The Self-Cooking Tablecloth is a common magical item in Russian fairy-tales. Here’s how I described it in my book “Leshi and the Pike: Adventure Two.” Just before this scene, ten-year-old Alex and his nine-year-old sister Katie are following their new friend Leshi (an eccentric woodsprite) to the tsar’s palace. Then, they get hungry… Here’s the scene: (for more about the book, go to http://www.amazon.com/dp/1477639942).
Leshi stopped and plopped down on the ground.
“Break time,” he said. “We can’t go conquer the tsar on empty stomachs.”
“But we didn’t bring any food,” Katie said. “We didn’t think we’d be gone that long.”
“Wrong,” Leshi said. “Twice wrong.” He laughed. “Lucky that you have me to take care of you.” He reached into a pocket of his sheepskin’s coat and pulled out a rolled-up fabric. “Ever seen this? Incredible stuff. A tablecloth. Our meal will be exquisite.”
“What’s so incredible about a tablecloth?” Alex asked. “And how are we going to cook?”
“Watch and learn, my young friends,” Leshi said. “My cooking is simple magic. Have you heard about the Self-Cooking Tablecloth?”
“Our mom has a self-cleaning oven,” Katie said. “We know about that.”
“A self-cleaning oven?” Leshi said. “Now that’s a silly idea. Why clean it when it will just get dirty again?” He shook his head. “This tablecloth is much better. Just watch!” Leshi shook the tablecloth in the air to unroll it. “Catch the other side!” he shouted to Alex and Katie.
Alex grabbed one side, Katie – the other. For a second, the big white tablecloth flopped around. Then, it covered all three of them. Now, they were under the tablecloth. As soon as one of the corners of the tablecloth hit the ground, Alex heard the clinking of breaking dishes followed by an avalanche of freshly baked bread, red caviar, roasted meat, mashed potatoes, forks, knifes, spoons, and even candle-holders. Alex covered his head with his hands to shield himself. A moment later, everything became still.
“Are you okay, Katie?” Alex asked.
“Fine.” She brushed spaghetti out of her hair.
“Oops,” Leshi said. “Wrong side up. And even wronger side down. Help me turn it over.” Leshi shook his head to free himself from a candle-holder stuck on his horns. “Grab on to the other side and flip it over.”
As soon as the tablecloth was placed on the grass the right side up, the broken dishes flew up into the air and turned whole again before landing on top of the tablecloth. Roasted chicken, fresh vegetables, steaming mashed potatoes, and bowls of delicious hot soup garnished with dill made Alex mouth water.
“Eat to your heart’s content!” Leshi said. “Stuff yourselves!”
Alex and Katie sat on the ground and feasted on all the yummy food. Alex especially liked Leshi’s dessert, a soft and spongy apple pie. The dough tasted sweet, and the apples – a little sour. Together, the taste was just perfect. As soon as Alex put the last bite of his pie slice into his mouth, he heard the thumping of horse’s hooves on the ground. He peered through the thick brush and saw a golden carriage go by.
“Quiet!” Alex said. “The tsar is coming!” He pointed towards the carriage.
“We should go before the tsar does something bad to Emelya,” Katie said. “Who knows what the tsar could be planning.”
“Agreed! End of feast then,” Leshi said and started rolling up the tablecloth. The dishes were disappearing one by one, as if vanishing into thin air. Leshi picked up the now empty tablecloth and stuffed it back in his pocket.