The King’s Cream
Frances R. Sterrett
What do you suppose the good children had for a treat before people knew how to make ice cream? Of course there was a time when no one knew how to make ice cream, when people didn’t even know that there was a such a delicious thing to eat as ice cream, just as there was a time when no one knew how to make bread and chocolate cake and lemon drops. The very first ice cream that ever was made was made in the Land of Perhaps.
The King of the Land of Perhaps would sit on his golden throne and frown and scold and scold and frown and shake his head until his crown fell to the floor. No one dared to pick up the King’s crown and put it on the King’s head again. And it would never, never do for the King to be without his crown. Everyone was very glad when the wife of the Second Royal chamberlain loaned the King two of her best hatpins to keep his crown on his head.
From the first day of May until the first day of October the King wouldn’t drink anything that was hot and from the first day of October to the first day of May the King wouldn’t drink anything that was cold. The hot drinks had to be very, very hot, and the cold drinks had to be very, very cold. Every afternoon at four o’clock exactly from the first day of May until the first day of October the King had a tall glass of cream as cold as it could be made. And with the cold cream on the King’s tray was placed a tiny little glass of syrup. Strawberry syrup was on the King’s tray on Sundays, raspberry syrup was on the King’s tray on Mondays, vanilla syrup on Tuesdays, chocolate syrup on Wednesdays, peach syrup on Thursdays, lemon syrup on Fridays, and on Saturdays there was always cherry syrup. A different syrup for every day in the week, you see, and the cream and the syrup both had to be very, very cold, as cold as they could be made.
The poor Royal cook was often distracted to make the cream and the syrup cold enough to please the King. And he had a dreadful time to remember what syrup should be put beside the tall glass of cream on Monday or on Tuesday or on Friday. So that he would be sure to remember he changed the names of his seven little daughters from Mary and Elizabeth and Jessie and Louise and Elinor and Margaret and Susan to Strawberry and Raspberry and Vanilla and Chocolate and Peach and Lemon and Cherry. The Royal cook thought that perhaps he could remember what kind of syrup to send the King on Sunday if the name of the syrup was the same as his eldest daughter. Sunday, you know, is the first day of the week and Strawberry would now be the name of his first daughter.
Strawberry helped her father as much as she could and so did her sisters.
One day, it was Wednesday, I remember, and Strawberry had just come into the Royal kitchen with the little glass of chocolate syrup which was to be sent in to the King at four o’clock with his big glass of cold cream. The Royal cook was walking up and down the big Royal kitchen wringing his hands and muttering to himself:
“I can’t get it cold enough! I can’t get it cold enough! I shall lose my head and then what will become of my poor children?”
“Why, Father, dear,” said Strawberry. “What ever is the matter?”
“I can’t get it cold enough,” sobbed her father, the Royal cook. And he showed Strawberry the big bottle of cream. The under cooks had been pouring cold water on it for sixty minutes. “His Majesty said the cream wasn’t cold enough yesterday. And the cream today won’t be any colder than it was yesterday. I’m just about discouraged, Strawberry. I declare I have a great mind to leave the palace and find another place. Perhaps I could find a King who wasn’t so particular. I’d rather lose my place than my head!”
“Of course you would, Father, dear,” exclaimed Strawberry, and she patted his fat hand. “But wait a minute before you give up your place. Perhaps we can think of something. Let us all think,” she said. She shut her blue eyes as tight as she could and began to think hard.
Her father shut his gray eyes as tight as he could and thought hard, too. And the under cooks stopped pouring cold water on the bottle of cream and shut their green eyes and their brown eyes and tried to think as hard as Strawberry and her father were thinking.
Strawberry was the first to open her blue eyes. “Has anyone thought of anything?” she asked eagerly.
The Royal cook opened his gray eyes. “I can’t think of a thing,” he moaned. “Not a single solitary thing! Oh, dear, I shall lose my head!”
And the under cooks opened their green eyes and their brown eyes and said that they couldn’t think of a single solitary thing, either, but they did hope that the Royal cook wouldn’t lose his head.
“Nonsense!” exclaimed Strawberry very sternly. “Of course he isn’t going to lose his head! Of course he isn’t going to lose his head! What is that?” she asked suddenly, for there was a most tremendous noise on the other side of the kitchen door.
