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Authors: Helen Perelman

Tags: #Fiction - Young Adult


BOOK: Tiana
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rincess Tiana twirled around her new palace. It may not have been the palace of every princess's dreams, but she loved it. She and Prince Naveen had worked hard to turn an old sugar mill into a brand-new restaurant called Tiana's Palace. Tiana gazed up at the large chandelier in the grand room and let out a happy sigh. She had dreamed about this her entire life.

When Tiana fell in love with Naveen, he had been a frog prince. And he'd turned her into a frog, too! While they were in the bayou, she never thought that they would get married, turn back into humans, and open a New Orleans restaurant together. Tiana looked over at her prince and smiled.

“Naveen, everything is perfect!” she cried. “The chandelier was the last touch.” For years, Tiana had thought the rundown mill would make the perfect spot for a restaurant. She looked around. After a couple months making repairs, everything looked beautiful.

“This is just the kind of restaurant I always wanted,” Tiana said to Naveen. She sat down at one of the tables in the spacious room and gazed at the new dining area.

The tables had golden tablecloths and napkins. It was all fit for a princess!

“When Daddy and I used to talk about opening a restaurant, this is what I hoped it would be like,” she said. “Thank you!”

“You've done all the work!” Naveen exclaimed. “Without your dedication, this place would still be an old sugar mill. And if it wasn't for your delicious food, no one would want to eat here!”

“Oh, the people will come to hear your music,” Tiana added with a smile.

Naveen loved jazz music. He played the ukulele and had a wonderful singing voice. One of their best friends was a musician named Louis, who also happened to be an alligator!

Tiana and Naveen had met Louis in the bayou when they were both frogs. He played the trumpet better than anyone they knew. “Without you and Louis, Tiana's Palace wouldn't be as much fun. The Firefly Five is the best jazz band in New Orleans!”

“Good food, good music, and good friends,” Naveen said. “I think that is the recipe for a successful restaurant.”

Tiana looked down at her hands. “Everyone has been very kind, but we haven't even had our grand opening yet. The first night is a big deal.”

“Especially if Jono La Crème is coming!” Charlotte LaBouff called as she walked into the room. She and Tiana had grown up together and were best friends.

Charlotte's blond hair was perfectly styled, and she wore a beautiful purple silk dress. Waving a letter, she rushed over to Tiana's table. “Y'all are not going to believe this delicious news!” she exclaimed as she sat down next to Tiana. Her blue eyes sparkled. She was bursting with excitement.

“Lottie,” Tiana said, “What on earth are you up to?”

“She definitely looks as if she's up to something,” Naveen agreed, nodding his head.

Charlotte took a moment to enjoy watching her friends. She was so excited! Her news was so big she could hardly speak.

“Tell us!” Tiana pleaded.

“Well,” Charlotte finally began. She smoothed her fancy dress with her hands. She batted her eyelashes, then slowly exhaled. Finally she spat out her news in one breath: “Daddy was talking to friends of his, and someone knew someone who knew someone else, and that man knows Jono La Crème!”

Tiana screamed. She grabbed Charlotte's hands. The two friends started to jump up and down.

“Who is Jono La Crème?” Naveen asked, slightly bewildered. He was from Maldonia, not New Orleans like Tiana and Charlotte.

Laughing, Charlotte fanned herself with the letter. “Jono La Crème is only the most well-respected food critic in the South!” she exclaimed.

“If he gives you a good review in his newspaper column, Crème de La Crème, you are a guaranteed success!” Tiana added. She turned to Charlotte. “Is he really coming here?” Her eyes widened. “He's coming to my restaurant?”

“Yes, ma'am,” Charlotte said, grinning. “For opening night!”

Naveen rubbed his chin. “Wait, I think that I've read some of his articles. His reviews can get spicier than a bowl of jambalaya!”

“But he is going to love Tiana's Palace,” Charlotte said confidently. “When he tastes your gumbo and beignets, he'll be in food heaven. He's from New Orleans, after all.” She handed the letter to Tiana.

