Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Prince and the Bell Pepper

There was once a princess and she wanted a prince, but then he must be a vegetarian prince. A real vegetarian, not a flexitarian, a pescetarian or a meat reducer, but a full-time abstainer of meat, which yes, includes fish, molluscs and crustaceans. And to be a real prince he must be a decent cook for in this enlightened day and age there were no kitchen slaves, and princesses although trained did not want to be held responsible for every repast and every growling palace stomach.
Unfortunately, real vegetarian princes were thin on the ground, as rare as the jewels on the King's crown: not to be found just anywhere. But then this particular princess hated dating. Any dating, even organised dates conducted at a royal speed where she would be obliged to pass down a line of prospective suitors proffering to each a gloved hand and a few strained polite words as her mother, the Queen, looked on.
The Princess, in the past, had been accused of coolness because she failed to react to romantic gestures. In fact, any gestures with romantic overtones made her uneasy: she refused to accept them for what they were and questioned their authenticity. Why? What's the agenda? And despite being a princess she disliked any light being shed on her. But then she detested those that planned adventurous, supposedly fun, dates where she would have to participate, have her sportsmanship assessed. What was wrong with a cup of tea, a walk, a talk, an art gallery? She would really rather skip what everyone else thought was the good bit, so she could be herself instead of feeling as if she might descend into clumsiness at any given moment. Therefore, her attempts, at best, had been half-hearted: agreed to, but not altogether enjoyed, and the few frogs she'd kissed had been eventually dismissed for their carnivorous or all- consuming nature.
She considered it her duty, as did her parents and their diminishing kingdom, to marry a prince, but she had no intention of losing who she was in that negotiation. The very idea of marriage seemed like a form of decay, a whittling away until perhaps one day the person before the mirror was unidentifiable. An imposter, with the soulful light that used to play imprisoned in the glazed irises. Along with fearing this outcome for herself she feared inflicting it on someone else, yet brushed aside these dreads as her pre-any-commitment jitters for if she found a prince who shared her principles she was sure these concerns would clear. 
So she beseeched the few palace retainers to cast an ever-wider net but there was always something wrong. Some irritating habit the princess couldn't possibly live with or a disparity in opinions or interests. The princess was on the verge of giving up when disaster struck in a distant province. There'd been an sudden outbreak of influenza which meant the Head of State was too unwell to welcome a foreign prince who was due to visit their shores any day. Could the King possibly help? Being a benevolent King, he agreed, to which the Head of State's PA replied that the prince, on arrival, would be conveyed to the palace. As an afterthought, he added, oh, and he's vegetarian. My apologies again for the inconvenience.
Two days and three nights later, during a wild storm, there was a knock at the town gate which the old King answered to find a rain-soaked, yet debonair prince behind. He heartily greeted the traveller, ushered him in and then left him in the Queen's capable hands who was convinced he was not a vegetarian prince and needed to be tested.
The Queen took the prince on a tour which ended in the kitchen where she laid out their stores: meat, fish, vegetables and grains, remarking to the prince that even guests prepared their shared evening meals. The prince upon hearing this instantly rolled up his sleeves and washed his hands, then ignoring all other foodstuffs on the table chose a red bell pepper to roast over an open flame. A carnivorous prince would never have done that.
The princess was persuaded to make him her husband. And the roasted pepper, in case you were wondering, was eaten and enjoyed.
Now this is a true story.

Picture Credit: Peasant Burning Weeds, Vincent Van Gogh