Long, long ago, in a kingdom far away, lived the beautiful Princess Effy who lived with her widowed father the king in a palace on top of a hill.
Effy was just as a princess should be, beautiful, clever, polite, a little smaller than most girls her age and maybe just a little stubborn (if she felt she wasn’t getting what she wanted), and there was one thing she wanted more than anything in the world… more than her 5 white horses… more than her 20 silk dresses … even more than her 50 pairs of hand-made shoes….
The beautiful Princess Effy liked soup… no… she LOVED soup… vegetable soup meat soup , thin soup, thick soup, hot soup, cold soup, spicy soup , bland soup, cream sou.. (Well you get the idea).
Now no-one really knows why Effy liked soup so much – but many say it was because of what happened to her when she was a little girl.
Effy had sneaked out of the palace and was playing on a frozen lake nearby, as she played, she slipped, and fell through some thin ice, into freezing water.
She would have drowned too, if she hadn’t been saved by two little boys, who dragged her to safety.
The three would have become great friends, but the boys began arguing (totally ignoring the shivering princess) and before the princess could thank them she was rushed back to the palace and given a pot of soup to keep warm.
As she ate that soup she thought of the two boys that had saved her and enjoyed the soup VERY much… ever since that day, she would have soup whenever she could.
The years passed by and as it approached the Princesses 21st Birthday the Kings thoughts – as Kings thoughts often do – turned to the marriage of his only daughter and finding a suitable prince for Effy.
The King was a gentle and loving man, often skipping important state events in order to help Effy with her riding or hand delivering some soup whilst she painted her pictures… of soup.
When she wasn’t eating soup she was riding the horses around the estate… she loved everything in her life, but she found the suitors her father presented to her, boring and uninteresting.
She loved her father very much, but could not marry for his sake….she wanted someone special….and she could wait!.
Effy was very clever and she had an idea…as she loved her father and knew how important this was to him, she agreed to marry on one condition;
The man she would marry would have to be able to cook the best soup in the world.
The King pondered over this for some time…scratching his long beard deep in thought….it was more difficult than the King had first thought, after all Effy was rather an expert on the subject.
The King looked over his glasses and his daughter and smiled…
“Do you Know…” he said in his soft but deep voice..
“I think that is a very good idea !”
The King set about telling the Kingdom… delivering posters across the land – offering his daughters hand in marriage if a man could cook the world’s perfect soup.
Of course there was great interest, the sales of cookery books shot up, food shelves were bare, as would-be chefs tried hard to perfect the “best soup in the world”.
Now to a chef, this was a challenge, and especially to Barry Gorge who was one of the best Chef’s in the land …who, as it happened, lived in the local town.
Barry was not an unattractive man – but he cared not to impress people through the way he looked, he wanted to be appreciated for the way he cooked.. !
He had watched the trail of chefs, princes and would-be Kings march up the hill with hopes high, only to return a few minutes later with sad faces and empty bowls.
Barry spent this time perfecting his soup, years of practice and a good reputation made him the favourite in the race to make Effy his wife.
Truth be told, Barry had no interest in Effy, his dream was to be recognized as the best chef in the land and this was his big chance.
Three weeks had past and the King was getting frustrated with the delay, he watched over Effy as every hopeful, bowed gracefully, passed over a bowl of soup, and waited.
They were often too excited to watch, as Effy always scoffed the lot! (After all, she liked good soup and bad soup).
The King of course would know straight away the outcome, Effy did not have to speak, she pushed the bowl away and wiped her mouth, she would screw up her nose like a mouse and say “thankyou that was nice… but I have tasted better”
When it came to Barry’s turn there was a buzz that went around the palace, crowds gathered and wished him well as he began the long walk up the hill to the palace.
Those that didn’t know him would have thought he was the strangest of characters, a scruffy looking fellow …red faced … huffing and puffing as he climbed…as it did after all, take him longer than most….he soon began to regret the years of sampling his own cooking !
He may have been scruffy, he may have been out of breath, but Barry was confident……..the palace staff were confident ……..the King was confident, even little Effy was expecting something good!
Effy produced her special spoon and took a little of the soup and smelt it, she smiled, the King smiled, Barry nodded (feeling smug).
She closed her eyes and took a sip….
“Hmmmm lovely” she said.
The King clapped… the servants in the palace cheered…
but as the King went to shake Barrys hand, Effy interrupted them.
“But…” she said, paused then quietly “…there’s something missing….”
Barry could not believe his ears, he became very red and very cross, very quickly (as chefs do !)
