Nanny Piggins tells the children the story of the second greatest storyteller in the world, after herself, her distant relative - Sheherazade Piggins and the 1001 cakes she baked.
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‘1001 Arabian Cakes’ as told by Nanny Piggins
Michael was not a happy boy when he got off the bus after school.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ asked Nanny Piggins. ‘Did the wind change direction when you were thinking about brussel sprouts? And now your facial expression is permanently stuck that way? I know that is the way my face looks when I think about vegetables, which is why I try never to walk past a green grocer on a windy day.’
‘He’s upset because he got in trouble at school,’ said Samantha sympathetically.
‘No!’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Do you need me to go down there and give the headmaster a piece of my mind. Because you know I quite enjoy doing that so it would be no trouble at all.’
‘You’d better not,’ said Derrick. ‘The headmaster got a panic button installed in his office after the last time you gave him a piece of your mind about the brutality of cross country running.’
‘Yes,’ agreed Nanny Piggins. ‘All I was suggesting was that if there was an ice cream van parked at the finish line, the children would run much more quickly because they’d actually want to get there. If you had an ice cream van at the start line as well, they would be properly fuelled. Really, the most sensible thing to do would be to park ice cream vans at 1km intervals around the entire course. If he had stayed long enough for me to explain he would have realised that my suggestions were deeply sensible and would have led to happier children and improved running results. But no, he leapt out the window and ran away from me. Ironically showing impressive foot speed for a 47 year old.’
‘It was nothing like that,’ said Michael. ‘I got in trouble for arguing with a teacher.’
‘How can you get in trouble for arguing?’ asked Nanny Piggins. “I thought schools liked arguing. They call it debating, apply lots of rules and suck all the fun out of it.’
‘I don’t think teachers like it when you argue with them,’ said Derrick.
‘What did you argue about?’ asked Nanny Piggins.
‘Well, my teacher said he was going to teach us about the greatest story teller of all time,’ said Michael. ‘And I thought that he meant we were going to have a lesson about you. I was expecting you to come and give us all a slice of cake and tell us a story. But no, he said the greatest story teller of all time was someone called - Scheherazade.’
‘Ooooh,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘It is lovely of you to champion my cause. But in your teacher’s defense, and as you know I don’t normally defend teachers, but I can see why he might think that Scheherazade was so good.
‘You can?’ said Michael.
‘Yes,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Because you see, Scheherazade was a distant relative of mine.’
‘She was?’ said Michael.
‘Of course,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Scheherazade was so brilliant and so beautiful she tricked a King into not killing 1001 women. So of course she was a Piggins!’
‘So Scheherazade was a pig?’ asked Derrick.
‘Yes, that’s what I said – she was brilliant and beautiful?’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Do try and listen.’
‘Sorry, Nanny Piggins,’ said Derrick.
‘But I thought they didn’t have pigs in the middle east,’ said Michael.
‘They don’t eat pigs in the middle east,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Which is one of the many reasons their’s is such a wonderful society.’
‘So how did Scheherazade come to trick the prince?’ asked Samantha.
‘If I’m going to tell the story properly,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘I’d better whip up a Persian Love Cake with cardamon, rose water and almond so we can have the appropriate snack food.’
Once Nanny Piggins had baked this delicious aromatic cake, they all settle around on the sofa so she could tell the children and Boris the tale of her distant relative.
‘A long time ago in the Ancient Persian Story Days there was a great king. He was so great in fact, that he was king of all the other kings. He ruled all the land from India to Persia and his name was King Shahreeyar. He was married to a beautiful queen. He worked hard to be a good king. And everything was going along spendidly. At least that’s what he thought…
But no matter how good you are a being a king there is always someone unhappy, usually quite a lot of people unhappy, if for not other reason than they are jealous of just how well everything is going for you. Because, it is a sorry fact of human nature, that everyone always looks at a successful person and think they could do a better job than them.
So the King thought everything was great but it wasn’t really.
That’s the other thing about being a king, people are always reluctant to tell you that things aren’t tickety boo, especially in the ancient story days when Kings had the power to chop people’s heads off.
When you have the power to chop everyones head off it's amazing how agreeable people will go out of their way to be.
‘How could he be a good king if he was cutting peoples heads off?’ asked Michael. ‘That sounds bad.’
‘Well if you’re going round cutting people’s heads off,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Then everyone is going to tell you that’s a super fantastic thing to do simply because they like their head attached to their body.’
