!

NARRATOR: After a few hours of this, Rachel was hungrier… and more confused… than ever.

RACHEL: I don’t understand. All these people… they seem so well off! And yet they won’t share! If I lived in one of their fancy houses, I’d share everything I had! And I certainly wouldn’t put all those locks on my door! I mean, with so many locks, can you imagine all the keys you’d have to…?

NARRATOR: That’s when Rachel had... an idea.

RACHEL: But of course! Keys!

NARRATOR: Rachel ran around the valley, picking up twigs and branches. She filled her tin pot with crystal-clear water from the stream. Then, in the middle of the road, right in front of all the houses, she used the twigs and branches to build a fire. She placed her pot on top of the fire. As the water began to boil, the bubbles grew bigger and bigger.

Soon, the sound of bubbling water was drifting through the village… right through the open windows of all the houses. The first woman Rachel encountered stuck her head out a window on the second floor.

WOMAN 1: Hey! You! Who are you, anyway? And what in the world do you think you’re doing, boiling water in the middle of the street?

NARRATOR: Rachel smiled her warmest smile.

RACHEL: Why, hello again! My name is Rachel, and I’m just… making stew!

NARRATOR: Just then, another neighbor popped his head out of his window.

MAN 1: Did I hear you say you’re “making stew”? In the middle of the road? What kind of stew?

NARRATOR: Rachel turned to the man.

RACHEL: What kind of stew, you ask? Why, only the most delicious stew you’ve ever tasted! You see… this stew… is magic.

WOMAN 2: Magic?!?

NARRATOR: Now a third neighbor popped her head out of her window.

WOMAN 2: Tell us: exactly how do you make this “magic stew”?

NARRATOR: Rachel glanced at the locks on all the neighbors’ doors.

RACHEL: Well, first, I’ll need a very special ingredient. Tell me: might you have any… keys?

WOMAN 2: Why, yes! It just so happens I have plenty of keys!

WOMAN 1: As do I!

MAN 1: I do, too!

RACHEL: Wonderful. I’ll take one from each of you.

NARRATOR: The neighbors’ heads all disappeared from their windows. Within moments, Rachel once again heard jingles, jangles, clicks and clacks as the neighbors undid the many locks on their doors. She smiled to herself as her plot began to play out.

RACHEL: (to herself) This latchkey stew could be the key to teaching these people how to share! Let’s just hope my plan works!

NARRATOR: Soon the neighbors dashed out of their houses and thrust a pile of keys into Rachel’s open hands.

RACHEL: Thank you! These keys will make excellent stew! The only problem is: I’m using such a small pot. I won’t be able to make very much latchkey stew, I’m afraid.

NARRATOR: The first woman Rachel had met that day… the very first person to slam the door in her face and refuse to share any food… spoke up.

WOMAN 1: Well, I’m pretty sure I have a bigger pot tucked away somewhere. I’ll go get it!

RACHEL: That would be wonderful! Thank you! (to herself) Huh. Not bad for folks who claimed they wouldn’t even share with their own neighbors!

NARRATOR: As Rachel waited for the bigger pot to arrive, she heard even more jingles, jangles, clicks and clacks as even more neighbors undid the many locks on their doors and rushed outside.

MAN 2: We heard you’re making latchkey stew!

WOMAN 3: Latchkey stew! Is it true?

MAN 3: I’ve never heard of latchkey stew! It must be magic!

NARRATOR: By now, the entire town had filed out onto the street. Rachel swapped her small tin pot for the larger one, and filled that larger pot with water. One by one, she dropped the neighbors’ keys into the pot. Then Rachel stirred the water, tasted it, and stirred it some more.

RACHEL: What this latchkey stew needs now, I think… is some salt and pepper.


WOMAN 3: Oh! I have salt and pepper! I’ll be right back!

NARRATOR: When the neighbor returned with the salt and pepper, Rachel sprinkled in a bit of each and tried another taste.

RACHEL: Mmmm. I can taste the magic working already! But when I make this latchkey stew, I sometimes help it along by adding… a carrot.

MAN 3: I’m sure I can give you many carrots! I’ll run home and fetch them!

RACHEL: Wonderful! And no batch of latchkey stew is complete without potatoes!

WOMAN 2: I have potatoes! I’ll be back in a flash!

NARRATOR: The neighbors scurried to their houses and came back with armloads of carrots and potatoes. They even helped Rachel slice the vegetables into the stew.

Rachel stirred and tasted, tasted and stirred.

RACHEL: You know, the last time I made latchkey stew, I added far more ingredients than this. Something is missing. But I can’t figure out what!

NARRATOR: Suddenly… much to Rachel’s delight… all the neighbors began to chime in.

MAN 2: What about sweet potatoes? I can bring sweet potatoes!

WOMAN 1: And I can bring squash!

MAN 1: I have mushrooms!

WOMAN 2: I have oregano!

MAN 3: I’ll go get turnips!

WOMAN 3: I’ll go get beets!

