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A short story by George V. Hobart

John Henry On Chafing Dishes

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

I pulled a wheeze on Bunch Jefferson a few weeks ago that made him sit up and scream for help.

Bunch is the Original Ace all right, all right, but it does put dust on his dignity to have anybody josh his literary attainments.

Bunch can really sling a nasty little pen, but he isn't anybody's John W. Milton.

Not at all.

He can take a bunch of the English language and flatten it out around the edges till it looks quite poetic, but that doesn't make him a George O. Khayaam.

Not at all.

The trouble with Bunch is that his home folks have swelled his chest to such an extent by petting his adjectives that he thinks he has Shakespeare on a hot skiddoo for the sand dunes, and when it comes to that poetry thing he thinks he can make Hank Longfellow beat it up a tree.

Bunch lives out in Westchester County in one of those hand-painted suburbs where everybody knows everybody else's business and forgets his own.

Bunch and Alice joined the local club, of course, and when Bunch read some of his poetical outbursts at a free-and-easy one evening, Society got up on its hind legs and with one voice declared my old pal Jefferson to be the logical successor to Robert H. Browning, Sir Walter K. Scott, Bert Tennyson, or any other poet that ever shook a quill.

Bunch began to fancy himself some--well, rather!

When Peaches and I went out Westchester way a few weeks ago to spend a week-end with Bunch and Alice, all we heard was home-made poetry.

When Bunch wasn't ladling out impromptu sonnets, Alice was reading one of his epics or throwing a fit over a "perfectly lovely" rondeau--whatever that may be.

Even at meal times Bunch couldn't break away.

With a voice full of emotion and vegetable soup he would exclaim:

And now the twilight shadows on
The distant mountain flutter,
And thou, my fair and good friend John,
Wilt kindly pass the butter!

What are you going to do with a man who has a bug like that?

What would you do, if while sitting at breakfast with an old chum, he suddenly yelped in accents wild:

The palpitating Elsewhere shrinks
Before that glamorous host,
Eftsoon, aye, now, good friend, methinks
That thou would'st have more toast!

It was clearly up to me to hand Bunch a good hard bump and wake him up before that poetry germ began to bite his arm off.

Bunch told me that in response to the urgent demands of his Westchester friends, he contemplated getting out a little book of his poems, and this was my cue.

I figured it out that the antithesis of a book of poetry would be a cook book, so I hustled.

In a few days I had the book framed up; a few days later it was printed, and before very long Bunch's Westchester society friends were grabbing for what they supposed was his feverish output of poesy.

This is what they got:



(From Recipes Furnished by Famous Friends.)

In presenting these Cuckoo Recipes for the Chafing Dish to his friends Mr. Jefferson wishes it distinctly understood that all doctors' bills arising from a free indulgence in any of the dishes suggested herein must be paid by the indulgee, and he wishes to state, further, that while this book may contain many aches and pains no ptomaine is intended.


(From a Recipe furnished by Morton Smith.)

Take as many buttons as the family can afford and remove the thread. Add pure spring water and stew gently till you burst your buttons. Add a little flour to calm them and let them sizzle. Serve with tomato ketchup or molasses, according to the location you find yourself living on the map. A quart bottle of Pommery on the side will help some.


(From a Recipe furnished by De Wolf Hopper.)

Place the white of a newspaper in the frying pan, and then cover the centre with an Italian sunset picked fresh from a magazine picture. This forms the basis of the egg and it tastes very realistic. Be sure to get a fresh newspaper and a fresh magazine, edited by a fresh editor, otherwise the imitation egg will be dull and insipid. Now add a few slices of pickled linoleum and fry carelessly for twenty minutes. Serve hot with imitation salt and pepper on the side. This is a daylight dish, because the sunset effect is lost if cooked after dark.


(From a Recipe furnished by William T. Hodge.)

Saw away three chops from the face of the kitchen table and put them in the broiler. Be economical with the sawdust, which can be forced into a cottage pudding. When the chops begin to sizzle, add a red necktie and a small bunch of imitation butter and stir gently. Now let them sizzle. If the chops crack across the surface while cooking, it is a sign you were cheated when you bought the kitchen table. Let them sizzle. Serve hot with imitation water cresses on the side. Nice water cresses can be made from green window blinds cut on the bias.


(From a Recipe furnished by Silvio Hein.)

Always be sure to get a fresh Hamburger. There is nothing that will reconcile a man to a vegetarian diet so quick as an over-ripe Hamburger. They should always be picked at the full of the moon. To tell the age of a Hamburger look at its teeth. One row of teeth for every year, and the limit is seven rows. Now remove the wishbone and slice carefully. Add Worcester sauce and let it sizzle. Add a pinch of potato salad and stir gently. Serve hot and talk fast while eating.


(From a Recipe furnished by Frank Doane.)

Coax a few feet of garden hose into the kitchen and then kidnap it. When it is finally subdued, chop it into sections and stuff it with odds and ends. Nice, fresh odds and ends may be bought by the wholesale at any first-class junk shop. Place the result in a saucepan without adding any water, because if you put water in with the garden hose it will get up and go out on the lawn. Now let it sizzle. When the imitation clock points to an hour and a half the sausage is done. Serve hot with a Yarmouth bloater and some crumpets on the side. Be sure to have a gold safety pin in your flannel collar before eating.


