I woke up last night hungry. My growling stomach woke up Saxon, too. Being the sweetest thang in the world, she sat up and said, “I’ll go make us a snack.”
I don’t want you to think we make a habit of snacking in the middle of the night. I mean, there was that time Emma woke up and caught us in the kitchen eating red velvet cake at three a.m., but that was just that once.
Saxon came back to bed with little slices of pumpernickel bread smeared with cream cheese. As we ate, Saxon wondered aloud, “Pumpernickel is a funny word. Where did it come from?”
“Well,” I said, “it’s German. And it came from this one time when Napoleon was traveling through Germany –”
“Wait a minute,” she said. “Is this one of your tall tales?”
“I resent that remark. I’m a writer. I am naturally creative. But no, this is the truth.”
She gave me one of those ‘Yeah, right’ looks.
I continued, “Anyway, Napoleon was riding his horse, Nicole. As he rode her down the main street of a German town, all the townspeople came outside to look at him. It was their lunchtime and they had napkins tucked into their shirt collars and bread in their hands. They were eating this heavy, coarse, dry bread typical of the peasants in Germany. Well, Napoleon was acting all “la di da, look at me, I may be short, but I’m a world leader”, and the peasants hated him. So, one little boy threw his bread at Napoleon. That started a riot. All the people began throwing their bread at Napoleon. He was getting beaned in the head by this coarse bread, so he spurred his horse, saying, “Pumper, Nicole! Pumper, Nicole!” Which means “Go faster, Nicole!” After that day, the peasants would look at their dark bread, laugh and say “Pumpernickel, pumpernickel!”
Saxon let that story gestate for a moment. Then she said, “One day this Jewish man was riding his horse through a town and all the people threw their bread at him. He raised his hands in the air and cried, “Why? Why?” But he didn’t have any teeth and it sounded like he was saying, “Rye? Rye?” From then on all the people would look at their bread, laugh and say “Jewish Rye, Jewish Rye.”
“Shut up,” I said.
“I’m going to google the etymology of pumpernickel in the morning.”
“Go ahead,” I dared. “I bet you find the Napoleon story.”
The thing is – it’s morning and Saxon hasn’t googled pumpernickel yet. When she does, she’s going to see this. I can’t wait to see the expression on her face!
By the way, pumpernickel is German, and it means “devil’s fart.” I like my story better.
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