No food before the meal: The fable of the powerful kitchen witch.

Once there lived a powerful witch. Everyone knew that by a wave of her birch wand she could do just about anything. Everyone also knew she was a very good witch. She would never lie and was always honest with her dealings with her sister witches. She was as ethical as could be and lived by president Kimball’s teaching that a lie was any communication sent to deceive. She never lied.

One day she invited the village to her cottage for dinner. It was a feast of delicacy and delight. A celebration of all the senses. A harvest of luscious plants of such variety as to stager the imagination in their combination; rare herbs and precious spices were combined in new ways creating tastes never before experienced. There were sweet and savory meats, sauces beyond compare, pies, pilafs, soufflés, creams, pastries of such artistry that some villagers wept at the flavor—their life having been worth living if only for this moment of single magnificent repast. It was a meal of stunning perfection. At the feast’s conclusion the village toasted the meal’s resplendence and artistry.

But just as belts had been loosened and chairs pushed back to settle into content conversation the witch was called away on witchy business. Grabbing her wand she fled the door and uttered a mysterious assertion “Remember there was no food before the meal.”

And the guests were left alone to ponder her last queer declaration. The Mayor opined that it was clear that she used her wand to bring the meal suddenly into existence. ‘What else could she mean?’ He said. Many sagely wagged their head and repeated, ‘What else could she mean?”

But one young lady peeked into the kitchen. It was a frightful sight. There were messes everywhere. The stove had obviously boiled over at one point. The remnants of potato peels, carrot and radish tops, empty milk bottles, piles of refuge. The sink was filled with dirty pots with some of the sauces still stuck to the bottom. The oven was still warm and the bottom of several pastries were stuck to the baking pan that might have been left in the oven too long and burned a bit.

When she showed the mayor the mess, he said, “The witch said there was no food before the meal and that’s what she meant. End of story.”

“What about all this?” The girl said.

“Who knows? Remnants from other meals. Or Maybe she just wanted it to look like she cooked it and waved her wand and made all this too.” The mayor said.

“She would never deceive us.” The girl shook her head. “She’s a good witch.”

The gathering crowd behind the mayor muttered in unison, “Who knows? Who knows?” The mayor smiled approvingly at the villagers. “We don’t know why the mess. We know only that she used her wand to make the meal suddenly. That at least is clear. ‘No food before the meal’ means no food before the meal.” The mayor shouted with real feeling. So the rest of the guests joined in. Chanting the mantra they left the house.

So the little girl closed the door and went about exploring the kitchen to see if she could discover some recipes that might have been left laying around. “Maybe we just don’t know what she meant.” She whispered with a sigh as she started to help wash up a bit.


  1. I think the witch misspoke, as she was in a hurry. She probably meant to say “Remember there was no food before the blessing.” And she probably poisoned the food with a curse that was lifted once the food was blessed. The messy kitchen is just a distraction.

    Why didn’t anyone eat?

  2. Brilliant! I want to think like StevenP when I grow up!

  3. Hmm, no death before the fall? Something about the restoration and truth existing in other religious traditions? Can you at least give me an idea who the good witch was?

  4. I’m confused, but happily so.

  5. As if we needed any more evidence that BCC is apostate! Now it is openly endorsing witchcraft!!!

  6. Julie M. Smith says:

    Very nice.

  7. Sounds like a discussion of ex nihilo creation. There is evidence that the food preparation was there before the meal, but no one wants to believe it, or at least worry about it. No one believes the Creator of the meal, except one girl who seeks for evidence/guidance.

  8. Kent #3, I think it is Glenda the Good Witch of the North.

  9. Clever.

  10. Nice.

  11. …And then the major and the other guests burned the little girl for heresy. The End.

  12. No,
    They didn’t burn her. They made fun of her. They told her that she was an enemy of the good witch because she did not believe the good witch’s words, and they told her that she would go to hell for her disbelief. When she emerged with the actual recipes, they dismissed the new evidence just like they’d dismissed the old. “It proves nothing!” they screamed. A few of the villagers decided to actually check the kitchen out, and after a little bit of looking at the evidence, they decided the girl was right after all. The majority of the villagers made fun of these few as well.
    Then, after seventy years of persecution, the good witch returns. I wonder how she will react?

  13. Ronan, Why don’t these stories ever get to end well?

  14. Nice addition Tim

  15. And then, during the course of her investigation, the little girl decided to eat one of the radish tops and became infected with an alien virus.

  16. What you don’t seem to realize is that the mayor was authorized to interpret the words of the witch and was, in fact, the witch’s representative to the villagers. What really matters is not so much what the witch said as what the mayor said — repeatedly, I might add, and in very clear terms — about what the witch said.

  17. Steve Evans says:

    Build a bridge out of ‘er!

  18. as she started to help wash up a bit

    we’re supposed to clean up?

    Lazy witch.

