Daily Chronicle, March 2, 1903

1 (Doctors say that the cooking of savages is far superior to that of civilised races, and strongly recommend English cooks to take a few hints from them.)

“You cook,” I observed to the African chief,
 “With a truly remarkable skill.
With your soups and your entrées you ne’er come to grief.
 You seldom go wrong when you grill.
Your roast leg of pork or of mutton is—well,
 It’s a privilege simply to view it;
And I feel I could batten for weeks on the smell.
 How on earth do you manage to do it?”

With a gratified simper the chieftain explained.
 “Ah well, for that matter, the fact is,
Whatever ability I may have gained
 Is simply the outcome of practice.
In the days of my youth, e’er I quitted my land,
 Not content with the usual rations,
I made it a habit to practise my hand
 On my numerous friends and relations.

I strove with a will towards my ultimate ends,
 Surmounting each obstacle gaily.
I speedily ran through my circle of friends,
 Diminished my relatives daily.
My brothers gave out, and my uncles as well;
 My cousins went faster and faster;
Until—in a word a long story to tell—
 I found I could cook like a master.”

In silence I stood till he came to the end,
 For his tale had delighted and thrilled me;
Then, thoughtfully thanking my cannibal friend,
 I owned that with envy he filled me.
For many’s the man whom I’d thankfully boil,
 And countless relations beset me,
Whom I’d eagerly stew (without grudging the toil),
 If only the Law would abet me.

P. G. W. 




“SLOW COOKING. The civilised cook might learn a good deal from the methods of slow cooking adopted by savage tribes. By one method, in which stones made hot with glowing charcoal are employed, a large joint, no matter how tough, may be exquisitely cooked and made tender and tasty, and it is doubtful whether any form of civilised cooking can compare with it. The navvy [laborer] who fries his chop or steak on his spade over a few lighted sticks probably gets more nourishment and derives greater relish from the meat cooked in this way than if it had been baked in the oven.” (Manchester Evening News, February 28, 1903)

John Dawson    

The meter and the rhyme scheme of this poem recall those of Lewis Carroll’s “You are old, Father William” from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; the phrases “In the days of my youth” and “How on earth do you manage to do it?” similarly echo “In my youth” and “Pray, how did you manage to do it?” from the Carroll poem.

Neil Midkiff