Let's Do Lunch!
King Fred, not his real name, he preferred Frederick, was turning sixty-five in a month. After thirty-five years on the throne, he was much beloved by his subjects, not least of whom was his wife the Queen. Queen Therese-Marie, not her real name, she preferred Terri-Mary, loved her dear husband after forty years of marriage far more than she did during their honeymoon. In addition to the fact that their honeymoon was spent on an ocean cruise during which Prince Frederick had been seasick, swerving back and forth between being so sick that he was afraid that he was going to die and being so sick that he was afraid that he was not going to die, Princess Terri-Mary grew to realize that her new groom was a splendid man. That was based on the happy experience of Prince Frederick telling the Princess Terri-Mary at every opportunity between turning green and growing pale that he thought that his new bride was a splendid lady. Their honeymoon was the start of four decades of mutually admiring how much they mutually admired one another. They stayed off the ocean ever after, which made them both very happy.
Anyway, for the occasion of King Fred’s sixty-fifth birthday, Queen Therese-Marie wished to do something amazingly splendid for her liege-lord king and husband. She desired to do something that would involve the participation of the whole kingdom. After all, she reasoned, King Fred was loved by everyone, so everyone should have a chance to give the King his much deserved due of adulation, adoration, and admiration. But what, wondered the Queen, would be a fitting gift for such a superlative ruler? With the wisdom and common sense which she possessed in more than average amounts, Queen Therese-Marie determined that the best way to figure out what would most please the King would be to ask the King.
“King Fred, my dearest husband,” began Queen Therese-Marie.
“Yes, my queen, my wife, my love,” responded His Majesty.
“Your sixty-fifth birthday approaches, and I would like to enlist the aid of the whole kingdom in giving you a gift that will please you immensely. What would you like for your birthday, dear?”
Without any hesitation, the King answered, “I am hungry, dear Lady. Have our subjects make me a good meal.”
“Splendid! What a delightful idea! And I will assist them as well!” And with that, Her Majesty and the King’s subjects embarked on a month-long effort to make dinner for the King.
Each day for that month, various subjects brought a variety of dishes to the court for the King to taste so as to ensure his approval of the final menu. And each day the King was impossible to please. Too sweet, too sour, too salty, too bland, too exotic, too ordinary, too hot, too cold, too, too, too – every dish was wrong, and the King increasingly raised his voice as he informed the embarrassed cooks of the fact.
Rather upset, the King decided that if he was going to have a decent meal for his sixty-fifth birthday, he would have to take a more active part in its production. He summoned his council. He gathered his courtiers. He held meetings. Ten days into the dreary task of arranging a happy birthday feast for himself, the King decided that more energy would have to be expended if success were to be attained. Thus, he put the entire kingdom on a war footing. All able-bodied persons were ordered to apply all of their waking hours to the labor of growing food, preparing dishes, tasting spices, experimenting with cooking techniques, distilling beverages, and hauling away the innumerable failures. Still other subjects found themselves learning the skills necessary for interior decorating, flower arranging, making china, and glass blowing so that the eventual banquet would have a fitting setting in which it could be enjoyed. An architect was employed to design a new castle with an astounding banquet hall appropriate to the grandeur of the upcoming event. (When the King saw the preliminary drawings, he snorted and said, “Marvelous castle, sir! And with any luck, it will be completed in time for my hundred-and-third birthday!”) Then other subjects were given the work of composing music, creating acrobatic routines, and choreographing a ballet for the entertainments which would enhance and augment the festivity of the feast. All the kingdom was exhausting itself so that it could have a pleasant diversion on the occasion of the King’s birthday.
His Majesty was perhaps the most exhausted. After all, he was directing all of the activities, attending all of the meetings, examining all of the attempts, declaring all of the failures, and aging all the while. Sixty-four years and eleven months is not a spring chicken by any measure. (And, by the way, none of the two-hundred ninety-three versions of chicken dishes tried by the King met with his approval.) So the King was extremely weary, but so stressed out that he could not sleep properly. But, by golly, insisted the King to himself, I am going to have the best sixty-fifth birthday banquet ever or die trying.
Another aspect of rushing down the road toward seventy is that often the memory starts to get spotty. One forgets where one put one’s spectacles. One forgets, if only for three or four seconds, the name of one’s fourth or fifth child and several of the names of one’s countless grandchildren. One forgets why one had just come into the east parlor with such a firm sense of purpose, pauses, thinks frantically, comes up with nothing, and goes back to the other room to sit down to read the good book one meant to finish last week, only to realize that one has misplaced one’s spectacles. Perhaps they are in the east parlor. But, anyhow, King Fred became so wrapped up in the nuts and bolts of administering the new activities of the kingdom that it slipped his mind as to just why everybody was working so hard these days. His birthday day came and went without the King or anyone else noticing. Everyone just went on trying to concoct the perfect dinner, who knew why, for whom who knew?
