The Fast Feast | Ep. 200Play
Think about the last time you had to share.
While sharing can be great, it can be challenging, too. But as we’ll hear in today’s story it’s worth it, for the delicious rewards it can bring!
Our story is called “The Fast Feast.” Versions of this tale come from the Jewish tradition. And we’re especially excited about this folktale, because it marks Circle Round’s 200th episode!
Voices in this 200th episode of our WBUR podcast include Feodor Chin, Ryan Dalusung, Jessica Rau, plus two performers from Circle Round’s first season: Jon Jon Briones and Kathleen Chalfant!
Jon Jon Briones starred in our third episode ever: “Why The Ocean Is Salty,” opposite Lou Diamond Phillips. Listen for Jon Jon in the animated series Transformers: Earthspark and watch him in the all-star cast of Beauty and the Beast on Disney+. Grown-ups, check out Jon Jon in the upcoming limited series Class of ’09 on Hulu, and the feature film The Last Voyage of Demeter.
Tony Award winner Kathleen Chalfant starred in our season-one finale: “The Lamb With the Golden Fleece.” This Broadway and off-Broadway legend has appeared in The Affair on Showtime and House of Cards on Netflix. She’ll perform in the upcoming plays Tomorrow Will Be Sunday at Detroit’s Arab American National Museum and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and Here There Are Blueberries at D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre Company.
Other voices in this episode include hundreds of Circle Round fans who sent in recordings from around the world! Special thanks to: Aaryan, Abby, Abel, Adam B., Adam G., Addison, Aleena, Alex, Alexandra, Alice, Alina, Amaya, Amelia, Amina, Andresk Anita, Annabel, Anneke, Annie, Anson, Aria, Arya, Asa, Ashley, Athena, Aveer, Azalia, Beatrice M., Beatrice W., Beau, Ben, Benjamin, Bennett, Brex, Bridget, Caelyn, Calan, Caleb, Callie, Calliope, Camerron, Caroline, Catri, Cecilia, Cecily, Charles, Charlie D., (the other) Charlie D., Claire, Clinton, Cooper, Daniel, Darian, Dashiell, Davis, Delilah, Delilah A., Delilah B., Desmond, Diana, Dorothy, Eleanor, Eli, Eliana, Elias, Elise, Eliza, Ellie, Elliot, Elliott, Eloise, Emily G., Emily L., Emma, Ethan, Evan, Evelyn, Everett, Flint, Florence, Frankie, Freddie, Freyja, Gabriella, George, George H., Gideon, Griffin, Gus, Hazel, Helen, Henry, Iris, Isaac, Isador, Jackson, Jacob L., Jacob T., James C., James M., James R., Jax, Jessie, Joan, John, Jonah, Josephine D., Josephine R., Jude, Julia, Julian, Juliana, June, Kai, Kayla, Khayri, Kira, Layla, Leif, Lennox, Leo, Leo L., Liam, Lillian, Lily, Lina, Lincoln, Lucas, Lucia, Lucy C., Lucy D., Lucy F., Lucy S., Luella, Luelle, Lydia, Madison, Mae, Makana, Margo, Margot, Margret, Marin, Marley, Mason K., Mason S., Matteo, Matthew, Max G., Max R., Micah, Michael, Mickey, Mikias, Milo L., Milo R., Mira, Myles, Mohsin, Nailah, Naomi, Naomi L., Nella, Nelly, Nia, Nolan, Nora, Olive, Oliver, Olivia, Olympia, Orion, Orly, Oscar, Oscar R., Otto, Parker, Paul, Petra, Philip, Presley, Quinn, Quinn W., Rebecca, Rhett, Rihaan, Riley, Rise, Rishaan, Roark, Rosalie, Roza, Ruby, Sage, Salix, Samara, Scarlet, Scarlett, Siddharth, Simon, Sloane, Sofia, Sophia, Sophia, C., Sophia K., Sylvia, Talei, Teia, Thea, Theo, Timothy, Van, Vera, Victor, Vivian, Vivian H., Vivian R., Wes, Wiley triplets, Wilfred, Will, Wren, Yael, Yuna, and Zachary.
This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Nora Saks. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.
ADULTS! PRINT THIS so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and tag it with #CircleRound. We'd love to see it! To access all the coloring pages for past episodes, click HERE. Our resident artist is Sabina Hahn and you can learn more about her HERE.
Things To Think About After Listening
Do you have a favorite Circle Round story? Think about what that story might be, then draw a picture inspired by the tale.
Maybe you’ll draw the characters, maybe you’ll put yourself in the drawing! When you’re done, share your picture with someone you love… and then, if you'd like, share it with us!
