“Gran…” Little Red closed the book she had been poring over.
“Yes, dear?” Her grandmother was at the kitchen sink, washing and peeling vegetables. Already a pot was bubbling enthusiastically on the stove and the inviting smells of herbs filled the tiny cottage.
“I’ve been thinking…”
Grandmother chuckled to see the little girl’s serious expression. “That sounds ominous!” the old woman laughed.
“In this book, there are old ladies like you…”
“Go on,” Grandmother dried her hands on a towel. “And less of the old, if you please!”
“Living alone, in the middle of the forest.”
“What of it? I’m quite cosy here in my little cottage and I’ve got you to visit me, haven’t I?”
“But these old ladies – in the stories – they’re mean. Sometimes their houses are made out of gingerbread and they set traps for boys and girls. Sometimes they make potions out of all sorts of horrible things and they use them to turn people into frogs. And sometimes –”
“Oh dear,” Grandmother shook her head. “You can’t believe everything you read in stories. Now, clear the table. It won’t be long before the broth is ready. And you love my broth, don’t you, dear?”
Little Red’s expression was noncommittal, but she put the storybook away and draped a cloth over the table. She fetched soup spoons from a drawer and the hand-carved salt and pepper pots Granny’s friend the woodcutter had made. One was an owl, the other a wolf – but a friendly, little wolf, not a big bad one.
Grandmother carved an oval loaf into thick slices before giving the broth one last appraisal.
“Yum,” she sipped from the ladle. “As good as ever.”
She served two steaming bowls and watched with pride as the little girl tucked in.
“That was delicious!” Little Red wiped her lips with the back of her hand. She yawned. “It’s funny, Gran, but your broth always makes me so – so sleepy…”
A minute later, she was out like a light. Grandmother wrapped a blanket around the child and carried her to a cot by the fireside.
Some old women have houses made of gingerbread. Some make potions to turn people into frogs.
And some, Grandmother stroked the sleeping child’s hair, make broth to stop the ones they love from leaving them all alone.
In an armchair by the fire, the woodcutter slept on. Grandmother swatted at him with her tea towel to rid him of his cobwebs.