It was such a tremendous noise that they all ran to see what made it. Even if the Royal cook was afraid he would lose his head, they just had to run to see what made the tremendous noise on the other side of the kitchen door, because that was the kind of noise it was.
“Apple sauce and gingerbread!” exclaimed the Royal cook when he saw what the noise was.
“My goodness!” exclaimed Strawberry and her sisters when they saw what had made the noise. They stared like anything.
“Great jumping noodles!” cried all the under cooks at once when they saw what had made the noise.
And no wonder they all cried out in surprise, for there in the middle of the road was a wagon which had broken down in front of the Royal kitchen. One of the wagon wheels had broken in two and was lying in the road. And on the broken seat of the wagon was a little boy crying. And all over the road was scattered what had once been in the wagon.
“Don’t cry any more, little boy,” cried Strawberry. “We’ll help you! What is your name and where do you live?”
The little boy stopped crying to stare at Strawberry with his two big brown eyes. “My name is Adoniram after my grandfather,” he said. “And I’m a boy from the mountain.” He waved his hand toward the east where Strawberry and her sisters and the Royal cook and even the under cooks could see the tiptops of the mountains. “I lived there with my granduncle and when my granduncle died, I lived there alone. All I had in the world was a little cottage and a big lake of blue ice, and I filled my wagon with blue ice and came down to seek my fortune. But it is very warm down here and my blue ice began to run away and then my wagon broke down and I haven’t found any fortune at all and I’m dis-discouraged!” And he began to cry again.
“Ice!” exclaimed Strawberry. She looked at the blue ice scattered over the road. “Ice is very cold, isn’t it?”
“Very cold,” said her father. He handed the boy from the mountain his own big handkerchief to wipe the tears away.
“I believe ice is the very coldest thing in the world,” Strawberry said slowly. “Isn’t it, Father?”
“I suppose it is,” answered the Royal cook. “I’ve never heard the question discussed, but I should say it is.”
Strawberry jumped up and clapped her hands. “Then let the under cooks put the King’s cream on the ice,” she said. “They can break the ice in little pieces, so it will fit close around the bottle. Wait, I’ll put the cream in a tin can and perhaps it will cool faster. The glass bottle is thick. And if the cream gets very cold you will make your fortune, Adoniram,” she told the boy from the mountain, “for the King will want at least a ton of blue ice every day.”
And without waiting for her father’s permission Strawberry emptied the bottle of cream into a tin milk can which was on the table. When the under cooks had chopped blue ice into small pieces, Strawberry showed them how to cover the can with the ice.
“In five minutes it should be very cold,” she said. “And in ten minutes it will be still colder. We shall leave the can in the ice for ten minutes by the clock in the Royal kitchen.”
So they left the can in the ice while the minute hand of the clock in the Royal kitchen traveled from fifteen minutes to four to five minutes of four, and then Strawberry had the under cooks take the ice away.
“B-r-r-r! But the can is cold!” she exclaimed when she touched the tin. “The cream is cold, too!” she cried when her father had poured the cream into the tall crystal glass. “It is too cold for anyone to drink!”
“It isn’t too cold for the King to drink,” said her father. “Strawberry, my precious child, you have saved my head! You and Adoniram! I never should have thought of putting the cream on ice!”
The King had never had cream quite so cold as the cream he had at four o’clock that Wednesday afternoon. He was so pleased with it that he sent for the Royal cook.
The Royal cook bowed before the King, until his head almost swept the ground, and he said he never could have done it if it hadn’t been for his dear, helpful, little daughter Strawberry.
“I’m glad that your daughters are of some use to you,” said the cross old King. “Here, give her this!” He took a gold chain from around his neck and gave it to the Royal cook. “And tell her, if she can find a way to make the cream even colder than it was today, I’ll give her a ring for each of her fingers. How many fingers has she?” he snapped.
“Counting the thumbs Strawberry has ten fingers, Your Majesty,” said the Royal cook. “All of my children have ten fingers counting the thumbs.”
“I don’t care what all of your children have,” snapped the cross old King. “And I didn’t say I would give all of them rings. Make a note of it,” he grunted to the Royal treasurer. “If this girl, this Strawberry Head Cook, makes the cream any colder tomorrow, she is to have ten rings. One for each of her ten fingers counting her thumbs as fingers. And there will be a bag of gold for this Adoniram, the ice boy.”
