Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > Browse all available works of George V. Hobart > Text of John Henry On Cooks

A short story by George V. Hobart

John Henry On Cooks

Title:     John Henry On Cooks
Author: George V. Hobart [More Titles by Hobart]

When my wife made the suggestion that we should give a Thanksgiving dinner to our friends in the neighborhood it almost put me to the ropes.

You know I'm not much on the social gag, and to have to sit up and make good-natured faces at a lot of strangers gives me intermittent pains in the neck.

"Why should we give them a dinner?" I asked my wife. "Aren't most of them getting good wages, and why should we kill the fatted calf for a lot of home-made prodigals?"

"John, don't be so selfish!" was my wife's get-back. "There's a long winter ahead of us, and when we give one dinner to seven people that means seven people to give us seven dinners. Don't you see how our little plates of soup will draw compound interest if we invite the right people?"

My wife is a friend of mine, so I refused to quarrel with her.

"All right, my dear," I said, "but you must give the dinner one week before Thanksgiving."

"One week before Thanksgiving!" my wife re-echoed, "and why, pray?"

"Because this will give our guests a chance to recover from your cooking before the real day of prayer comes around, and by that time they will begin to think about you with kindness, perhaps."

My wife stung me with her cruel eyes and went out in the kitchen where the new cook was breaking a lot of our best dishes which did not appeal to her.

The name of this new cook was Ollie Olsen.

Ollie was half Swede and the rest of her was deaf.

When Ollie came to the house to get a job my wife asked her for her recommendations.

Ollie said that her face was her only recommendation, but that she was out late the night before and broke her recommendation just above the chin.

Anyway, my wife engaged her, because what good is a hearty appetite when the kitchen is empty.

Ollie said that she was a first-class cook, but when we dared her to prove it she forgot my wife was a lady and threw the coal-scuttle at her.

A day or two after Ollie arrived I decided to find out what merit there is in a vegetarian diet.

"All right," I said to the cook, after the last plate of hash with all its fond memories had disappeared, "this house is going on a diet for a few days, and henceforth we are all vegetarians, including the dog. Please govern yourself accordingly."

Ollie smiled Swedefully and whispered that vegetarianisms was where she lived.

Ollie said she could cook vegetables so artistically that the palate would believe them to be filet Mignon, with Pommery sauce, and then she started in to fool the Beef Trust and put all the butchers out of business.

Dinner time came and we were all expectancy.

The first course was mashed potatoes, which we just dabbled with gingerly.

The second course was potato chips, which we nibbled slightly while we looked eagerly at the butler's pantry.

The next course was French fried potatoes with some shoestring potatoes on the side, and I began to get nervous.

This was followed by a dish of German fried potatoes, some hash-browned potatoes and some potato sauté, whereupon my appetite got up and left the room.

The next course was plain boiled potatoes with the jackets on, and baked potatoes with the jackets open at the throat, and then some roasted potatoes with a peek-a-boo waist effect, cut on the bias.

I was beginning to see the delights of being a vegetarian and at the same time I could feel myself fixing my fingers to choke Ollie.

The next course was a large plate of potato salad, and then I fainted.

When I got back Ollie was standing near the table with a sweet smile on each side of her face waiting for the applause of those present.

"Have you nothing else?" I inquired, hungrily.

"Oh, yes!" said Ollie. "I have some potato pudding for desert."

When I got through swearing Ollie was under the stove, my wife was under the table, the dog was under the bed, and I was under the influence of liquor.

No more vegetarianism in mine.

Hereafter I am for that lamb chop thing, first, last and always.

But let's get back to that Thanksgiving dinner.

My wife invited Mr. and Mrs. William T. Hodge, Joe Coyne and his wife, and their daughter, Cuticura; Mr. and Mrs. Frank Doane, and their son, Communipaw; Mr. and Mrs. Jack Golden, and their niece, Casanova; and Mr. and Mrs. Riley Hatch.

Charlie Swayne was the referee.

My wife was so worried about the cook that before dinner time arrived she had an attack of nervous postponement.

As a matter of fact, we were both in fear and trembling that Ollie would send a tomato salad from the kitchen and before it reached the table it would become a chop suey.

Anyway, the guests arrived promptly, and I could see from their faces that they would fight that dinner to a finish.

The ladies began to chat pleasantly while they sized up our furniture out of the corners of their eyes, and the men glanced carelessly around to see if I had a box of cigars which would require their attention after dinner.

Pretty soon dinner was announced and they all jumped to their feet as though they had stepped on a third rail.

I believe in being thrifty, but the way some of those people saved up their hunger for our dinner was too penurious for mine.

I took Mrs. Hodge in and she took in my wife's dress to see if it was made over from last year's.

Young Communipaw Doane tried hard not to reach the table first, but a plate of Dill-pickles caught his eye and he won from old man Hodge by an arm.

The first round was oyster cocktails and everybody drew cards.

This was Ollie's maiden attempt at making oyster cocktails and she had original ideas about them, which consisted of salad oil instead of tomato ketchup.

The salad oil came from Italy, so the oysters were extremely foreign to the taste.

After eating his cocktail Riley Hatch began to turn pale and inquired politely if we raised our own oysters.

But just then little Cutey Coyne upset a glass of water and changed the subject, and the complexion of the tablecloth.

The next round was mock turtle soup, and it made a deep impression, especially on Charlie Swayne, because little Casanova Golden upset her share in his lap when he least expected it.

Charlie was very nice about it, however.

He only swore twice, then he remembered once a gentleman always a gentleman and he did not strike the girl.

After a while we all convinced Charlie that the laugh was on the soup and not on him, and when the fish came on he forgot his troubles by getting a bone in his throat.

When Charlie began to talk like a trout, old man Hodge grabbed the bread knife and begged to be allowed to carve his initials on somebody's wishbone.

But Joe Coyne finally pacified him by a second helping of Bermuda onions.

I opened a third bottle of Pommery just to show I wasn't stingy.

Then came the Thanksgiving turkey, and this is where that Swede cook of ours won the blue ribbon.

My wife had told her to stuff it with chestnuts, but Ollie thought chestnuts too much of an old joke, so she stuffed it with peanut brittle.

Ollie had noticed some other things about the kitchen which looked lonesome, so she decided to put them in the turkey, too.

One of these was the corkscrew.

When I went to carve the turkey I found a horseshoe which Ollie had put in for luck.

It made my wife extremely nervous to see the can-opener, a pair of scissors, and nine clothes-pins come out of that turkey, but Jack Golden said that their last cook tried to stuff their last turkey with the garden hose, so my wife felt better.

The next round was some salad which Ollie had dressed in the kitchen, but the dress was such a bad fit that nobody could look at it without blushing.

Then we had some home-made ice cream for desert.

The ice was very good, but Ollie forgot to add the cream, so it tasted rather insipid.

Every time there was a lull in the conversation Charlie Swayne kept yelling for a Bronx cocktail, and the only thing that kept him from getting it was the fact that Riley Hatch wanted to tell the story of his life.

Anyway, the dinner came to a finish without anybody fainting, and the guests went home, a little hungry but unpoisoned.

The next morning my wife spoke bitterly to Ollie and she left us, followed by the Thanksgiving prayers of all those present.

The only thing about the house that loved Ollie was a pair of earrings belonging to my wife, and they went with her.

[The end]
George V. Hobart's short story: John Henry On Cooks