Grown-ups, snap a photo of your child and their drawing and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or post and tag us on Instagram; our handle is @circleroundpodcast.
Musical Spotlight: Clarinet
This member of the woodwind family makes sound with help from a thin piece of bamboo called a ‘reed.’ Like the saxophone, the clarinet is a single-reed instrument. To play the clarinet, you blow into the narrow gap between the reed and the mouthpiece, which causes the reed to vibrate and produce a sound. The modern clarinet uses a system of rings and keys to allow the clarinet player to create a wide range of notes.
The multi-member clarinet family ranges from the contrabass – which plays the lowest range of notes – to the piccolo clarinet, which plays the highest. The clarinet’s warm tone and expressive potential suits a variety of musical styles, from classical to klezmer to jazz to rock!
About clarinet player Ben Redwine:
In addition to his virtuosic performance in our Circle Round theme song, Ben Redwine is an accomplished teacher, film-score composer and jazz-ensemble leader in New Orleans, LA. He also plays classical music and performs with the Louisiana Philharmonic and Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestras.
NARRATOR: Ezekiel was the most well-to-do man in town. His big red-brick house had dozens of chimneys, hundreds of rooms, and so many servants running about that Ezekiel could never remember their names!
…Not that he tried to.
EZEKIEL: You there! Servant! Uh, George, is it? Bring me a cup of tea!
JOE: You mean Joe, sir?
EZEKIEL: No, I mean tea! I don’t want a cup of joe; I don’t even like coffee!!!
NARRATOR: So yes. Ezekiel was a very well-off guy. But he wasn’t very well-behaved. In addition to being not very nice to his staff…
EZEKIEL: George!!! I’m still waiting!!!
NARRATOR: …he was also not very generous with his money. He had plenty of it, but he held onto it so tightly that rumors began to fly about just how stingy Ezekiel was.
PERSON 1: I’ve heard Ezekiel is so stingy, he goes to bed at sunset just so he won’t have to turn the lights on and pay extra on his electricity bill!
PERSON 2: Well I’ve heard he keeps his heat off all winter, and his house gets so cold his servants actually look forward to coming down with a fever!
NARRATOR: Whether any of this was true… well, I really can’t say. What I can say is that one year, Ezekiel’s loads of wealth – and lack of warmth – were put to the test.
It began one summer, when the weather was unusually hot and dry. There was so much sun and so little rain that farmers across the country were sick with worry. Without rain, how could they grow their crops? And without crops, how could they feed their community – let alone themselves?
In some parts of the country, the more prosperous citizens opened up their silos and pantries and shared whatever food they could.
PERSON 3: I’ll donate these baskets of corn to the soup kitchen!
PERSON 4: I’ll bring these sacks of rice to the orphanage!
NARRATOR: But in a certain red-brick house with dozens of chimneys and hundreds of rooms, a certain someone did nothing of the sort. And I’ll bet you can guess who I’m talking about!
EZEKIEL: This so-called famine is actually a feast… for me!!!! Instead of sharing the food I’ve stashed away in my storehouse, I am going to sell it. At a very high price. The desperate masses will be so faint from hunger they’ll have no choice but to gather at my door and pay up! Ha ha ha!
NARRATOR: And so it came to pass. Every morning, a long line of hungry people would crowd around Ezekiel’s door, offering whatever cash they could for a loaf of bread, a bag of potatoes, or a scoop of grain. But if they didn’t have any cash to offer…?
PERSON 5: Please, sir. I’m all out of money! May I pay you back tomorrow?
NARRATOR: …Ezekiel didn’t show any mercy.
EZEKIEL: “May I pay you back tomorrow?!?” What do you think I’m running here, a charity? I am a businessman! And I am not in the business of giving away anything for free! If you don't have any money, you don’t get any food. Period.
NARRATOR: The people became desperate – so desperate, they began offering Ezekiel whatever they could in exchange for a bite of food.
PERSON 6: I’ll give you my golden wedding ring!
PERSON 1: My silver pocket watch!
PERSON 2: My pearl necklace! Handed down to me from my great-great-great-grandmother!
NARRATOR: In most cases, Ezekiel accepted their offer.
EZEKIEL: Uch. Fine.
NARRATOR: …though he wasn’t very nice about it.
EZEKIEL: …I’ll do the trade this time. Next time you’d better bring me cold, hard cash! I only have use for so many trinkets!
NARRATOR: Ezekiel had always been one to get people talking – remember the rumors about how he went to bed at sunset and kept his heat off all winter? But now, chatter about Ezekiel spread like wildfire… until at last, word of his notorious ways reached the ears of the governor: a powerful official who’d been sharing her own food since the drought began.