NARRATOR: As Rachel watched the growing excitement, she couldn’t help but beam from ear to ear.

RACHEL: Well, my friends, no need to wait! Bring everything! Everything! We can put all of it into the pot!

NARRATOR: Within minutes, vegetables were flying through the air and landing in the stew with a splash. With each new addition, the pot grew fuller, and the stew grew richer.

Before long, the huge pot was filled to the brim. The simmering stew sent out puffs of fragrant steam, and the most scrumptious smell drifted through the air.

Again, Rachel stirred and tasted, tasted and stirred. The neighbors looked at her with wide eyes… and watering mouths.

WOMAN 1: Well…?

MAN 1: ...Is the latchkey stew ready?

NARRATOR: Rachel put one last spoonful of stew to her lips. She took a long sip.

RACHEL: Good news, my friends! At last, the stew is ready! (pause) But here’s the thing about latchkey stew: it’s bad luck to eat it alone. So it looks like you’ll all have to join me!

NARRATOR: With that, the neighbors immediately jumped into action.

MAN 2: I’ll run and grab some tables!

WOMAN 2: I’ll help you carry them!

MAN 3: And I’ll bring chairs!

WOMAN 3: Me too!

MAN 1: I’ll lend my bowls and spoons!

WOMAN 1: And I’ll bring tablecloths! And candles!

MAN 2: This is becoming quite the party!

NARRATOR: The neighbors set the tables right in the middle of the road. As they straightened tablecloths and lit candles, they chattered amongst themselves like excited schoolchildren.

WOMAN 1: It’s not every day we get to eat latchkey stew! Don’t you think a fine meal like this one deserves some bread?

MAN 1: Yes! And cheese!

WOMAN 2: And bowls of fresh fruit!

NARRATOR: Rachel watched with pleasure as the neighbors suggested more and more side dishes for the latchkey stew.

RACHEL: Listen, my friends: the more, the merrier! If you have more to share, we will share even more of a feast!

NARRATOR: The neighbors laughed and giggled as they ran home to grab more food. As they sat down to eat, everyone’s smile was as big as the pot of latchkey stew.

RACHEL: Alright, everybody. Let’s dig in!

NARRATOR: For a few moments, all you could hear was the sound of spoons scraping against bowls. Then... some slurping. And then…?

WOMAN 3: Oh my goodness!

MAN 3: Have you ever tasted such glorious stew?

WOMAN 2: And when was the last time we all sat down for a feast like this?

MAN 2: Gosh! I don’t know that we ever have!

WOMAN 1: And to think: all of this delicious magic started with a handful of keys!

NARRATOR: The banquet continued well into the night. The neighbors told stories, sang songs, and when it grew too dark and chilly to remain outside, they undid every single lock on their doors and opened their homes, so that they could continue celebrating inside.

MAN 1: What about you, Rachel?

WOMAN 3: Won’t you come celebrate with us?

WOMAN 1: Our doors are wide open!

NARRATOR: Rachel smiled and reached for her knapsack.

RACHEL: Oh, my friends. I wish I could, but it’s time I go back to my mother. She’s been home all this time, waiting for me to bring food to get us through the rest of the winter.

WOMAN 1: Well, why didn’t you say so?

MAN 1: We have plenty of food to spare!

WOMAN 2: My goodness, you were kind enough to share your magic latchkey stew with us…

MAN 2: …the least we can do is share our food with you!

NARRATOR: The neighbors grabbed Rachel’s knapsack and ran from house to house, stuffing the bag with all sorts of fruits and vegetables. Then they took a wooden box and loaded it with cheese and eggs. They took another box and piled it high with bread.

RACHEL: Wow! What generosity! So much food! But I have a long journey ahead of me and I’m not sure how I’ll be able to carry it all –

NARRATOR: Just then, one of the neighbors walked up, leading a tall brown horse.

MAN 3: Rachel, this was an evening, and a stew, to remember. Please. Take this horse and ride home safely to your mother!

NARRATOR: Rachel was so touched, her eyes filled with tears.

RACHEL: How can I ever thank you? (pause) Oh – I know!

NARRATOR: She reached into her apron pocket, rummaged around, and pulled out… the keys. The same keys the neighbors had given her to start the latchkey stew.

RACHEL: As a token of my gratitude and appreciation, I give you back your keys. You see, now they’ve been touched with the magic of the latchkey stew. So you all can come together and make this special stew whenever you wish!

NARRATOR: And with that, Rachel climbed onto her new horse, waved her new friends farewell, and galloped back home to her mother.

As the years passed, the neighbors came together quite frequently to make latchkey stew. With all their celebrating, they eventually misplaced one of the keys Rachel had given them.

Then another.

And another.

Finally, all of the magic keys were gone. But the neighbors realized they could come together and make and enjoy latchkey stew… without any keys.

Because, you see, the magic ingredient in latchkey stew... isn’t the latchkey.

It's the sharing.

Rebecca Sheir Twitter Host, Circle Round
Rebecca Sheir is the host "Circle Round," WBUR's kids storytelling podcast.