(From a Recipe furnished by John Park.)

Take an old whisk broom and remove the handle. If the handle is made of wood keep it, because it can be turned into a breakfast food the first time you see a sawmill. Now remove the wire from the broom and sprinkle with baking soda. Serve cold with a pinch of salt on the northwestern end.


(From a Recipe furnished by Rupert Hughes.)

Take the white of an egg and beat it without mercy. When it is insensible put it in the teapot and add enough hot water to drown it. Let it drown about twenty minutes, then lead the yolk of an egg over to the teapot and push it in. Season with a small pinch of paprika and let it simper. Serve hot, and always be sure to put a piece of lemon in the finger-bowl.


(From a Recipe furnished by John L. Golden.)

Go out in the garden and catch a young mock. Remove the pin feathers and place the mock in a skillet. Catch an onion when it isn't looking and push it in the skillet. Add water and let it sizzle. Add more water. Be sure there are no chemicals in the water. Add more water. Always wash the water before adding. Now upset the skillet into the soup tureen and add imitation Tabasco sauce. Imitation Tabasco sauce can be made from pickled firecrackers. Serve hot and keep the lips closed firmly while eating it from the left-hand side of the spoon.


(From a Recipe furnished by E. W. Kemble.)

Draw from memory the outlines of a cow and remove the forequarter. Place the forequarter on the gridiron and let it sizzle. Now brown the wheats and draw one. Add boiling water and stir gently with an imitation spoon. After cooking two hours try it with the can-opener. If it breaks the can-opener it is not done. Let it sizzle. When the supper bell rings serve hot with imitation pickles on the side. Nice pickles can be made from green trading stamps, but be careful to squeeze out all the premiums from the green trading stamps before using, because the premiums are full of ptomaine.


(From a Recipe furnished by Dr. Percy Crandall.)

Find a copy of a Thanksgiving-Day newspaper and select therefrom the fattest turkey on page 3. Now, with a few kind words, coax the turkey away from the newspaper in the direction of the kitchen. Care should be taken that the turkey does not escape in the butler's pantry or fly up the dumb-waiter, because the turkey is a very nervous animal. Once you get the turkey in the kitchen lock the door and prepare the stuffing. The best stuffing for a turkey is chestnuts, which you can obtain from any author who writes musical comedy. Now remove the wishbone carelessly and make a wish. Add twenty-four, multiply by nineteen, and sprinkle with salt. Then rush the turkey over to the gas stove before it has a chance to change its mind. Let it sizzle for four hours and serve hot with jib cocktails and Philippine napkins on the side.


(From a Recipe furnished by Daniel V. Arthur.)

Get mad at a piece of bread and soak it. Chop it up fine and add liquid water. Let it sizzle. Stir it caressingly with a wooden spoon. When the spoon becomes a brunette the coffee is done. Serve without splashing it and add a little cold water, painted white, to look like milk. If you have any tame cheese in the pantry now is the time to whistle for it.


(From a Recipe furnished by Edward Abeles.)

Take two rubber-neck clams and, after stuffing them with peanuts, fry them over a slow fire. Now remove the necks from the clams and add baking soda. Let them sizzle. Take the juice of a lemon and threaten the clams with it. Serve hot with pink finger-bowls with your initials on them. Some people prefer to have their initials on the clams, but such an idea is only for the wealthy.


(From a Recipe furnished by A. Baldwin Sloane.)

Take a hatful of pine shavings and remove the hat. Add a little sherry wine and sweeten to taste. Let them sizzle. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and other cosmetics. Let them sizzle. Serve cold with shredded onions on the side.


(From a Recipe furnished by Joseph Coyne.)

Carefully remove the laces from an old shoe and put them away, because they can be used for shoe-string potatoes just as soon as the potato trust gets started. Beat the shoe with a hammer for ten minutes until its tongue stops wagging and it gets black and blue in the face. Then put in the frying pan and stir gently. When it begins to sizzle add the yolk of an egg and season with parsley. Imitation parsley can be made from green wall paper with the scissors. If there is no green wall paper in the house speak to the landlord about it. Let it sizzle. Should you wish to smother it with onions now is your chance, because after cooking so long it is almost helpless. Serve hot with a hatchet on the side. If there are more than four people in the family use both shoes.


(From a Recipe furnished by Charles Swayne.)

Remove the jacket and waistcoat from a potato and put in the saucepan. Add three quarts of boiling water. Get a map of Ireland and hang it on the wall directly in front of the saucepan. This will furnish the local color for the stew. Let it boil two hours. When the potato begins to moult it is a sign the stew is nearly done. Walk easy so as not to frighten it. Add a pint of rhubarb and serve hot with lettuce dressing. If the lettuce isn't dressed it ought to be ashamed of itself.


(From a Recipe furnished by George W. Lederer.)

Take a dozen knot-holes and peel them carefully. Remove the shells and add a cup of sugar. Stir quickly and put in a hot oven. Bake gently for six hours and then add a little Jamaica ginger and some pickled rag-time. Serve hot with tea wafers on the side.

* * * * * *

I haven't seen Bunch since the book came out.

But I know he will get back at me good and hard some of these fine days.

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