GOVERNOR: I’ve never met this Ezekiel fellow, but who does he think he is, taking advantage of helpless, hungry people like that? Somebody should teach that greedy bully a lesson!
NARRATOR: As the Governor’s compassionate heart ached for the victims of Ezekiel’s scheming, her clever mind started cooking up a plan.
GOVERNOR: If I want Ezekiel to change his ways, he must understand how it feels to be hungry – truly hungry! And in order to do that, I’ll need to give him some food for thought… minus the food!
NARRATOR: How do you think the Governor will teach Ezekiel a lesson?
What would you do if you were the Governor?
We’ll hear what happens, after a quick break.
NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “The Fast Feast.”
Before the break, a drought drove countless people to hunger. A rich rascal named Ezekiel took advantage of the situation by charging his neighbors an arm and a leg – or a wedding ring and a pocket watch – for the extra food in his storehouse.
When news of Ezekiel’s greed reached the Governor, the kindhearted, quick-witted woman decided she would teach the fellow a lesson. She began by handing her cook a long list of dishes to serve… at a dinner party.
COOK: A dinner party?!? With all due respect, Madam Governor… is now really the time to be throwing a dinner party? People are starving in the streets!
GOVERNOR: I know that. But all of this food will be put to good use – very good use. Don’t you worry.
COOK: Very well, Madam Governor. I’ll get right to work!
NARRATOR: As the cook got cracking on the menu, the Governor went to her secretary and asked her to write up an invitation.
SECRETARY: Just one invitation, Madam Governor? Surely you wish to invite more than one guest to your dinner party!?
GOVERNOR: On the contrary! One invitation will do. And please.
NARRATOR: She held out a slip of paper with a name and address.
GOVERNOR: …Have the invitation delivered to this gentleman. Today.
SECRETARY: Very well, Madam Governor. I’ll have it delivered today.
NARRATOR: At this point, I suspect you can guess whose name and address were on the Governor’s paper, right?
It was none other than who…?
You’ve got it!
And when Ezekiel received his personal invitation from the Governor, he puffed up with pride.
EZEKIEL: Would you look at this! The Governor is inviting me to dine with her! Personally! It’s about time she extended such an invitation, what with me being such an illustrious member of society and all. This should have happened years ago, but better late than never!
NARRATOR: The day of the dinner party, Ezekiel took a hot bath, got a close shave, and dressed himself in his snappiest suit. He made sure not to eat anything before the party, lest his stomach be too full to enjoy the Governor’s feast.
EZEKIEL: I’m not usually one to skip breakfast and lunch – but the hungrier I am when I arrive, the more delicious food I can gobble up when I get there!
NARRATOR: By the time Ezekiel reached the Governor’s house, his stomach was so empty, he was feeling weak in the knees; his legs buckled as he walked up the steps to the front door. Then he took a deep breath and rang the bell.
Within moments, the door was answered by a butler wearing white gloves and a waistcoat.
BUTLER: Ah! You must be Ezekiel. The Governor is expecting you. Right this way, please.
NARRATOR: Ezekiel’s footsteps clicked on the marble floors as the butler led him down a long corridor and into a banquet hall. Inside the hall was a long table set for two, with sterling-silver cutlery, porcelain plates, and crystal goblets. Ezekiel noticed there was no food on the table, but as the Butler led him to his chair, he imagined the delectable delights being prepared in the kitchen.
BUTLER: Please have a seat, sir. The Governor will be with you shortly. But before she arrives, perhaps you would like to hear… the rules?
EZEKIEL: ‘The rules’?
NARRATOR: Ezekiel spread a silk napkin across his lap.
EZEKIEL: You mean like, no elbows on the table? No chewing with your mouth open? No using the fish fork unless you’re actually eating fish?
BUTLER: Not those kinds of rules, sir. In this house, there are two very special rules you must follow when you’re feasting with the Governor.
NARRATOR: Ezekiel felt his heart drop – and his stomach grumble.
EZEKIEL: No offense, but can’t we just get on with the feast already? Do I really need to sit and listen to a recitation of Thou Shalts and Thou Shalt Nots?
NARRATOR: The butler fixed Ezekiel with a cold stare.
BUTLER: Good sir, I would strongly advise that you listen to the rules. Because if you go against the rules, I can assure you: her Governorship will be most displeased.
NARRATOR: Ezekiel let out a sigh. The first thing he wanted to do was get something down his gullet… but the last thing he wanted to do was upset the Governor. So he met the butler’s cold gaze with a warm grin.
