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The cook's tale

To look at the story of 'The Three Wise Men' from a different perspective.

by Kate Fleming

Suitable for Key Stage 2

Aims

To look at the story of The Three Wise Men from a different perspective. To think imaginatively about hidden characters in stories. To highlight the importance of love in a materialist world.

Preparation and materials

None.

Assembly

  1. Ask the children: Who has had a new baby born into their family? Ask about visitors who have come to see the new baby with presents and cards. People who live nearby and people from a long way away.

    Explain that this happened when Jesus was born too. His family had visitors - shepherds from nearby and three men from far away. Three men who went on a long journey to see Jesus and bring him presents. Who were they? Yes, the Three Wise Men. They travelled for many days riding on camels through difficult and dangerous countryside.

    Do you think they did this amazing journey on their own? Just the three of them? Well they didn't. They had people who worked for them to help. They took people to carry the luggage, people to look after the camels, people to protect them from robbers, people to advise them, and people to cook for them.

  2. Explain that we don't know anything about the servants, but here's an imaginary story about one of them. In charge of the cooks was Awad, and it is his story that I am going to tell you this morning.

    The Cook's Tale
    by Kate Fleming

    Awad had worked as a cook in Lord Melchior's grand palace since he was a boy. He was now head chef and extremely proud of his position. The food he cooked was famous throughout the land and his services were much sought after. One morning in December excitement spread through the palace like wildfire, arriving at the kitchens just as Awad was preparing a particularly tasty falafel for Lord Melchior and his special guests for that evening, Lord Casper and Lord Balthasar.

    For two days and nights, these astrologers had been shut up in their observatory studying the rising of a new star that had appeared in the sky. It was bright, so bright that it stood out from the other stars like a powerful King would stand out in a crowd.

    Now the news was out. The Lords, Melchior, Casper and Balthasar, were to follow that star to find the new-born baby who was to be a very special King. 'It was written by the prophets,' Awad's kitchen-hand Cesar told him. 'They are going after dinner tonight, and WE are going with them!'

    Awad was excited - he had never been away from home before, but he was anxious as well. What food would he take? How would he cook all the special dishes that the great Lords so admired? How would they carry the olive oil, the honey, the game, geese, fish, birds' eggs, not to mention the wine?

    Poor Awad was in such a panic, rushing round the kitchen checking, counting, shouting, indeed close to tears, when his beloved master Lord Melchior swept in. 'Awad, why the worry?' he said in his deep, gentle voice. 'All we require is your skill as a cook, your secret herbs and spices, and the rest we will find on the way. Awad, we are going to worship the newly-born King who has been heralded by a magnificent new star. That alone will feed us.'

    Awad felt a deep calm sweep over him. He felt valued and special, he knew that this was to be the journey of his lifetime.

    Awad packed his cooking knives, his mother's pestle and mortar, and his two favourite pots, into which he stowed cumin, fenugreek, dill, sesame and mustard seeds, hyssop, aniseed, mint, sage, marjoram, bay leaves, coriander, caraway and saffron. With these he was confident he could cook anything for the great men of the stars.

    The journey was hard: the wrong time of the year, cold and wet underfoot. They did find food on the way, some growing wild and some purchased from shepherds and goatherds. Simple but delicious fare, cooked over open fires under the night sky with the new star always there beckoning them on towards Jerusalem. Then they came into warmer weather and Awad and Cesar were able to pick fresh pomegranates from the trees, pistachio nuts, grapes from wild vines and juicy melons ripened by the midday sun.

    Jerusalem was a welcome sight and King Herod a magnificent host. There were barrels of wine, a roasted ox and all manner of sumptuous food for all to feast on, but no sign of the baby. The travellers were surprised to learn that it was thought he was to be born in Bethlehem, further west. 'Find him,' Herod commanded, 'so that I too can worship the new King.' But his voice trembled, his face was white and his eyes were cruel and full of hatred.

    The party was over.

    When the Lords and their servants arrived in Bethlehem the star seemed to stop over a humble home. Lord Melchior, Lord Casper and Lord Balthasar dismounted their camels and entered. They presented their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

    Awad gazed in wonder at the newly-born King. He felt a warm hand on his shoulder and looked up into the wise eyes of his master Lord Melchior. 'Well, Awad, my dear friend, what are you thinking? How do you feel? No roast goose, spitted quails or fatted ox here!'

    No, my Lord,' said Awad. 'Simple herbs here, but mixed with another essential ingredient.' The great Lord swung round, taking Awad with him, and whispered in his ear. 'Better a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted ox and hatred with it.'

    Departure from Bethlehem was immediate. Back east to their own country, using a different route.

  3. Ask the children: Why do you think the Lords decided to take a different route back to their own country? What do you think Lord Melchior meant when he whispered to Awad, 'Better a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted ox and hatred with it'? Do you think it has anything to do with Awad's 'essential ingredient' that he had felt in the presence of the baby?

Time for reflection

Dear God,
The three wise men journeyed from their grand palaces to the humble stable in Bethlehem
and experienced the importance of love.
Help us to learn from this and make love our essential ingredient.
Amen.

Song/music

'As with gladness men of old' (Hymns Ancient and Modern, 79) 'Riding out across the desert' (Come and Praise, 124)

Curriculum links

English, RE, PSHE

Publication date: December 2000   (Vol.2 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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