Tiana studied it. The stationery was beautiful. Jono La Crème's penmanship was very neat. Tiana quickly read the note. “He really is coming here!” she exclaimed. She grabbed Charlotte's hands again and swung her around in a circle. “Oh, Lottie,” she said. “Thank you!”

“It's wonderful news, isn't it?” Charlotte said, feeling very proud. “I want everyone to know about Tiana's Palace!”

Naveen clapped. “Bravo, Charlotte,” he said. “A good review is the best advertising for a restaurant.”

Suddenly, Tiana stopped dancing. She sank back down in her chair.

“Wait,” she said, catching her breath. “What if Jono La Crème doesn't like my food?” she asked. The smile disappeared from her face.

“Don't be silly,” Charlotte said. She waved her arm around. “He'll love this place—and you, Princess Tiana!”

Tiana shook her head. “If Jono La Crème is coming here for the opening, we have to make sure everything is perfect. We can't have any mistakes.”

“I thought you'd say that,” Charlotte replied. Tiana had always been a hard worker. “And I'm here to help in any way that I can.” Charlotte reached out to give her good friend a hug.

“You can count on me, too,” Naveen said. “Though you have nothing to worry about. That man is in for a heaping plate of good Southern cooking!”

“And the best part,” Charlotte continued, “is he loves jazz music! Wait until he hears Naveen and Louis play.”

“Opening night is going to be a grand party,” Naveen said. He gave Tiana's hand a squeeze.

Tiana nodded. She just hoped that they could get everything done in time. New menus, decorations, music—there were so many details!

he week leading up to opening night was very busy. Tiana carefully planned the menu and even tried a few new recipes. She met with the florist and picked out the most colorful flowers for the centerpieces. All the silver was polished, and the table-cloths were cleaned and pressed. Tiana's Palace sparkled, from the new chandelier to the silverware on the tables.

The morning of the opening, Tiana was in the kitchen before the sun came up. She was going to spend the day cooking and preparing for the big event. She wanted to get an early start!

Music from the dining room floated into the kitchen. Tiana knew that she wasn't the only one getting ready for the opening. Naveen, Louis, and the other musicians were practicing. They had no reason to worry, Tiana thought. They sounded fantastic!

Dicing her vegetables to the beat of the music, she hummed along. The food that night had to be the very best.

The morning passed quickly, and soon it was lunchtime. The band members strolled into the kitchen. One of the perks of working at Tiana's Palace was that they got to eat there.

“Something smells delicious in here,” Naveen said as he swung open the door. He sniffed around the kitchen and walked over to a large pot simmering on the stove. He lifted the lid and took a peek. “Mmmm, this is going to be divine!”

“Thank you,” Tiana said, wiping her hands on her apron. “I sure hope Jono likes it.”

“You have nothing to be nervous about,” Louis said as he strolled into the kitchen. “Listen, I wrote this song for you.” He did a quick scat on his trumpet.

The song made Tiana sway to the beat and forget to be nervous. The jazz tune was so catchy it made her smile.

“I love that song,” Tiana said. “Will you play it tonight?”

“Of course!” Louis replied. “Giselle has never let me down, and your cooking won't either.” He patted his trumpet. “Tiana, you are the best cook in New Orleans, and Jono La Crème is gonna love this place.”

Tiana hugged Louis. He was a true friend. She pulled back and smiled up at him, realizing he was also a very tall friend!

“Louis, could you reach that large red pot on the top shelf?” she asked. She pointed to the far end of the kitchen. “I need to make jambalaya and want to use the biggest pot I have.”

“Sure thing,” Louis said. He was more than happy to help out Tiana. He easily reached the heavy pot and put it down on the stove. “Just save me some of that jambalaya!” He licked his lips. “And some gumbo, étouffée, bread pudding, and a plateful of beignets!”