EZEKIEL: You know what? I would actually love to hear your rules! Please, illuminate me.
BUTLER: Very well, sir.
NARRATOR: The butler held up a finger.
BUTLER: Rule number one. During the course of this evening, you must not ask any questions. Do you understand?
NARRATOR: Ezekiel did understand what the butler was saying; he just didn’t understand why there would be such a rule. What kind of host doesn’t allow their guests to ask any questions? But, not wishing to offend, Ezekiel just nodded his head.
EZEKIEL: I understand. I must not ask any questions.
BUTLER: Very good. Rule number two. At all times, you must be complimentary toward the governor. Be copious with your commendations, fruitful with your flattery, ample with your accolades. There is no such thing as too much praise. Even if none of it is true.
NARRATOR: Ezekiel was so focused on the gnawing pains in his insides that he couldn’t be sure: did he hear that last part right?
EZEKIEL: I’m sorry, good fellow. Are you really saying that I should heap praise on the Governor, even if it’s an outright lie?
BUTLER: Ah ah ah!
NARRATOR: The butler wagged his finger.
BUTLER: Remember what I said about asking questions! But now that you’ve heard the rules, the Governor will be with you shortly. She thanks you for your patience.
NARRATOR: Then the butler turned on his heel and breezed out of the hall, leaving Ezekiel alone with a watering mouth, a growling belly, and a reeling mind.
After what felt like hours, Ezekiel heard the clickety-clack of footsteps echo through the hall. Bustling toward the table was the Governor, wearing a fancy gown, long dangly earrings and the highest heels Ezekiel had ever seen.
GOVERNOR: Greetings! You must be Ezekiel. I have heard so much about you! You’ve made quite a name for yourself.
NARRATOR: Ezekiel was so famished he could have eaten one of the Governor’s high-heeled shoes. But remembering the butler’s rule about praise, he just pasted on a big grin.
EZEKIEL: You also have made quite a name for yourself, Madam Governor! On account of all the food you’ve done. I mean, all the good you’ve done. The good.
NARRATOR: Ezekiel gritted his teeth. He was so delirious with hunger he couldn’t even talk! But surely the food would be coming soon…?
The Governor seemed to read his mind.
GOVERNOR: I assure you, the food will be coming soon. I appreciate your patience, Ezekiel.
EZEKIEL: It’s my pleasure, Madam Governor! Dining with you is well worth the wait!
NARRATOR: The moment Ezekiel said these words, the butler came marching in with a large silver platter. On the platter was a golden-brown fish, baked to perfection with lemon and butter. The Butler placed the platter in front of the Governor, who lifted her fork and took a bite.
GOVERNOR: Mmm! This fish is heaven! Absolute heaven!
NARRATOR: Ezekiel worked to hold back his drool as he watched the Governor devour her fish. Then, to his delight, the butler brought out another platter of fish, which he set on the table in front of Ezekiel.
Ezekiel’s hands trembled as he clutched his fork and knife. But just as he was about to dig in…
BUTLER: Allow me to get that out of your way, sir!
NARRATOR: …the butler grabbed the platter and carried it back to the kitchen! Ezekiel was about to say something when the Governor spoke up.
GOVERNOR: So tell me, Ezekiel! How’s your meal? Are you enjoying it so far?
NARRATOR: Ezekiel was stunned. How could he be ‘enjoying’ his meal when there was no meal for him to enjoy? But remembering the butler’s first rule, he didn’t ask any questions. Instead, he thought about the butler’s second rule, and flashed the Governor a smile.
EZEKIEL: Oh, Governor! I’m not just “enjoying” my meal, I am adoring it! It’s amazing! Just amazing! You are totally outdoing yourself as a host.
GOVERNOR: Why thank you, Ezekiel. I appreciate the compliment. Now where is that second course?
NARRATOR: Ezekiel’s eyes lit up as the butler re-entered the banquet hall. This time he was carrying a golden bowl, which he placed before the Governor. Ezekiel’s mouth watered as the salty smell of chicken soup wafted through the air. The Governor lifted her spoon and plunged it into the broth.
GOVERNOR: Mmm! This soup! It is divine! Simply divine!
NARRATOR: As Ezekiel waited for his own soup to be served, he felt his patience evaporating, faster than the wisps of steam curling out of the Governor’s bowl!
But at last the butler returned, bowl of soup in hand. He placed the bowl in front of Ezekiel. But before Ezekiel could take a spoonful…
BUTLER: Allow me to clear that, sir!
NARRATOR: …the butler seized the soup and whisked it back to the kitchen!
NARRATOR: The exact same thing happened with the roast beef…
BUTLER: Pardon me, sir!
