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The King Who Did Not Like Cheese (1994)

The King Who Did Not Like Cheese (1994)

©1994, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Denny, Dallas. (1994). The king who did not like cheese. Unpublished short story.

This is another story for children.




The King Who Did Not Like Cheese

By Dallas Denny


Once there was a king of men. His name was Bernard. King Bernard was very fat, and he didn’t care at all.

The king was fat because he liked to eat so much. He would eat loaves and loaves of bread, hot from the bakery, each slice thick with pure golden butter from the royal dairy and blackberry jam from the royal blackberry thicket. He would eat potatoes and turnips, sprinkled with salt brought by camel caravan from faraway lands. King Bernard loved pies. His favorites were chocolate, apple, banana cream, lemon, peach, pecan, coconut custard, and strawberry. He would eat eggs— boiled, scrambled, fried deviled, and poached. He would eat meat— venison, beef, pork, mutton, elephant, and antelope. He would eat fish— trout, flounder, bass, swordfish. He would eat shrimp, lobster, clams, crabs, and other bounty of the sea. He would eat ducks, chickens, turkeys, squab. He would eat wonderful dishes prepared from the tongues of hummingbirds, the eggs of fish, and the livers of geese. He would eat pastries—turnovers, cakes, cookies, scones, beignets, eclairs, crumpets, and tarts. He would wash his food down with milk and honeyed coffee and flagons of ale and goblets of red wine. And he would end every meal with a large bowl of sherbet.

There was only one thing that King Bernard would not eat. The king did not like cheese— Swiss, American, cheddar, gouda, edam, stilton, roquefort, parmesan, mozzarella, ricotta, cottage cheese, cream cheese— he would have none of it. King Bernard wouldn’t even allow cheese to be kept in the royal kitchens.

One day the king sent for the head chef from the royal kitchens. Soon the chef stood before the king. He held his tall hat in his hands.

The king spoke. “Royal chef, you must fix me something entirely new in this land. I’m tired of drumsticks from the royal chickens. I’m tired of salads from the royal gardens. I command you to fix me something that has never been prepared before.”

“Yes, Milord.” The royal cook bowed and left.

For three days the scents of strange and exotic ingredients floated through the castle. The fires in the royal ovens burned day and night. And then, on the third day…

“I hope you like it, your highness,” said the royal chef.

“I’d better,” muttered the king, who was just finishing a large plate of cookies.

The new dish was brought before the throne by two assistant chefs. A hush fell over the court as the king leaned over and lifted the cover.

“What is this?” roared the king.

“Begging your highness’ pardon,” quaked the royal chef, “it is difficult to make something you haven’t tasted before. I call this new dish macaroni and mustard.”

The king tasted the new dish. “It’s terrible!” he roared. “Take him away!” he said to the royal guards, pointing his spoon at the head chef, who was white with fear. “Put him in the royal dungeon.”

“But your highness,” squeaked the royal cook, as he was being dragged away. “It would be so much better with cheese!”

“I hate cheese,” roared the king.

Try as they might, none of the royal cooks, assistant chefs, busboys, or dishwashers were able to please King Bernard’s taste buds. They prepared hot dishes and cold dishes, sweet dishes and sour dishes, baked dishes and boiled dishes. King Bernard didn’t like any of them. Many of the dishes would have been much better with cheese. The assistant chefs, busboys, and dishwashers ended up in the dungeon with the head chef.

The king sent messengers throughout the land, promising the hand of his daughter to the person who could find a new food that pleased him.

Now as it happened, a young man named Jacques was quite taken by the princess. Unfortunately, Jacques was no cook. But young Jacques was clever. One day, young he appeared at the palace and asked for an audience with the king.

“You?” laughed the royal appointment secretary. “You expect to tickle King Bernard’s jaded palate? You look more like a goatherd than a chef.”

“I am a goatherd,” said Jacques, “but I can please the king, if you will give me an appointment.”

“Very well,” sighed the appointment secretary. “It’s your head.”