‘So anyway, the king thought everything was going perfectly, so he decided to have a day off and go hunting,’ said Nanny Piggins.
‘Because he didn’t get to kill enough things at his palace,’ said Samantha.
‘We mustn’t judge him by our modern standards,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘A king has to eat. And uber eats had not been invented yet, so in the ancient story days, hunting was a necessity. Also galloping around the countryside on horseback was fun, so the king was looking forward to it.
Unfortunately, he’d only gone a short distance from the castle when the king realised, he’d forgotten something important,’ said Nanny Piggins.
‘What had he forgotten?’ asked Michael.
‘I’m not sure,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘It must have been something very important because he went back for it. He was hunting in the dessert so perhaps he went back for a sun hat, or a water bottle, or some lip balm. Dessert winds can chap your lips dreadfully if you don’t moisturize properly.
So, he told his hunting party to wait for him while he nipped back to the palace for the lip balm. He promised to be as quick as he could.
The King galloped back, hurried in the back door, nipped up the servant’s stairs to his royal suite. But as he drew close to the room, he heard voices. He heard his wife plotting with his chief advisor.
‘If you cut his head off,’ said the Queen. ‘I’ll pretend to be really sad for a couple of weeks. Then I’ll marry you. You’ll become King and we can rule the whole kingdom together!’
The King was really cross about this. He burst into the room, denounced them both for their treachery and chopped their heads off.
‘That’s terrible,’ said Samantha.
‘It must have made a lot of mess in his bedroom,’ said Michael.
‘Yes, I know,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘But he was the king, so I doubt he had to clean it up himself.’
After that day the king was a changed man. He realised that no one really liked him. They were just nice because he was the king. Which meant he couldn’t trust anyone, no matter what they might say. He vowed he would never trust a woman again.
So he came up with a plan. From that day forth, every day he would marry a new woman. Then the next morning he would chop her head off.
‘That’s a really horrible plan,’ said Derrick.
‘Yes, but no one was going to point that out to a sword wielding King in the middle of a temper tantrum. So it fell to his chief advisor the task of finding him his next wife.
‘This story is awful,’ said Samantha.
‘Yes, dear, I know,’ agreed Nanny Piggins. ‘Stories so often are. But please do remember my dear’ Nanny Piggins squeezed Samantha’s hand comfortingly. ‘All this took place in the ancient fictional past, so you don’t have to worry too much about the people involved.’
Samantha nodded. She didn’t really understand, but she would try to.
‘So,’ continued Nanny Piggins. ‘The King ordered his chief advisor, or Vizier as he was called in the Ancient Persian Story days, to find him a wife.
The Vizier went home from work that night a very unhappy man. The following day he would have to find a young woman to marry the king, and the day after that, he would be the one who would have to chop her head off. Being Vizier to the king of kings was not a fun job.
Now, it just so happened, that this Vizier had two daughters himself and the eldest one’s name was - Scheherazade. When her father came in and explained his awful dilemma Scheherazade said she knew the solution. He must present her as a wife for the King.
The Vizier wouldn’t hear of it. He didn’t want to lose his precious daughter. Especially as he would be the one who’d have to cut her head off himself.
But Scheherazade was brave and determined, ‘Never fear, father. No one will be decapitating me.’
‘But we cannot defy the king,’ worried the Vizier.
‘Of course not,’ agreed Scheherazade. But we can perhaps trick him a little bit. I will get my sister to help.’
‘I don’t want to help!’ protested the younger sister. ‘I don’t want to have anything to do with a king who wants to cut girls heads off.’
She was a deeply sensible girl,’ explained Nanny Piggins.
‘It’s alright,’ Scheherazade assured her. ‘No harm will come to you. All I request is that on my wedding night, you come and knock at the door of the royal suite. I will answer the door and give you a slice of cake. Then you can go away and eat it. I shall take care of the rest.’
‘Will it be a slice of cake made by you?’ asked the sister.
‘Of course,’ said Scheherazade.
‘That I’ll do it!’ said the sister. She knew her sister was brilliant at baking, so it was worth risking having her head sliced off for a chance at eating a slice of her cake.
‘Now those arrangements had been made, the next morning the Vizier took his beautiful clever daughter Scheherazade to the King and offered her up to marry him. The King was impressed.
Scheherazade was a Piggins, so she was - off course, staggeringly beautiful and magnetically charismatic. He would have been a fool to refuse. And he was not a fool. Well actually, he was, but not that foolish.