You can imagine how delighted little Strawberry was when she heard that the King had been pleased with the way she had cooled his four o’clock cream. She wanted very much to make the cream colder on Thursday, so that she could have the ten rings.
“I don’t want all of them for myself,” she explained to her father. “For ten rings are too many for one girl, but you see I could give a ring to Raspberry and one to Chocolate and one to Vanilla and one to Peach and one to Lemon, and if there was one small enough I could give one to little Cherry. That would leave me four rings for myself, and four good rings are enough for any girl.”
“I should think so,” said her father. “But you will never get even one ring, for no one in the kingdom can make cream any colder than it was today!”
“We can at least try to make it colder! Strawberry told him firmly.
So all day and all night they made experiments in the Royal kitchen but try as hard as they would, they didn’t seem to be able to get the King’s cream any colder than it had been.
“I don’t see why you can’t get it colder,” grumbled the King who sent a herald to the Royal kitchen every hour. “I’ll give you one more day, and then if you don’t have my four o’clock cream colder than it was yesterday I’ll lock you up in my darkest dungeon, and your seven daughters will have to feed the pigs. They will have to earn their own bread and butter.”
When he heard what the King had said, the Royal cook protested. “I’d rather die than be locked up in the darkest dungeon,” he told his seven daughters. “I can’t make the cream any colder, so I think I shall die.
“Please don’t die until tomorrow,” begged Strawberry. “The King has given us one more day. Perhaps we can think of some way to make the cream colder, and if we can’t, you can die tomorrow.”
“Very well,” said the Royal head cook. “I shall die tomorrow.” And he went to bed and fell fast asleep.
“What shall we do?” Raspberry and Chocolate and Vanilla and Lemon and Peach and even little Cherry asked Strawberry.
“I don’t know,” confessed Strawberry. “We might put on our thinking caps,” she suggested.
Raspberry ran to get the thinking caps, and the seven little sisters put them on and tied the ribbons under their chins and went to sit under the apple tree and think. They thought all the rest of the day, but couldn’t think of a thing. They got up early the next morning and tied on their thinking caps and went out to sit under a pear tree but they couldn’t think of a thing. They were still sitting under the pear tree trying to think and think, when one of the under cooks came to them.
“If you please, Miss Strawberry, it is almost four o’clock and we don’t know what to do about the King’s four o’clock cream,” he said, in a troubled tone of voice.
“Dear me!” cried Strawberry, jumping to her feet. “I have been thinking about the King’s cream so hard that I forgot all about the King’s cream. How the time does fly! What shall we do?”
She looked at her six sisters but not one of them could tell her what to do. They followed Strawberry to the kitchen where one of the under cooks had poured the cream into the tin milk can, and the other under cooks had broken the blue ice Adoniram had brought from the mountain into small pieces.
It was Vanilla’s turn to bring the syrup, for it was Tuesday, and she ran to the Royal syrup closet. Cherry climbed up on the table to look into the big tin milk can that was full of cream for his Majesty’s four o’clock drink. In some way, I never could tell you how, she pushed against Vanilla and, splash! The vanilla syrup was spilled into the can.
“Oh!” cried Vanilla, and she was frightened.
Before she could say another word, one of the under cooks seized the can of cream and clapped the cover on and ran off with it to the cold room where the ton of ice, all chopped in small pieces, had been spread on the floor.
“Perhaps, if you roll the can of cream back and forth over the ice, it will get colder than if you cover it with ice,” Strawberry had told the under cooks. She didn’t think the cream would be colder but she had to do something.
So the under cooks rolled the can back and forth over the broken ice. Vanilla and Cherry hid behind the cold room door. They were too frightened to tell Strawberry what had become of the glass of vanilla syrup which Vanilla had brought from the Royal syrup closet. They didn’t dare tell anyone, but they were sure that they would now have to feed the King’s pigs.
Everyone was so busy rolling the can of cream and hoping that the cream would be colder than it ever had been, that no one saw how the minute hand of the clock in the Royal kitchen crept up to four. No one even heard the clock call out that it was four o’clock, although the clock called as loud as a clock can call. Strawberry and the under cooks never heard anything until the Royal chamberlain rushed into the cold room. His face was as white as Strawberry’s white apron.