Jacques shortly found himself standing before King Bernard, hat in hand.

“Well?” sniffed the king, who had lately become quite cross. “What do you want?”

“If it please your highness,” grinned the sly Jacques, “I’ve brought you a food you’ve not tasted before.”

“Let’s have it!” demanded Bernard, his royal features beginning to broaden into a smile.

Jacques produced a metal box from somewhere in the folds of his cloak. “This is it, sir.”

The king reached for it, but Jacques moved it quickly away. “I regret to say, sire, that this is special food, and must therefore be eaten under special circumstances, or it is no good at all. Not even a royal dog would take it. But when preparations are made and everything is right, the food is exquisite. It will taste like the stars in the heavens look, smell like the most expensive perfume smells, taste better than anything you have ever tasted.”

King Bernard frowned. “What must I do?”

“I must caution you, Milord, to follow my instructions to the letter. I cannot assure you of the quality of this food if you violate my directions. So you must agree to do exactly as I say.”

The king nodded impatiently. “I agree to do as you say.”

“Very well, then,” said Jacques. “You must journey with this box to the royal hunting lodge in the mountains. You must start immediately, and go by yourself, on foot. You must take no companions, no food or drink save water with you. You must eat nothing once you leave the castle. Take warm clothing, for it is chilly at the lodge. It will take you two days to walk there. And you must walk. No chariots, coaches, or stages. Do you agree?

“Agreed,” said King Bernard, who could think of nothing but what was in the box.

“Don’t open the box until the third morning. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” said the king. “I understand the directions, but I don’t understand why I cannot open the box and eat of the food this minute.”

“You could open the box,” said Jacques, “but you might find only goat’s cheese.” The king blanched. “You wouldn’t like it. But you’ll like what you find inside, if you follow my instructions and open the box on the third morning.”

“Very well,” said the king. “I agree to your conditions. “But if you have tricked me, it will be your head.”

Jacques, in his homespun clothing, turned a little pale. “Yes, milord. I understand.”

The king set out immediately. It was a beautiful autumn morning, and as he walked, he thought about peeking into the box he carried under his arm. But he remembered Jacques’ warning, and forced himself not to look.

Soon the king had passed the villages and fields and entered the royal forest. The ground began to inclining slowly uphill. King Bernard grew very hungry, but he didn’t look in the box. He was hot and tired when he reached the royal gamekeeper’s hut late in the day.

That night Bernard slept on a straw pallet with the box tucked underneath his head. He dreamed of food— of chocolate cakes, of crisp heads of lettuce, of pretzels, of sweet apples, of bacon. But he politely refused to share the gamekeeper’s humble breakfast the next morning, as he had refused supper the night before.

All of the second day the king walked upward, towards the hunting lodge. The air grew chilly and then cold, and Bernard was glad he had brought warm clothing. About midday, ugly gray clouds moved in from the east and covered the sky. The king had to hurry to reach the lodge before nightfall.

It was growing dark when the king arrived, his belly rumbling. He had never been so hungry.

Again, he went to bed feeling famished.

But the king couldn’t sleep. Soon he found himself out of bed, staring out the window. Large flakes of snow were falling, already starting to stick to the ground and bushes. His royal belly growled, but Bernard didn’t move towards the cottage kitchen, where he had placed the box Jacques had given him. He stood there, watching the snow fall and thinking about his special food, until the snow stopped and the stars came out. And then he stood there some more. In fact, he stood there all night long.

Dawn found Bernard standing ravenously over the box. As a stray sunbeam came through a window and shone on the box, he opened it.

Inside the box was a cloth. The king lifted it and saw his special new food. It was goat’s cheese.

The sight of his least favorite food sent King Bernard into a rage. He slammed the box down on the table and stormed about the lodge, kicking furniture and making threats which would have quite worried Jacques if he had been around to hear them. But tantrums aren’t much fun when nobody is around to see them, and eventually the king calmed down. He put on his coat and boots and went outside, intending to walk back to the castle. But the snow was deep and too soft to walk on, and Bernard was forced to return to the lodge. It seemed he would be snowed in for several days with nothing to eat but that foul, nasty cheese.