The King and Scheherazade were married that afternoon. That night they retired to their bed chamber. They were just settling down to bed, when there was a knock at the door.
‘Who could that be?’ asked the King.
‘Oh, that’s just my little sister,’ said Scheherazade. ‘She can never sleep at night until I’ve given her a slice of cake. I made one earlier. You won’t mind if I give her a slice quickly, will you?’
This seemed like an odd request. But the king was planning to cut Scheherazade’s head off the next day, so he didn’t want her to think he was a total ogre. ‘I suppose not,’ he said begrudgingly.
‘Thank you, husband,’ said Scheherazade, with which she reached under the bed and pulled out a box. when she took off the lid and the most amazing smell wafted out into the room. The smell of sugar, butter, more sugar, more butter and chocolate.
‘What on earth is that wonderful smell?’ asked the King.
‘What this?’ said Scheherazade. ‘Oh this is just my octo-choc-chocolate cake made with eight different types of chocolate. Chocolate frosting, chocolate sprinkles, chocolate cream filling, chocolate chips, chocolate sauce, chocolate icecream, chocolate reinforcement logs and a block of chocolate on the top and bottom.
The King was agog.
You have to understand that solid chocolate was not invented by humans until 1847. And ice was not common in the deserts of Persia. So this one cake incorporated so deliciousness technologies that were prior to this point unknown to man and secrets closely guarded by the pig community. As such, the cake blew his mind. Not literally because even pigs didn’t have access to gun powder. But his mind could not cope with comprehending the wonder of the cake before him.
Before the King could speak, Scheherazade hopped up from the bed and hurried over to the door with the cake.
‘Hello, my dear sister, have you come for your nightly slice of cake?’ asked Scheherazade Piggins.
‘Um… yes,’ said the sister.
‘Good, here you go,’ said Scheherazade. She deftly cut her sister a generous slice and closed the door, then went back to the box and started putting the cake away.
What are you doing?’ demanded the king.
‘Just putting the cake away so we can go to bed,’ said Scheherazade. ‘I want to get a good night’s sleep if I’m having my head chopped off tomorrow.
‘There’s no rush,’ said the King. ‘Um… perhaps I could try a slice of that cake.’
‘You?’ said Scheherazade. ‘Oh no, you’re just being polite. I know you don’t want a slice. Look at you, you’re an elite athlete with your rippling muscles and swarthy good looks. You don’t want to eat something with so many calories.’
‘Yes, I do,’ said the King. ‘I mean, in the interested of open-mindedness, I would like to try a small bite.
‘Oh, alright, that’s very sweet of you to say,’ said Scheherazade. ‘I’ll give you a slice. But don’t feel you have to eat it. If it’s utterly revolting. Just spit it out on the floor. I won’t mind at all.
So Scheherazade cut the King a slice, put it on a solid gold plate. Because Kings only eat off the very best, handed him a cake fork and sat back while he tried it.
As soon as the cake touched the Kings taste buds his brain was overwhelmed with joy. It was the most delicious cake ever made in all history until that point. The chocolate sponge was perfectly spongey, the cream was perfectly creamy, the sprinkles perfectly sprinkly. It was divine. The King loved every morsel.
“mmmmm mmmm mmm,’ said the King.
‘You like?’ asked Scheherazade.
‘The King wanted to say yes, oh yes, that was spectacular, delicious, joyous and rewarding. But only one word could emerge from his lips, ‘More,’ he begged.
‘You’d like another slice?’ asked Scheherazade.
‘Yes please, pretty please please please,’ said the King.
‘And since he had asked so nicely, Scheherazade cut him another. The king soon gobbled that up too. So Scheherazade cut him another and another. Soon the whole cake was gone.
‘That was magnificent,’ said the King. ‘the most wonderful thing I’ve ever eaten.’
‘Really?’ said Scheherazade. ‘That’s a shame.’
‘What’s a shame?’ aske dthe King.
‘Well if you like my octo-choc-chocolate cake you’re adore my sticky date cake with extra stickiness,’ said Scheherazade.
‘I would? Asked the King
‘Oh yes,’ said Scheherazade Piggins. ‘The trick is to use so much sugar it sucks all the moisture out of your tongue when you eat it, so all the taste from the cake floods directly into your taste buds.’
‘That sounds wonderful,’ said the King, starting to feel hungry again.
‘But you’ll never get to try it,’ said Scheherazade, as she snuggled down under her doona. ‘Because I’m being executed in the morning. Nightie night.’
Wait a second,’ said the King. ‘If I postponed the execution by just one day, would you make me this cake?’