“Where is His Majesty’s afternoon cream!” he screamed. “It is after four o’clock and His Majesty is furious!”
Strawberry and the under cooks stopped rolling the tin milk can full of cream over the broken ice on the floor of the cold room. Before they could say a word there was a great noise in the Royal kitchen. His Majesty, the King, had come to see for himself what was the matter with his four o’clock cream.
“Oh, Your Majesty!” began Strawberry, so frightened that she dropped the cover of the tin milk can, and it clattered to the floor.
“Don’t speak to me!” shouted the King, who looked crosser than you ever imagined anyone could look. “What is the matter? Why hasn’t your lazy father sent me my afternoon cold cream? Where is it?”
“Here, Your Majesty.” And Strawberry showed him the can.
The King stamped across the room and looked into the can.
“This isn’t cream!” he shouted, for the can was filled with something that didn’t look a bit like any cream that had ever been seen in the Land of Perhaps. “What is it?” he asked crossly.
Strawberry trembled in her little buckled shoes. “Please, Your Majesty, I don’t know,” she faltered. “I filled the can with the cream,” she began to explain, but the King would not listen to her.
“It looks cold,” he said curiously. He took a spoon from the table and dipped it into the can. “It is cold!” he said when he had tasted the white stuff in the can. At the second spoonful he stopped frowning. At the third spoonful he began to laugh. No one in the Land of Perhaps had ever heard the King laugh before, and the under cooks began to shake in their shoes.
“Icicles and snowflakes,” cried the King, putting his spoon into the can as fast as he could empty it. “This is the coldest cream and the best cream I ever ate. It tastes like—“ he stopped eating for a second to think what it did taste like. “It tastes as though there were vanilla in this can,” he said at last.
“I don’t see how that can be, Your Majesty,” murmured Strawberry. She had stopped trembling in her buckled shoes the moment she heard the King laugh. “This is the day for your vanilla syrup. But we never put the syrup into the cream.”
Then Vanilla and little Cherry stopped crying and came from behind the cold room door.
“If you please, Your Majesty,” Vanilla said bravely. “There is vanilla in the cream. I put it in.”
“I knew it!” cried the King. He smiled at Vanilla and frowned at Strawberry. “I guess I know the taste of vanilla syrup! I must have had at least seven hundred and fifty glasses of vanilla syrup in the course of my life. But never in all my days have I had anything quite as good and as cold as this stuff.” And he took another spoonful and another spoonful and then another spoonful until he had a pain in his forehead, right between his eyes. “I want some of this tomorrow,” he told Strawberry as he scraped the can. “And, as tomorrow is Wednesday, you may pour in some of the chocolate syrup instead of the vanilla which your sister used today. Where is my Royal treasurer? Where is my Royal treasurer?” he roared. When the Royal treasurer was brought to him he asked, “What was the note I had you make in regard to my afternoon cream?”
The Royal treasurer looked through the big book he carried under his arm and at last found the place. “If the daughter of the Royal cook can make the afternoon cream any colder than it was today, she is to have a ring for each of her fingers, including the thumbs,” he read in a loud voice. “And Adoniram, the ice boy, is to have a bag of gold.”
“Exactly,” exclaimed the King. “Send for the ten rings for the young lady at once. You have ten fingers, my dear. Your father said you had, including your thumbs. And bring an extra half dozen for the girl who put the vanilla in the cream,” he called after the Royal treasurer. “She must have a reward, too, I declare,” and for once he smiled on everyone. “I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed any cream as I have enjoyed this vanilla—this vanilla—“ He hesitated and looked at the chopped ice on the floor of the cold room. “This vanilla ice cream!” he shouted suddenly. “The name of this delicious stuff is ice cream. Tell your father I shall want it every day of my life,” he told Strawberry. “I should think everyone in the world would want it!”
And now that people know how to make ice cream, everyone does want it nearly every day. You want it every day, don’t you?
Now that we know more about nutrition, it's probably not such a great idea to eat ice cream every day but that doesn't stop us from wanting to. If you'd like to read about the "real" origins of ice cream, there's more info here.