Bernard tried to keep himself busy. He polished his boots, combed his beard, and, finding a broom in a corner, swept the entire lodge. The king had never had a broom in his hands before, except when he was a child and used brooms for horses.

At first, Bernard thought mostly of Jacques and what he would have done to him. But as time passed and the sun moved toward the west, he began to think less often of the goatherd and more of the cheese. It was the only food in the lodge, and the snow was melting so slowly. Goat’s cheese couldn’t be that bad.

That night, the king found himself drawn to the box. Approaching it, he opened it and smelled the contents. The cheese smelled— not half bad— he decided. But the king closed the box and went to bed.

All that night Bernard, nearly overcome by weariness and hunger, thought about the cheese. “I might like it,” he said to himself.

“But I don’t like cheese,” he replied to himself. “Although I might like cheese. Anything is possible. Come to think of it, I have never tasted cheese. I shall try it in the morning.”

Shortly after dawn, Bernard found himself standing over the box, a sharp knife in his hand. He opened the box and cut a small slice of the cheese. He smelled it, and the odor made his mouth water. He put a small bit on his tongue.

The sharp flavor of the cheese spread through Bernard’s mouth. It was delicious! The king ate half of the cheese, and then went to bed. He was so tired that he slept around the clock. The next morning he finished the cheese; the second half tasted even better than the first half.

That evening the snow had melted enough to allow Bernard to walk to the hut of the royal gamekeeper, where he dined on black bread and goat’s cheese. Bernard had to ask for the cheese. The gamekeeper, knowing of the king’s aversion for cheese, had hidden his away. He watched in amazement as his liege ate heartily, downing slice after slice.

The next morning, Bernard noticed his clothes were somewhat loose on him. The gamekeeper’s wife found her needle and threat and took up his breeches and shirt, and the king walked back to the castle. As he left the forest and began passing cottages and fields, he waved merrily at his subjects. He felt better than he had felt in years.

As he approached the castle, the king was met by a search party. “We feared for your safety, sire,” said the red-faced captain of the guard. “We heard there had been a storm in the mountains.”

Bernard rode the last few miles to the castle in a carriage, thinking all the while about what he was going to have done to the goatherd. When he reached his throne room, he had Jacques dragged before him. “Well,” roared the king, “just what have you to say for yourself?”

“I beg your pardon, milord?” replied Jacques.

“You impudent whelp, can you think of any reason for me not to have your head separated from your miserable shoulders?”

“Yes sire, I do. The food.”

“It was— it was— CHEESE!”

“Yes, sire, and wasn’t it good? Better than anything you had ever tasted? Do you not feel in good health’?”

“It was— it was—” Bernard faced the fact that he had eaten cheese and found it satisfactory— good. “Yes, it was excellent! Yes, I will have more cheese now!” A half-dozen servants scurried to find cheese.

Bernard regarded Jacques wryly. “And now,” he said, “I suppose I must give you my daughter, even though, being a goatherd, you don’t seem to have anything to offer her.”

“But sire, the goat’s cheese business has been poor only because of your former great dislike. With your endorsement, my business will thrive. Cheese will be in demand.”

“Very well,” roared King Bernard. “I like your spirit, young man, and your taste in food. You may have my daughter’s hand.”

The royal kitchen staff was released from the dungeons and a holiday was proclaimed throughout the kingdom. A feast was served that has not yet been equaled. Every dish contained cheese. There was cheese fondue, grilled cheese, cheese and grits, cheese and crackers, macaroni and cheese, quiche, pizza, cheese omelets, cheesecake, and a thousand other cheese dishes. And the king sampled every dish. Jacques married the king’s daughter, and soon became wealthy by selling his cheese. He remained Bernard’s favorite because of his quick wit and sharp tongue, and if everybody didn’t live happily ever after, they at least came close to it.