  19. Amri, She has no hands but our hands . . .

  20. The dirty pots and pans clearly came from “organizing” the kitchen using supplies and appliances from other pre-existing kitchens in other homes.

  21. It’s not a kitchen. It’s just a serving area. For the warming of foods (or not) which have been cooked elsewhere.

  22. the mayor was authorized to interpret the words of the witch

    And yet, strangely, the mayor never gave any indication that he had actually spoken with the witch about what she meant.

  23. At some point the mayor’s father, who enjoyed the meal and appreciated to the fullest that the good witch had prepared it for all but who had no opinion as to the origin of meals or the nature of pre-meal food, wrote a letter instructing the mayor to leave the little girl alone. The mayor did, for a little while — but then the father, who was as old as he was wise, died. The mayor and his son-in-law began again to heap scorn upon the little girl. When a few people reminded the town of the letter written by the mayor’s father, the majority of the people shouted them down, saying they owed no allegiance to the old man.

  24. Clearly there can be no chef – as there was no food before the meal, and if no food then no chef.

  25. Ardis you know your witch history!!

  26. Many years have passed. The little girl is now grown, and all of the time she spent in the kitchen has served her well: in her struggle to understand what happened in the kitchen, she’s learned how some of the ingredients combined to make such a great meal.

    Several mayors have come and gone. Most of the villagers don’t remember what the first mayor said all of those years ago. And while his words were written down at the time, few villagers cared to look them up or took the time to study them.

    In her older years, the little girl softened her view of the first mayor. After all, the first mayor (who wasn’t a chef) had many other important things — like the welfare of the community and extensive administrative matters — to look after. And besides, the little girl thought, since we don’t really know what the good witch meant, even if the first mayor was wrong, that doesn’t change the magnificent nature of the feast. The little girl had come to understand that the feast itself mattered more than what the witch, or the first mayor, said about its origins.

    Likewise, the villagers softened their view of the little girl. Even though they started out hostile towards her, they eventually came to understand that she wasn’t a threat. She just wanted to learn her way around the kitchen. And what better way than to study what the good witch left behind? Some of the more generous villagers encouraged her to keep studying what happened in the good witch’s kitchen all those years ago.

    In fact, even though the current mayor never formally contradicted what the old mayor said, he encouraged the little girl in her work. Furthermore, he gave her the complete freedom to continue it. He even paid for some of her research! For that the little girl was grateful.

    Maybe a future mayor will make a new statement about what happened in the kitchen all those years ago. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing. But in the meantime, if that doesn’t happen, the memory of the good witch still burns in the little girl’s heart. Whatever happens, the now grown little girl will continue to give thanks for the original feast. And she’ll keep trying to understand how the good witch created such a fantastic meal.

  27. I have nothing to add but applause.

  28. Btw, I read the witch’s statement as meaning that the meal (the creation) is what constituted food (“nourishment”) – which provides everything else we obtain through being nourished. Therefore, there was no lasting nourishment before the creation. Iow, this life is our feast – and before it there was no feast.

  29. and I also like the argument against ex nihilo creation.

  30. @Cris, 26: Many villagers continued to debate why the good witch left behind all those dirty dishes—no one doubted that her magic was powerful enough to instantly clean the kitchen, so why leave it in such a mess?

    Some, who appreciated the now-grown girl’s research, felt that it was meant as a sign of the intricacy of the spell used to create the meal—and likewise, of the great skill of the witch. Others suggested that the witch intended everyone to one day know how to cast similar spells and left the mess behind as a first instruction. Still others thought the witch just had a good sense of humor and a wild imagination, as evidenced by the remnants of several colossal (and preposterous) dishes only found deep in the kitchen—including one 75-feet tall, 1250-pound chocolate fudge cake!

    What few seemed to appreciate, however, was how the girl’s research improved cooking throughout the land. No one could ever duplicate the witch’s magnificent feast, but every so often chefs tweaked their own recipes based on small insights gleaned from the girl’s extensive research. A pinch of cinnamon on a pork roast, a slightly burned rue for the gravy, four (yes, four!) different kinds of apples in the apple pie. Regardless of the good witch’s motives for leaving the mess, or the little girl’s reasons for studying it, delving into the witch’s kitchen unearthed culinary secrets that steadily found their way into shops, delis, and homes everywhere.

  31. Mark, 21; Jared*, 22: favorite comments. just sayin’

  32. Excellent!

  33. BrianJ and Cris, I like the open spaces your additions provide for both mayors and little girls.

  34. Rameumptom says:

    After years of investigating the evidence left behind by the witch, the young girl, now a young woman, stepped into the mayor’s office to speak with him.

    “I have finally discovered the witch’s secret of the feast!” proclaimed the woman.

    The mayor jumped from his chair, a huge grin on his face. He hugged the young woman, and rushed past her out of the office.

    Standing out on the stoop, the mayor quickly gathered the townsfolk together. “I have a great announcement to make,” he stated.

