Prompt Day # 19: We’ve all seen those cartoon versions of “cannibal stew” (e.g., the man in the pith helmet, stewing in a cauldron filled with boiling water and carrots). But what would a cannibal’s dinner really look like? (Or dare I ask, taste like?)
Once upon a time there lived two horrid children named Hansel and Gretel. Hansel was rude, disrespectful, and lazy. His younger sister Gretel was even worse. She was argumentative, sneaky, and had the vocabulary of a pirate. One day, their poor, exhausted parents could take no more. Their mother said “Husband, take those two unholy demons into the woods with you today. Take them deep into the forest until they are quite lost. Then you must hurry home before they can follow you.”
Their father was unsure. While it was true that the children were incorrigible monsters, they were still his children and he felt responsible for them. But he loved his wife and saw how their behavior was wearing her down day by day so he finally agreed. What the adults did not realize is that Gretel, sneaky as she was, overheard them and told her brother of the plan.
“How dare they try to rid themselves of us?” She asked. “Well, fine, we’ll go, but we’re taking all the food with us! Good luck to them trying to replace it on a woodsman’s salary!” So, that night, while their parents slept, the two filled sacs with food and hid them in the forest.
Early the next morning, their father woke them and said “Come with me to the forest today, children. I have much wood to cut and will need your help carrying it home.” So, they agreed which made their father feel even worse about the plan because he had expected them to argue and fight and refuse.
Deep in the woods, their father left them in a clearing promising to return with the wood when he was ready for home. He did not return of course and Hansel and Gretel took off to find the food they’d hid the night before. Here is where their previous bad behavior came back to bite them in the butt. Their sloth and obstinacy in the past kept them from ever going into the woods so they quickly became lost, hungry and tired. Their hunger urged them on as the day grew old and just before nightfall they came upon a lovely cottage in the woods. It looked friendly and inviting and the smells of fresh baked bread and cookies permeated the air around it. The two could barely contain their salivation as they peered into the windows hoping no one was home so they could break in and eat the food in peace.
Just then, the door opened and a little old lady stood looking at the dirty children. She smiled a warm, inviting smile and beckoned them in. The two siblings glanced at each other; their stomachs were driving them in. They silently decided they could easily take on the old woman if she turned out to be some crazy witch or something and in they went.
“Welcome, welcome. I never get any visitors and I am but a poor, lonely old woman with no one to talk to.” Her kitchen table was filled with breads and pastries of all sorts. Hansel immediately grabbed the food with both hands and began stuffing his face. Gretel however looked disgusted.
“What the hell is this?” She asked “Look at all these carbs! Where’s the meat? Where’re the vegetables? Do you eat all this shit? How are you not the size of a whale?” She smacked the sweet-roll out of Hansel’s hand. “Don’t eat that!” She ordered. The old woman looked crestfallen.
“I’m sorry little girl, I have only a cow who gives milk and I need the calcium for my brittle bones. I can’t butcher her! I do have a small garden out back, does that help?” She asked timidly.
“Fine. You come with me; we’re going to pick some vegetables. Hansel, you go out in the woods and catch us some meat.” Gretel said
“What?” Hansel yelled. “How am I supposed to catch some meat?”
“GET OUT!” Gretel yelled at him and without further questions, off he went. The old woman turned on her oven to warm it up in the hopes that Hansel would indeed catch something. Gretel and the woman (see how rude these children were? They never even asked the poor lady her name!) picked peas and beans and squash, carried them in the cottage where they cleaned and prepared them and put them into a pan.
“Now” Gretel said to the woman “put the vegetables deep into the oven so there is still room for whatever my stupid brother manages to bring back.” So the woman carried the heavy pan of vegetables to the oven and as she leaned forward to push them back, Gretel shoved her hard so that she fell into the pan. Slamming the door shut, Gretel sat down to watch her dinner cook.
Sometime later, Hansel returned defeated. He was shocked to see the table laid out with a feast. A lovely platter of meat and vegetables, freshly churned butter, a pitcher of milk, and a basket of bread sat waiting for him.
“Where is the old woman?” he asked Gretel as he sat down and began to fill his plate.
“She went into the woods looking for you, she must have gotten lost.” Gretel lied. “And now she is lost forever, which means all the more for us!” She said and filled up her plate as well.
The meat had a thin crispy skin which was very tasty but the meat itself was tough and stringy. It had been expertly carved off the bone so it could not be identified as to its origins.
“What kind of bird is this?” Hansel asked her as he chewed away at the sinewy meat.” It tastes a little like chicken, but clearly” he picked up a piece and wiggled it at her “it is not.”
“Look here,” Gretel said “You brought home nothing to eat like the loser you are. So I took matters into my own hands. It came from a big old bird of some sort. If it isn’t good enough for you, then don’t eat it! All the more for me.” Hansel dug into the food, after all, he was hungry and above all, he was lazy and did not want to go try to find something else to eat.
The meat lasted them a couple of days. The old woman never came back and was assumed lost by Hansel. “Well, now what do we do? The old woman is gone and cannot help us catch more birds?” He asked his sister, who was already hungry for more meat and had decided that although the woman’s meat was tough, it was quite tasty.
“I have an idea” she said. “We’ll use you as bait to bring in a larger animal. There is a big cage out back. You go get in it. I’ll bring you food every day to fatten you up. Soon enough, a bear or maybe a tiger will come along to try to eat you. I’ll climb the tree above and drop a rock on its head. Then, Brother, we will eat like royalty!” Now, you may have already guessed that although Gretel was younger, she was also far more clever than her brother who still hadn’t put two and two together to realize that the bird they’d eaten was the nice old woman who’d taken them in. So, he foolishly agreed. You might think that sitting in a cage for days on end would get old and boring but for a lazy boy like Hansel, it was heaven. He slept until his sister brought him his food, which at this point was breads and pastries that Gretel made from the recipes she found in the woman’s kitchen and then he slept some more. As the days turned to weeks, Hansel got fatter and fatter. Gretel took the left over pastries and began to cover the outside of the cottage with cookies and gingerbreads and danishes to use as bait.
Finally, one day, Gretel came running out to Hansel’s cage. “Come brother; come see what I caught with my clever house bait! You don’t need to stay in this horrible cage anymore!” She opened the cage and just in time too as Hansel had to be greased up with lard from the kitchen in order to squeeze out of the door. He waddled along behind her as she ran into the house which was now covered in sweets of all sorts. She took his hand and pulled him towards the oven.
“Open the door and peek inside! See what we are going to feast on tonight!” Gretel said. Hansel obediently opened the door and peered inside. “Go on,” Gretel said “Look!” He leaned further into the oven and suddenly, Gretel pushed him in just as she had the old woman the month before. She closed the door and set the timer.
Roasted Hansel was much more flavorful than the gristly old woman. The meat was juicy and succulent. Gretel enjoyed her meal very much and all the more because now she did not have to share with anyone. Just as she finished her dinner and was putting it away for tomorrow’s lunch, she heard a scratching at the side of the house. She snuck a peak out the window and saw two children picking away at the chocolate chip cookie shutters she had made. She turned the oven to preheat, put on her sweetest smile, and opened the door to invite the young guests into her home.