The king had three daughters who loved to bake. His girls had been raised with everything except their mother who died in childbirth. The king wanted them to marry powerful men and introduced them to noblemen. None of the men appealed to the princesses. The Old Weaver had told them too many folktales. The older girls having misinterpreted the stories felt princesses were entitled to perfect husbands.

The oldest princess fashioned a hand-made king as in the tale of Mr. Semolina-Semolinus. The kind princess in that story created a mate five times beautiful and ten times kind. Although not kind, she was a princess.

Instead of praying for forty days and nights, she spent a fortnight complaining and whining, bitching and moaning, begging and pleading, “I carried home the sack of flour. I broke eggs when I slipped outside the henhouse. The bees stung me at the hive when I took their honey. Honey to keep you sweet and ginger to make you spicy. I stole baking soda from Cook so you would rise quickly! I sifted and beat your batter, kneading until my arms ached. I rolled out your torso, legs, arms, and a perfect ball for your perfect head. I pressed you together to make you well connected, decorating your face with raisins and citron. Come alive, my man, come alive!”

She repeated her rant disturbing the peace of the castle. After a fortnight of chanting, a tan well-muscled youth rose from his greased pan.

He kissed the oldest princess before he ran away singing, “I’ll kiss and I’ll tell and I’ll run straight to Hell, I’ll run and run as fast as I can, and you can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!”

The oldest princess chased her true love. She is running still.

The scholarly middle princess didn’t bake a quick bread man who could escape. She refused wheat flour, Triticum vulgaris, because she didn’t want a vulgar spouse. She chose an Irish potato. Potatoes have four times more starch than wheat. Her man would be better than a man made from wheat. Her Mr. Tuberos-Tuberosum would be twenty times beautiful and forty times kind.

She mixed potato flour with water and yeast. Using yeast meant he would need to rise before baking. He’d be hard working, exciting and effervescent. After he had risen to twice his size, she baked him one hour.

She removed him from the oven, smeared him with butter and encouraged him, “Come alive, my man, come alive!”

“I am crimped and cannot live,” he said.

“You’re burned. Lower temperature in the oven this time.”

She coaxed again, “Come alive my man, come alive.”

“I am of the moist bread; I will not have you,” he said as he collapsed.

After baking longer, he emerged with a smile:

“You loved me before, you loved me a while,
Pursue me for fathoms, for meters and miles.
You’ll chase me until you’re dropping down dead,
But never catch Mr. Potato Head!”

The youngest princess watched her sister pursue her obsession. “I won’t make a friend like they did and chase a man. I want to bake loaves of bread. I’ll buy basic ingredients: milk and eggs, honey and raisins, wheat flour and yeast.”

When she went to the dairy, the dairyman’s son got up from reading his book. He asked his sister, the milkmaid, to milk the cow. He carried the pail to the castle and told the princess about the book he had been reading.

When the princess purchased eggs, the poultry-man’s son stopped reading to ask his sister to gather them. He carried the basket and told the princess about his book. The princess met siblings and discussed books with the beekeeper’s son, the orchard-master’s boy, the miller’s boy and storekeeper’s son where she bought honey, raisins, flour and yeast.

The princess kneaded and shaped thirteen loaves of bread, a baker’s dozen. She invited the twelve young people she had met earlier. She served the bread with honey in the royal library. They discussed books and shared their stories. They continued to meet at parties. In the years to come, some of them fell in love. The princess never married but lived happily ever after with her friends.

Laura Beasley is an empty nester living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She is married to her high school sweetheart. They have a whippet named Audrey and a horse named Amos. She has published stories in Enchanted Conversation, a Fairy Tale Magazine and Red Rose Review.

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