‘Of course,’ said Scheherazade. ‘You’re my husband. I’d love to make you a cake.’
‘So the following day Scheherazade was not executed. The King went about his kingly duties. And that night they retired to the royal suite.
Sheherazade climbed into bed and snuggled down under the covers. ‘Nightie night. It’s been lovely being married to you today. Don’t feel you have to get up early to witness my execution.’
‘Wait a minute,’ said the King. ‘What about my cake?’
‘What cake?’ asked Scheherazade.
‘You promised to bake me a sticky date cake with extra stickiness,’ sadi the King.
‘Oh yes, so I did,’ said Scheherazade. ‘Do you still want that?’
‘Yes, of course,’ said the King.
‘I’ll just nip downstairs and whip one up for you.’
So Scheherazade bustled down to the kitchen. The King could hear her banging about with pots and pans and mixing bowls. A couple of hours later she re-entered with a piping hot sticky date cake with extra sticky sauce.
The King didn’t ever bother cutting a slice or putting it on a plate, he just fell on the cake and shovelled it straight into his mouth with his hands. ‘MMM mmmmm mmmm,’ said the King.
‘Oh, you like?’ said Scheherazade.
‘It’s fabuloius,’ said the King. ‘The things you do with butter and sugar and just magical.’
‘That’s lovely of you to say, although it is a bit sad,’ said Scherazade. ‘Because if you like that one you’d really like my lemon drizzle cake. But never mind. I’d better get to sleep so I look my best for my execution tomorrow. Nightie night.’
‘Wait a second,’ said the King. ‘What’s this lemon drizzle cake you speak of?’
‘Oh it’s just a lemon sponge cake topped with a sour lemon sauce that soaks right down into the cake making it deliciously moist but also tangy and sour, then that’s covered int a hard lemon icing for a crunchy texture on top and an extra sweetness hit.
‘Urrrrgggh,’ said the King as he imagined this, drool was spilling out of his mouth. ‘That does sound good. Perhaps we could put off your execution just one day more so you could make this for me.’
‘If you’re sure,’ said Scheherazade, ‘I know you’re a busy king. I’d hate to mess up your schedule with another postponement. If you’re sure, you’ll be able to squeeze in executing me later.’
‘Oh yes, I’m sure I make it work,’ said the King.
And so they continued. Every day Scheherazade would make the King a cake. Every night, Scheherazade would promise to make him one just as good the following day. And every morning the king would postpone her execution one more day.
Now, a normal brilliant pastry chef would run out of recipes after a few months, but not Scheherazade. Because she was a Piggins. She kept it up, one magnificent cake after another for 1001 nights.
Didn’t eating all that cake make the king morbidly obese.
‘No, actually it didn’t,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Eating all that cake super energized him. He became a much better king. He was able to focus better in meeting and have more energy for walking around looking at things or whatever it is that kings do. People started to really like him. Because of his clear sharp intelligence and boundless energy for hard work.
And so on the 1001st night when Scheherazade made him a spectacular coconut cream cake and the King hastily shoved it into his mouth, the king looked up and saw into Scheherazade’s eyes, and realised he had fallen in love with her.’
‘Awww,’ said Samantha.
‘He realised she was much cleverer than him. And much more powerful because he only ruled a mightly empire. Whereas she commanded the forces of cake baking. The fact that he was married to her made him the luckiest man a live.
‘I don’t want to chop your head off,’ said the King.
‘I know,’ said Scheherazade. ‘My breathtaking beauty often has that effect on men, especially when I combine it with the beauty of my cake.’
‘Can you forgive me for my foolishness?’ asked the King.
‘Of course,’ said Scheherazade. ‘It would be foolish to be cross with someone for being foolish, and I am not foolish.’
‘And so they lived happily ever after, the end,’ time for bed,’ said Nanny Piggins.
‘It’s four o’clock in the afternoon,’ Derrick reminded her.
‘So it is,’ said Nanny Piggins, checking the clock. ‘Then it’s time for a little bit of pre-dinner snack. All this talk of cake has made me hungry. Who’d like a chocholate mud cake.’
‘But that’s not the Scheherazade my teacher told us about,’ said Michael. ‘He told us, Scheherazade won her husband over by telling him stories every night. Stories so good, he always wanted to hear the end the next day. And that’s why he didn’t chop her head off.’
‘Oh she did that too,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘She told him a story while he ate the cake. And stories always seem extra especially good when the right snack is involved.