art by Jonathan Westbrook
by Melissa Mead
Once there was a beautiful girl whose mother had died. Her father remarried, to a woman with two daughters of her own. The stepmother banished the girl to the kitchen, and made her do all the hardest housework.
(Oh, you know this story already? Glass slippers? What glass slippers? All right, I'll go on.)
The girl planted a hazel branch at her mother's grave, and watered it with so many tears that it grew into a magnificent tree that produced bushels and bushels of hazelnuts.
(Gold and silver dresses? Those don't grow on trees.)
The girl worked magic with those hazelnuts. She made hazelnut butter and hazelnut torte, hazelnut mousse and hazelnut-crusted lamb. Even her stepsisters, who scorned everything else to do with her, gorged themselves on her treats.
(Yes, I do realize that this is a fairy tale, not a cookbook.)
One day the King sent word that he would hold a great festival, in hopes of finding the perfect maiden to wed the Prince. The stepsisters rushed out to buy elegant silks and jewels in preparation for dancing.
The young lady fetched the most becoming of her late mother's dresses and made it over to fit her. Her only jewelry was a pin that her mother had given her. The day before the festival she made a tray of her finest hazelnut tarts. Once her stepmother and stepsisters had set off in their carriage, she started walking toward the castle.
(Pumpkin? All right: She took a tray of her finest pumpkin tarts…
That's not what you meant? If you'd rather tell another story, go ahead.
No? All right.)
She took a tray of her finest hazelnut tarts, walked to the castle, and stood by the gates selling them to the elegant ladies and gentlemen who entered.