by Abigail Stillwell, age 13
In an idyllic European village during the time of King George IV, there lived two old maids named Persephone and Artemisia. Persephone and Artemisia were soup vendors at their village’s market day. The two old maids had lived together for as long as anyone could remember. Persephone was docile and sweet-tempered. Artemisia, who was smarter than Persephone, was too shy to speak up about much. The two ladies combined made an easily persuaded pair. On a breezy summer morning on the day before market day, they were in their soup stall, happily preparing their renowned rabbit stew.
While the two were busily absorbed in perfecting their stew, Lady Gladys swooped in upon the scene. Being the daughter of an earl and the winner of numerous culinary awards, she felt her importance greatly. Tasting the stew, she commented, “I believe more salt would greatly enhance and deepen the flavor profile of the stew.” Persephone and Artemisia, who were quite in awe of Lady Gladys’s importance and culinary knowledge, added the salt. As the day progressed, it seemed the whole town gave its varying opinions on how to compensate for the apparent flaws in the stew. Whether it be onions for richer aroma, rosemary for relief from headaches, or elderberry flowers for longevity, opinions on what to add to the stew were plentiful. Persephone and Artemisia even followed the dubious advice of the town’s bedraggled mystic fortune-teller to add freshly dug riverside clay in order “to be more in tune with the spirits.”
When market opened the following morning, nary a soul bought a bowl of the muddy, floral stew. Persephone and Artemisia dumped out the unbought and inedible stew. Persephone laughed at the hilarity of it all, and Artemisia sighed. They journeyed home resignedly. Upon arrival at their cottage, Persephone, who had always had an entrepreneurial streak, persuaded Artemisia that they should at long last start that kombucha brewing business they had always been itching to try. With trial and error, their kombucha business thrived, allowing them to live quite happily and prosperously. However, they never forgot the valuable lesson they learned that day: if one tries to follow everyone’s advice, one ends up following no one’s advice.