“Something missing ?!?” he shouted.
He pushed away the platter and bowl and stomped out of the palace, barging all of the servants out of his way.
The servants went back to their work, the King forced a smile, turned his back, and went up to bed.
Only Effy remained at the table trying to save the soup which had been tipped on the table, after all, it was good soup!
From outside the royal windows a shadowy figure stared at the princess, and then disappeared following the Chef into the town.
Barry was fuming, he didn’t notice the servants he pushed out of the way, or the crowds waiting for him in the town, or the “King Barry” posters that had been put up outside his restaurant.
He also didn’t notice the shadowy figure follow him down the dark alley behind the large kitchen of his restaurant.
As he entered the Kitchen through the back door he sat down collapsing against his pots and pans, his head in his hands.
He must have fallen asleep as he was suddenly startled by a noise in the yard – he jumped up with a start and crept towards the door with a wooden spoon and glass mixing bowl – ready to confront what he thought was a stray dog that was scrounging for titbits thrown by the kitchen staff.
He opened the back door and went into the yard.
As he re-entered the kitchen and closed the door behind him he came face to face with the mysterious stranger….he dropped the bowl…
Only it was no stranger to Barry Gorge, this was Frank.
Frank was Barrys brother.
There there eyes met – Frank younger, slightly taller, and considerably slimmer than Barry was dressed in some smart, bright, foreign looking clothes. Although he would never admit it, he was a handsome man and stood confidently in front of his elder brother.
Barry and Frank were not the best of brothers; they had fought all their lives, each one believing that they were better than the other.
They had the same interests, played the same sports but never agreed on anything.
Frank had left the town as soon as he was old enough to travel on his own.
Frank like Barry was also a chef and had spent the last 5 years travelling the world, collecting spices and flavours from every country he visited, storing them in leather pouches hanging from his thick leather belt.
Frank tried to explain how he had seen the posters and thought that he would like to make a soup for the princess, he also explained how he had watched from the window and saw the princess reject the soup.
Barry could not listen to any more, he didn’t want his brother teasing him about his soup.
Frank went on to say ,how his heart leapt when he saw the princess, how beautiful Effy was, and how in love he had fallen, but Barry had disappeared upstairs before he could finish talking.
Frank spent the night using the kitchen and spare food to create his masterpiece – he wanted more than anything to impress Princess Effy, he took off his belt and used the spices in large quantities to give the soup a special zing!
Unfortunately, he was not a great chef, in fact, he was quite terrible, but believing love will find a way he marched up to the Palace gates and knocked firmly on the Palace door.
As it was so early, only the princess was awake and wandering the palace.
When Effy opened the door she instantly fell in love with Frank, she had never felt the same about anything before (apart from soup of course).
She invited him in and called to her father without taking her eyes off of Frank.
Now the King was unsure of Frank, he could see that her daughter was impressed by this man but rules were rules.
If he could not create the best soup in the world, he would not be allowed to marry Effy.
As the table was prepared and the soup brought forward, he watched Effy like a hawk – if this wasn’t a fantastic soup he would tell.
The soup was heated and brought to Effy.
The princess smiled at Frank and Frank smiled back, passing the bowl to her.
She took out her spoon and dipped it in the soup, she hoped more than anything that it would be the best soup.
Then just as she brought the spoon to her mouth…..the Palace door flung open..
It was Barry… he had been listening to Frank the night before, he had used a touch of Franks spices to his own recipe and once tested he had rushed to the palace just in time.
“FRANK” he said “You have the wrong soup… this is yours”
Effy looked at the two brothers and suddenly they both looked very familiar..these were the two boys that helped her out of the frozen lake all those years ago.
Frank was confused, but his brother was so insistent the soup swap was made the King, Effy and all of the servants believed him and the exchange was made.
Barry winked at Frank as he placed his soup on the table
The Princess took the bowl and tried the soup. Her eyes opened wide and she beamed as she said “That’s it!!! … The worlds best soup”.
The King looked closely and could tell his daughter was telling the truth – he couldn’t believe it.
“Congratulations my Son” he said and put his arm around Frank.
Frank took Effy in his arms and asked her to marry him. It didn’t take long for an answer…
“Oh Yes !!!” and before the month was out, they were married.
Frank never understood why Barry had come to his rescue, perhaps he wanted to see his brother happy, perhaps he wanted to prove that he could make the best soup in the world… with the right ingredients!
Whatever the reason one thing is for sure, they all lived, (as often they do in these stories), happily ever after.
(c) Copyright 2008 Greg J. Willis