“Promise,” Tiana said, smiling. Then she spotted the kitchen clock and gasped. “I didn't realize the time! I've got to get down to the French Market. I need to have the freshest fish today.”

“I can go for you,” Naveen offered.

“Are you sure?” Tiana asked. “You wouldn't mind?”

“Not at all, Princess,” her prince replied.

“I can go with you,” Louis said. “I tend to clear a crowd. That way we can get to the fish place quickly.” He swayed his head and giggled.

“That would be fantastic,” Naveen said. “I'll need a hand with the shipment. If I know Tiana, she ordered enough fish for an entire kingdom!” He smiled at his wife.

“I would appreciate that very much,” Tiana told them. “There should be one large crate of fish. Murray the fisherman was going to put aside the best selection for me.”

“We'll go now,” Naveen said. He touched Tiana on the arm. “Tonight is going to be great.”

Tiana went back to chopping her vegetables. She only looked up when there was a knock at the back door. “What are you doing here so early?” Tiana exclaimed when she saw who was standing there.

Her mother, Eudora, gave her a tight squeeze. “When Lottie told me the news, I had to come over right away,” she said. “Jono La Crème, coming here? I wanted to help if I could.”

“Everything is happening so quickly,” Tiana said. “And I want the evening to be perfect.”

Touching Tiana's cheek, her mother smiled. “One ingredient at a time,” she said, “just like your daddy taught you.”

Tiana was glad her mother had come early. Having her in the kitchen would help Tiana focus on her cooking.

“I brought you something,” Eudora said. She drew a large box from her bag. “For your opening night.”

Tiana pulled a beautiful blue silk dress with sparkles all over it out of the box. Her mother was an amazing seamstress, so she always knew just what to make. “This is beautiful,” she murmured.

“Fit for a princess, don't you think?” her mother said with a smile. “I made the dress especially for you. There's something else in there as well. Look.”

Tiana dug deeper into the box and pulled out a crisp, white apron trimmed with bows and a ruffle. “Mama, it's gorgeous! I love it!”

She slipped the apron on. “This is just the thing for opening night. Thank you for everything, and for being here today.”

“I wouldn't have missed this night for anything!” she exclaimed, kissing the top of Tiana's head. “You know your father would be so proud of you.”

Tiana's face grew serious. “Do you think that Jono La Crème will like my food?”

“I have no doubt,” Eudora said. “And he'll love this restaurant. It's like your father always said, ‘Food brings folks together from all walks of life. It warms them right up and puts smiles on their faces.'”

Suddenly, Tiana smelled something burning. She had forgotten that her jambalaya was on the stove! She raced over to the pot. “Oh, heavens!” she cried. “Where is my head?” She whisked the pot off the stove.

“Babycakes,” her mother said calmly. “You've got to concentrate on one thing at a time.”

Tiana blew a strand of hair off her forehead. “Whew, that was close!” She sighed. “I can't go serving Mr. La Crème burned jambalaya!”

“You are going to be fine,” her mother told her.

“Thank you,” Tiana said.

Together, Tiana and her mother made some new jambalaya, prepared the roux for her special gumbo, and whipped up some skillet corn bread.

A while later, Louis and Naveen returned. They were lugging a crate filled with ice and fish.

“Royal delivery!” Naveen shouted as they entered the kitchen.

“Nothing like the smell of fresh fish!” Louis said, grinning. “Reminds me of when I was just a little gator back in the bayou.”

“Hello, Louis,” Eudora said, waving. “I'm looking forward to hearing your music.”

Louis nodded his large head. “Giselle and I are going to play some sweet jazz for the crowd.”

Suddenly, Louis's eyes grew wide. “Wait!” he shouted. “Where is Giselle?” He looked down at his empty hands. Then he spun around, his large tail just missing the pot on the stove.

Everyone in the kitchen froze. Louis was never without his trumpet. “I can't play on opening night without Giselle!”

BOOK: Tiana
9.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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