Where Cooks Go

I SEEM to hear a great deal nowadays as to the advisability of telling children fairy tales. ‘It seems to me,’ said an anxious mother, as I passed her tea one afternoon, ‘that I should acquaint my offspring with the real truths of life, in order that I may prepare them for its trials. For life has many tribulations, to be sure, and one of its greatest worries I am now enduring! My cook has gone!’

I am sure this lady little knew how far she was straying, when she made this last assertion, from the straight and unimaginative course which she was advocating. She said her cook had gone, but failed to realize the wonderful vistas of mystery and conjecture which this single and seemingly simple statement had opened. For, where do cooks go? We hear of their going, even unto the thousands and tens of thousands, but only upon the rarest occasions do we hear of their coming back.

‘My cook has gone! ’ It is final, it is despairing, there is no beyond. Once a cook has gone she has disappeared, vanished, irrevocably spirited herself away.

Perhaps there is a sort of Pied Piper who walks the city streets, invisible to mortal eye, and calls enticingly to the cooks to follow. Along they come a-scampering, — good cooks, bad cooks, permanent cooks, temporary cooks,— crowding and jostling one another for first place, as though the piper were the proprietor of a prosperous intelligence office. There is just a chance that he is; a grasping person, who seeks to fill his coffers by securing a corner on the cook market. Perhaps I do him wrong. His only object may be to invite all hard-working culinary artists to join him on a life-long vacation, a veritable Cooks’ Tour.

But this piper is merely a conjectural figure and might easily give way to some other theory. The mother of a friend of mine has had five cooks in two years, and all have gone and married. Yet my friend remains single. Such a chain of circumstances might lead to the inference that, matrimonially speaking, the attribute of cookery is a desirable one, and that all cooks eventually marry. This would not be hard to believe, for is it not often said that the way to a man’s heart, is through his stomach, and moreover the best way to tame the male animal is to feed the brute? It therefore does not seem impossible that every ‘single’ masculine creature should fall victim to any cook’s cajoleries. On the other hand, it may be the gastronomically inclined men who persuade the reluctant cooks to wed, wishing confidently to exclaim with Webster, ‘Me and my cook, now and forever, one and inseparable! ’

But there is a doubt in my mind as to whether marriage would account for so complete a disappearance as that of an evanishing cook. We live in an enlightened age when married women are no longer entirely on the shelf. It is easy to suppose, however, that these men who marry cooks are of the old school; the sort that think of home as woman’s sphere, and consider the broader social occupations as in the nature of an un-sexing. It seems rather a pity that men like this do not confine their attentions entirely to cooks, for then there would be fewer philanthropists and musicians lost to the world because of selfish and narrow-minded husbands.

Until this happy day arrives it is to be feared that all women must suffer, more or less, because of the opinions of those men whom nature surely intended exclusively for the husbands of cooks. So that we live in a sad world, where the state and the nation are forced to be a sort of half-orphans with no mother to guide them, while the women who would like to assist them in their bereaved state, must instead limit their activities to such confines as the stronger sex have selected and defined as household arts: such as rearing their children to an age when the men can look after them in public schools, and as buying and cooking produce which the men have exposed for sale in the city market.

Which last remark naturally brings us back to the question admitted to be of vital importance to all sorts of women. Who will solve it, who will be the great social benefactor, who will settle the point once for all, and proclaim to harassed housekeepers and hungry householders, where it is that cooks go?

How fortunate if I could be that prophet, that philanthropist! How fortunate if I could delve into the infinite mystery, and wrest from the beyond a few facts to lighten humanity’s burden! But beyond theory I cannot go; the only fact embodied in this paper is its brevity, which approximately represents the average stay of the ordinary cook.