"A long time ago, when our land was greener, and air clearer, there were two Mercian cities. For the most part, their denizens lived in harmony. Both peoples and places adhered to a mutual agreement not to attack the other, cementing their alliance with marriage and trade. Customs still used today, but the two cities Nabberjack and Whiffling were the true pioneers of such happy fellowship.
Between the cities ran the River Plonk, which watered their fields well. Farms flourished year round, with healthy agriculture and livestock. From which, the intricate and interesting English cuisine developed. In years of plenty, all manner of wonderful dishes were created - toad in the hole, spotted dick, stargazy pie, oven bottoms, pond puddin', bubble and
squeak, bangers and mash... Truly, there was a myriad of marvellous tastes. The summers were used for frolicking and running through fields of wheat. It was a simpler time when scrumping was considered the most terrible crime one could possibly commit. May Queens were crowned, and hobby-horses would be
chased through the cobbled streets, their black ribbons streaming behind them. Oft, young men would travel to their neighbouring city, with hopes of finding wealth and fame. Perhaps, more valuable still, a reliable occupation to win a wife, and a home to raise a family. Each would be welcomed and given every chance to succeed. Indeed, it was a merry time.
There was only one splinter wedged between Nabberjack and Whiffling. One tiny difference that niggled the two cities, that kept their alliance friendly, but not a complete fusion. This little fracture, this itty-bitty friction - was the difference in accent. Nabberjackers were scorned by Whifflers for drawing out the letter 'a', and the children of Whiffling would stand on the
banks on the mighty Plonk and bleat like sheep at their neighbours. 'Baaa! Baaa! Baaaaaaa!' they would cry, on and on until a young Nabberjacker would emit a short 'ah!', and dance about like the monkeys brought over by Eastern traders. Indignantly, they would trade these insults and other vowels until their mothers called them home for chip butties or other such nutritious suppers.
This prejudice continued into adulthood but was buried by larger concerns, like being crushed by hay bales and overly amorous rabbits in cabbage patches. The only time it really resurfaced was at the annual football match. In all, the two cities lived well, and peacefully. Peacefully, until one unfortunate baker's son was born.
He was born to Dom and Elkie Wetbottom. Dom was a Nabberjacker who had moved to Whiffling to escape his own father's backwards ways of baking. The elder considered crumpets 'foreign muck' and Dom found such opinions stifling. Elkie was a true-blood Whiffler who could count her ancestry back at least seven generations (the number eight had not yet been invented) but fell in love with Dom's baking
and forgave his alien speech. They married in the spring and moved to Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma Street, at number one-and-a-half. The upstairs of the little house was their family home, and the downstairs was the bakery and shop. Together, Mr and Mrs Wetbottom made a fair living, and when their son was born, they christened him Otter and swore he would never go in
wanting. And they succeeded. Otter Wetbottom did not grow up wanting anything. He became a strapping lad, muscled from working in the bakery. Clever too, perfecting the slice of buttered toast (thick white bread, buttered to the edges) among other floury delights. Soon, the One-and-a-half Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma Street Baker became known to be
the finest in Whiffling. And therefore, he soon too became known to Nabberjackers, who loved the bakery just as much. Folks would travel back and forth over Plonk, cradling his goods as carefully as they did their own children. In a particularly kind summer, the two cities wanted something new. Yes, there was bread, and yes there was cake, and yes, there was buttery
flaky pastry - but what else could be done? Or rather, as they were all so well loved, could they be combined into a heavenly new treat? Most vital of all, what could be served with newly discovered tea? The councils of Nabberjack and Whiffling set a competition - whoever could create such a miracle would be given 10 gold angels and more fame and adulations than one could
dream of - to be recorded in all the tales as the greatest baker to have ever kneaded dough. For a number of years now, Otter had held the monopoly on pastries and bread. He had amassed a small fortune but had no particular interest in money. For him, it was the love of the flour and the way it came to life in his scorching oven. He invested his coins only in new ingredients and techniques.
No woman could seduce him, and no nobleman could offer him more than what he made to work as a private baker. But such piety to the pies was not loved by all.