Disclaimer: I own nothing in regard to The Sound of Music. No money is being made from this work.


Vanillekipferl

Early July 1926

Maria stood in the middle of the kitchen, a broad smile on her face, observing the chaos around her. Discarded rolling pins, cookie cutters, powder sugar and vanilla scent in the air. But most importantly, her smiling charges, sitting around the table and chatting lively while waiting for the next batch of cookies to be baked.

A mere few weeks ago, she had thought such a scene to be impossible. The seven children who marched with military precision were so different to the happy group before her eyes, and all they needed was a little bit of affection and fun.

xxXXxx

On the morrow of the dreadful storm that made the children seek their governess, the Captain left for Vienna. And so Maria was left alone with her charges. At first, she was pretty unsure of her standing in their hierarchy. They did come to her the previous night but did it mean truce? Or maybe she should keep checking the chairs for pinecones and pockets for unwanted guests?

She started by following the Captain's wishes and carrying out lessons during the day. But instead of slow marches in the afternoon, she encouraged the children to play. And play they did. Hide and seek, tag, blind man's buff were among their favourites. The learning agenda suggested by the Captain was full, but when she realised how bright the kids were, she started cutting corners a little bit, trying to incorporate more fun into learning. And so they would spend the mornings in the schoolroom, but later they would venture somewhere. What was the point of teaching them about biology from the dust-covered books when they could pick flowers and herbs in the nearby meadow while learning about their names and uses? And what pretty flower crowns they made!

The children loved the afternoons but understood that they were rewards for good behaviour. While Maria wanted them to have fun, she was cautious not to spoil them overly. Pulling tricks meant being stuck with a book while the rest of the group played together. That lesson was harsh, but none of the children had to endure it more than once, for they quickly learned to love and respect their Fraulein Maria. Besides, a trick was not worth missing all that fun!

xxXXxx

Things were running smoothly in the Von Trapp household for a few weeks, and Maria hoped they would stay that way. But then the rain came. It was not unusual in Salzburg during the summer months; quite the contrary, it was expected. Unfortunately, for one governess and her seven charges, it meant being stuck inside.

Maria was at her wit's end trying to find something for their afternoon lesson. She introduced them to origami, teaching the art of creating butterflies and boats from colourful sheets of paper. They had a treasure hunt with clues that required knowledge about various topics, from the Great War to the names of Bellatrix Potter characters. And there was singing and reading and many other fun activities. But the children never seemed to tire, and every day was a challenge for Maria.

One such day, she was sitting in the nursery, wrecking her brain for ideas, but it seemed as if they had done it all. Desperate for some inspiration, she started wandering around the villa, hoping that an idea might strike her. She ventured into countless rooms, removed dust from long-forgotten books and even visited the kitchens. All her efforts were in vain!

As she sighed loudly and was preparing to go back, face the children and reveal the awful truth - they might have to read through another afternoon - when the cook came to her rescue.

The woman was in a rush to prepare everything for dinner and asked Maria to return a basket of apples to the pantry. She readily agreed, picking the heavy item. As soon as the heavy door opened, her eyes fell on a jar full of white powder with vanilla sugar scribbled on it. And suddenly Maria wanted to dance, oh why did she not think about it before! They were going to make cookies! But not any cookies. They would be baking the vanillekipferl. It would be a perfect excuse to teach them about Austrian's history. She quickly made her way back to the kitchen, and after a short conversation with the cook and Frau Schmidt, everything was arranged.

xxXXxx

The next day after lunch, she took them to the kitchen, and it certainly was not what they expected.

"Fraulein Maria, weren't we supposed to learn about some Austrian military history?" enquired confused Friedrich. After one too many biology lessons, he was looking forward to learning something useful. Something that he might even discuss with his father one day.

"We will be Friedrich! You see, children history does not only live in the books. Quite the contrary, it's all around us!"

"But in the kitchen?" Friedrich did not seem convinced.

"Are we going to discuss the spice trade?" Brigitta chimed in.

"Not quite," Although it might be a good idea for the next lesson, she thought. "Well, children, today we will learn about the fall of the Ottoman Empire! I'll have you know that it involved many battles, spies, complex politics and, most importantly, cookies!"

"Cookies?" That caught their attention.

"Yes. After the great battle of Vienna, the people wanted to celebrate the victory. And what better way to do it than with treats? So the greatest pastry chefs put their minds together and come up with vanillekipferl. Sweet as the victory they are. And they require some preparations and excellent coordination, just like winning a battle. I'll tell you the story, and in the meantime, you'll be working on the cookies."

And so the work began. Friedrich and Kurt were grinding the almonds, Louisa kneaded the dough that was later rolled with a rolling pin by Liesl. Brigitta, priding herself on being detailed, watched over the baking and then covered cookies with vanilla sugar. The little ones, with some help from Maria, were given the task of shaping the cookies. Although traditionally they were supposed to be half moons, a reminder of the victory over the Ottomans, soon cookie cutters were found and hearts, flowers and men joined the half-moons.

Maria watched with joy how well they worked together. Although she told them the story of the great victory, she was unsure how much they remembered, given how engrossed they were in the cookie-making process. Many weeks later, when the Captain mentioned being impressed by a discussion about the strategy used against the Ottoman empire he had with his brood, she realised that they did learn quite a bit.


A/N

Hi. I'm a long time reader and first-time writer. English is not my mother tongue, and Grammarly is my beta. Please feel free to point out any mistakes, and I will do my best to fix them.

The story contains five chapters, and one will be published every week. It's not going to be serious or life-changing. Quite the opposite; I wanted to create a fluffy read for the Christmas season. Also, it is my thank you to all the wonderful FF authors out there who spend their time and energy writing their amazing stories!

PS The cookies are really tasty; I baked them myself using this recipe: www .austria .info/en/things-to-do/food-and-drink/recipes/vanillekipferl