Beryl Eichenberger

The secret ingredient

The cavernous chambers opened out from a vast stone staircase widening in its descent from the light above. The stairs were an experience! Each one was as wide as a landing, lit with fluttering fireflies bobbing and weaving to create the greatest light. The edges of the steps were jewel encrusted catching and reflecting the dancing light of the fireflies.

Great urns were set on each step, fragrances wafting from their inners reflecting nature’s bounty, catching the senses and creating thoughts of wide fields and plains thick with herbs and flowers.

At the bottom the cave stretched far into the distance, dimly lit crevices barely visible in the shadows. Massive cushions and a deep armchair (as big as a ship) were bright with coloured throws and looked lived in and worn.

The fireflies led the way, fluttering and floating as one chamber after the next was revealed in the eerie, yet strangely comforting light. From far inside a heavenly fragrance drifted outwards and the clatter of pots and pans and murmurs of a deep voice resonated against the craggy walls of the cavern.

Alois, the gentle giant was busy concocting his secret recipe.

His great hands deftly threw a pinch of this and a pinch of that into the big pot on the stove. His hair, tied back in a pony tail, damp with exertion, his chubby cheeks pink with the heat from the flames. His warm dark eyes searched the shelves above for the vital ingredient, the one that created the special emotion that everyone needed. He pushed aside jugs and pots and urns his muttering reaching a crescendo as anger took hold.

He turned to the little girl watching the theatrics from the corner of the vast kitchen.

“Where is it? “ he thundered.

She picked up a shard of a broken urn and ran her finger over the surface. She licked her finger and said: “It was here!”

He roared again and realizing that his anger had wasted the precious ingredient – he started towards the girl who scuttled out of his way She knew that she had to find some replacement to restore the calm in the great cave.

As he lumbered across the kitchen she gently put her hand up to stop him and turning she ran into one of the many dark crevices that held secret passages up to the magic field.

Alois sank into his old kitchen chair to wait.

Twisting and turning, the rocky passages opened up for tiny Topsy as she quickly ran through them climbing up, up the special flight of stairs that only appeared when she clicked her fingers.

Out into the light she ran across the flat mountaintop into the rocky outcrop that held the magic bushes. Spying the creamy yellow flowers she sought, she ran faster.

Alois will be happy now and calm will return, she thought.

Her special friend had saved her from the jaws of the mountain bear and given her a home deep within this “mountain of the moon”. Her knowledge of the many plants growing in secret places on the mountain and his love of cooking had made them into a formidable team and now they had discovered the dish that carried the power of salvation.

She grabbed a fistful of the pretty flowers and with them clutched tightly to her chest she ran back down the magic stairs into the kitchen.

“Here,” she gasped.

He took them from her, breathing a great sigh of relief. Grabbing his pestle and mortar he quickly ground them to a powder and threw a measured amount into the pot. As he stirred and tasted he felt the anger dissipating and calm flowing over him.

He bent to pick Topsy up in his huge hand.

“Thank you little one – we have the secret dish to save the world,” he said. “It is time for us to introduce it.”


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