NARRATOR: … the fried chicken…
BUTLER: Excuse me, sir!
NARRATOR: …even the glasses of wine the butler kept pouring into the crystal goblets!
BUTLER: I’ll get that out of your way, sir!
NARRATOR: Meanwhile – course after course, drink after drink – the Governor kept supping and sipping and peppering Ezekiel with questions.
GOVERNOR: Are you having a good time, Ezekiel? Isn’t this lovely, Ezekiel? Aren’t you so glad we’re having this feast, Ezekiel?
NARRATOR: And despite his watering mouth and trembling hands and grumbling stomach, Ezekiel kept smiling and lying through his teeth.
EZEKIEL: I’m having a grand time, Governor! Everything is beautiful, Governor! I’m overjoyed to be wining and dining with you, Governor. [Sigh.]
NARRATOR: After all the food was gone, Ezekiel was so ravenous he was seeing double. Clutching the arms of his chair, he lifted himself to his feet, anxious to get out of the house and back home for some real food.
But the Governor had other ideas.
GOVERNOR: Ezekiel! You’re not leaving so soon, are you? The night is still young! I’ve asked the finest musicians in town to play us a concert! Just you and me. Isn’t that marvelous?
NARRATOR: Ezekiel couldn’t disagree more. But again he remembered the butler’s second rule.
EZEKIEL: It’s absolutely marvelous! You are a genius, Madam Governor, to cap off our fabulous feast with such melodious music. I’d love to stay and listen!
NARRATOR: For the next hour or two – or was it five or six…? – the musicians played on and on. At one point, Ezekiel stared at the violin and could have sworn it was a loaf of bread. At another point he gazed at the drum and was certain he saw a layer cake.
Just when Ezekiel began to worry that the rumblings of his stomach were drowning out the entertainment, the music came to an end. Once again, he rose unsteadily to his feet, as if to go.
But again, the Governor had other plans.
GOVERNOR: Ezekiel! You mustn’t leave now! It’s far too late for you to journey home. Please spend the night at my house. Every guest room is equipped with a feather bed as soft as snow!
NARRATOR: Ezekiel knew better than to argue. So he staggered up to one of the guest bedrooms and collapsed on the bed. The governor was right: it was ‘as soft as snow.’ Or cream. Or pudding. Or sponge cake…
EZEKIEL: Ugh! This is impossible! I’m so hungry I might actually eat this bed! Goodness knows I can’t sleep in it; the growls, grumbles, and pangs in my stomach are going to keep me up all night long!
NARRATOR: Ezekiel rolled over and stared at the ceiling. The crystals in the chandelier looked like pieces of sugar candy. Mmmm…. Candy…
EZEKIEL: Ugh!!!!! I can’t believe I was invited to a feast, yet I wasn’t allowed to feast at all! That Governor has got to be the worst host I have ever known. How dare she sit there and enjoy all those delicious delicacies while I’m sitting there starving? I’m basically wasting away – this close to passing out on her fancy marble-tiled floor – and yet she can’t find it in her heart to even throw me a bone? And if she does, then that cockamamie butler of hers comes in and snatches it away!? The Governor obviously has plenty of food she could share, yet she insists on withholding it. Withholding it from a poor soul who clearly is in need! I mean, who does that sort of thing? I certainly would never –
NARRATOR: Ezekiel suddenly fell silent.
And not because he was too woozy to go on.
It was because all at once it dawned on him exactly who would “do that sort of thing”... and exactly who had done that sort of thing. To countless hungry people who had crowded his door in hopes of getting a loaf of bread, a bag of potatoes, or a scoop of grain.
In that instant, everything became clear – as clear as the crystal goblets that Ezekiel hadn’t drunk a drop of wine from during dinner.
EZEKIEL: Now I see what the butler’s rules were all about! Ha! Well-played, Madam Governor. Very well played.
NARRATOR: The next morning, word reached the Governor that Ezekiel had departed her home before sunrise. By dawn, he was spotted outside his storehouse, freely giving out food to everyone who lined up at his door.
He did the same thing the next day, and the next… and the next… until, at last, the drought was over and the crops began to grow. But even then Ezekiel continued his generous ways. He gave all of his servants a well-deserved raise – he even learned their names!
EZEKIEL: Thanks for all the hard work… Joe!
JOE: You got it, sir! By George, you finally got it!
EZEKIEL: George…? I thought you said your name was Joe…?
JOE: Never mind! Thank you, sir!!!
NARRATOR: So in the end, Ezekiel was a changed man. All because the brilliant Governor gave him a whole lot to chew on… without giving him anything to chew on at all.