    The young woman stepped out at this moment. The mayor placed a big arm around her shoulder and proclaimed, “this young woman has discovered the witch’s secret to making the feast!” The townsfolk cheered. “And I’ve authorized her to repeat the feast for us.” The townsfolk cheered even louder.

    The young woman began to speak out, but the mayor continued. “And if the first feast is a success, we’ll have her make us a daily feast, each one better than the last. We shall eat for free for the rest of our lives!” The town celebrated, as the people patted the mayor on the back and ensured him he would win reelection the following week.

    Entrenched in the witch’s kitchen with items to repeat the mess the witch had left behind, the young woman pondered on how to convince the towns folk and get out of this conundrum. Slowly, she began to prepare the meal, while crying in her heart. She hoped the witch would hear her cries and return to fix everything. But, lo, the witch had not been seen these many years since she suddenly left in the previous meal.

    As the young woman sliced, diced, and perspired over the myriad dishes, she noticed a glint of light coming from a small box on the floor. Crouching low to pick it up, and reading the label, a big smile came to her face. “Yes!” she thought as she silently thanked the witch for providing her with the answer she needed. The young woman liberally sprinkled the contents of the box into the recipes and meals she prepared.

    At the feast, the meal was spread over many tables. The townsfolk were amazed at the spread, easily as impressive as the first feast. The people ate, gorging themselves on the meats, vegetable and fruit plates, desserts and pies in every flavor and color imaginable.

    People complimented the mayor on the delicious feast. The meal was as good as the first, with just a slightly different taste to the meal than before.

    As the feast came to an end, the young woman stepped out of the kitchen. The mayor pulled her near him and bellowed, “this is just the first of many meals for the rest of our lives!” He accepted congratulations from the feasting crowd. “We shall live like kings!”

    The young woman showed a slight smile and set something on the table beside the mayor. Then she walked toward the door and said, “as with the first, there was no food before the meal. And this one meal will last you the rest of your lives.” And then she departed out the door.

    The people gazed at each other, wondering what it was she meant. How could one meal last them for life? The mayor attempted to explain her statement, when the glint of a small shiny box on the table near him caught his eye. He picked up the box and read the label.

    “Rat Poison”

  35. Excellent! O. Henry himself would not have seen that coming! Well done.

  36. Hmm. A “she” was behind all of this?

  37. It doesn’t matter what the witch said. She could have meant anything. There was proof that food was prepared before the meal. And whether the towns people believe it or not doesn’t change the obvious fact that there was food before the meal. But instead of trying to figure out what she meant, the villagers fell right in line with the easier answers, even if it didn’t make sense.

    SteveP – Great story. I am amazed at the creativity and meaning in this story. I could never compare.

  38. It has been 7000 years since the story was first told. The witch has never been seen again and everyone knows that a meal cannot be prepared without food. Slowly but surely, reaching a state where only the uneducated believe the story to be true.

    How sad, I like stories with happy endings. :)

  39. So, #38, the real question should not be what the witch meant, but who was the villages school teacher, and why did she do such a bad job.

  40. Peter 36: Seems you were the only one to uncover SteveP’s real motive.

  41. Hopefully my ‘real motive’ is more obvious than that. She that has ears to hear, let her hear.

  42. Oh, I wasn’t referring to your promotion of any potentially controversial doctrines. Rather, I think it’s quite obvious that this was all a ruse to gain guest/permablogger status at a certain other blog. “She that has ears to hear” indeed.

  43. Rameumptom says:

    Isn’t it all about the woman, though? Was Asherah, Yahweh’s consort, the goddess of fertility AND wisdom? Aren’t our wives continually telling us how to do things the right way (or is it just me)?

    With the witch’s statement, the townsfolk obviously didn’t understand that meals have to be prepared from existing items. Parsley is not a food. But sprinkled on a dish, it becomes part and parcel of the recipe.

    My added story was to show that sometimes God gets tired of those who will not listen, and starts over.

  44. BrianJ #42, So . . . If I write a story with a powerful woman character and use gender inclusive language my motives must be suspect? In my academic community such things would not even be noticed. Here? . . . Interesting.

  45. In my academic community such things would not even be noticed.

    Nor in mine. Since blogging is such a limited medium, perhaps I should spell out that I was just having (or attempting to have) some fun with you.

  46. BrainJ, I’m sort of dense when it comes to recognizing fun. I get dissed often enough its hard to tell. Fun accepted and registered. :)

  47. cool.

  48. assorted chocolates says:

    From 23: “The mayor and his son-in-law…”

    Hmmm… I wonder who that could be.


  49. As is often the case, I had BCC on the mind during church yesterday. Our ward’s early Christmas presentation assisted me in solving this witchy puzzle.

    In Mormon parlance, we are to “feast” upon the “word”, and the “word” is Jesus Christ. So, when the witch taught “no food before the meal”, she was presaging the virgin birth of our Lord.

    Not even a snack.

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