Three months after his sixty-fifth birthday, the King was on the verge of a breakdown. He was wondering where the Queen was keeping herself. As it turns out, two months earlier, she had embarked with the royal huntsmen on an expedition to the south of the kingdom to obtain rare game in the hope of creating an inviting appetizer for the epic meal being prepared for some person or other for some reason or other. It slipped the Queen’s mind to let the King know of her trip – after all, she was not that much younger than His Majesty, and they shared everything together, including the memory loss that often accompanies the golden years. But the King’s memory was not so bad that he forgot how much he liked his wife and how splendid she was. He missed her and wanted to go for a walk with her, but she was nowhere to be found. So the King went out alone, looking about half as sad as he felt.
While walking aimlessly around the side streets of the capital city of his kingdom, the King experienced an odd sensation in his stomach. For a moment he could not quite place the nature of the sensation, although it seemed to be rather familiar. Then he stopped, thought for a moment, strained his unreliable memory, and then he asked himself the question, “When was the last time I ate a decent meal?”
It turns out that since the month before his sixty-fifth birthday, a period of about four months, the King had eaten a prodigious amount of partial meals. There were so many dishes to be tried that he could not possibly eat all of any of them, nor did he want to ruin his appetite by overeating before being able to satisfy himself fully with the finished feast whose preparation was the subject of such intense concern in the kingdom. Thus, for more than one-hundred twenty days of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, the King had failed to eat anything worth mentioning, but he had not eaten nothing either. It occurred to him as he went for his lonely walk through the streets of his capital that he was getting a bit hungry. “Boy,” thought the King, “I could sure use a bite to eat right about now.”
At just that moment His Majesty turned a corner onto a little alley between two blocks of homes occupied by some of his poorest subjects. The King almost tripped over a little boy walking in the opposite direction around the same corner.
“Oh, excuse me, sir. I am very sorry.” This was a most polite little boy.
“Not at all, not all,” responded the King, who set the prime example of politeness and courtesy in his kingdom. “What is your name, little boy?”
“Frederick, sir, but everyone likes to call me Fred. It’s the same name as the King, don’t you know!” said the lad happily. His name was perhaps his most prized possession. After all, how many people have a king’s name for a name?
“Well, Fred,” said King Fred with a smile erasing the weariness from his face, “do you know who I am?”
“I don’t think so, sir. Have we met before? Please forgive me if we have. My mother always says that I have an awful memory.”
“Well, don’t feel too bad if you have a bad memory, Fred. It just shows that you have something else in common with King Fred. I have a rather spotty memory myself, my son.”
Little Fred paused for a moment as he began to realize what was happening. His mouth dropped open. He eyes grew wide. He gasped and went down on one knee. “Your Majesty! I am terribly sorry! Please forgive me for not recognizing you and speaking so freely with Your Highness! I am very, very sorry!” The poor boy seemed on the verge of tears.
King Fred laughed heartily. “My child, get up! There is no reason for apologies. I am most delighted to have had this talk with you. After all, how often does a king have a chance to speak to a young man so worthy of the name of a king? You have done me a great honor, Fred. How might I reward you for your service to the Crown, my boy?”
Few are the souls who have known such joy as Fred savored at the moment. “I was about to sit down to lunch,Your Majesty. May I share my meal with you, please?”
“Nothing would please me more, Fred. What is on the menu today?”
“Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Your Majesty! And some fresh milk from our cow!”
When Queen Therese-Marie returned from the hunt, she was happy, if a bit surprised, to discover that King Fred had his birthday banquet waiting for her. After she joined in with a multitude of the subjects singing “Happy Birthday to You” to the King, Queen Therese-Marie sat down to the most satisfying meal she had ever had the delight to share with King Fred. Both agreed that from then on, their preferred birthday meal every year would be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with fresh milk – prepared and served by Fred’s Mom. The End.
Kingly Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
Creamy Peanut Butter
16 Slices of Bread
Spread Peanut Butter on 8 slices of Bread
Spread Jelly on the other 8 slices of Bread
Place Raisins on top of Peanut Butter
Place Bananas on top of Jelly
Squish together Peanut Butter sides onto Jelly sides
Eat Sandwiches and wash down with Milk, smiling broadly
Author Notes: Strawberry, marmalade, or currant preserves may be substituted for the grape jelly.