Canterbury Tales- the Cook

The cook is clearly an extremely talented chef, who can accomplish virtually anything within the realm of his kitchen. “And he could roast and seethe and broil and fry,” (393). Chaucer listed the talents of the cook in stream of consciousness to emphasize just how talented the cook truly is. Chaucer’s thoughts appear flustered, hinting that the talents of the cook that he listed do not even scratch the surface of the cook’s limitless talents and true potential.

Chaucer then solidifies this conclusion by stating that the cook made the best blancmange. “As for blancmange, he made it with the best” (397). The cook could not have always been such a marvelous chef. He must have had to dedicate numerous hours to perfecting his craft. The cook was not social, and in fact people avoided him as much as possible. “They had a cook with them who stood alone” (389). One can conclude that as a result of the cook’s lack of social interaction due to the rejection from the other pilgrims, he accumulated a vast amount of free time.

With this abundance of free time, the cook buried himself in his work, leaving no room for anything short of perfection, thus transcending to the status of an extraordinary chef. Chaucer supports this conclusion with the syntax of lines 389-392. He creates a framework story to explain the cook’s metamorphosis into an amazing chef. “For Boiling chicken with marrow- bone, Sharp flavoring powder and a spice for savor. He could distinguish London ale by flavor,” (390-392). Referring to line 389 above, Chaucer states that the cook stands alone. With his solitude the cook dedicates all of his time to cooking.

Line 390 is dull and dreary. Chaucer simply says that the cook can boil chicken with marrow bone without any enthusiasm, as if this task is not anything special. In line 391, Chaucer’s mood erupts with enthusiasm, and is revealed with his diction. The word “sharp” and “savor” describe the amazing flavors of the cook’s food. Chaucer reaches a climax in line 392. He claims that the cook has become so proficient in his craft, that he has obtained the ability to differentiate London ales by taste. By using this line as a climax, Chaucer reveals that being able to differentiate London ales by taste is no mall feat, and the cook has separated himself from the group of ordinary chefs. Despite the cook being such an amazing chef, his fellow pilgrims continue to passionately shun him. One can conclude that the meager amount of text provided to describe the cook reveals that Chaucer shares the same opinion as the rest of the pilgrims. The description of the cook is vague, revealing that conclusions were made at face value, from a distance. Nobody ever attempted, or even displayed any interest to get close to the cook to learn about him. However the pilgrim’s action do not go without reason.

Under all off the cook’s remarkable talent lies a vile, dirty man. At some point in his life, the cook contracted syphilis on his knee. “That he should have an ulcer on his knee” (396). One can easily conclude that the cook lived a wild life. He slept around a lot, and most likely with whores majority of the time. Aside from being a whore with syphilis, the cook is a severe alcoholic. One can conclude that the cook’s talent to differentiate between different London ales by taste is not just from being a seasoned cook, but from being a seasoned drunk.

Nobody strives to become an alcoholic, the condition is subconsciously developed. One can conclude that the cook began to heavily drink because he was depressed. The cook formerly slept around frequently, which ultimately resulted in his contraction of syphilis. However the fact that he was around with so many people reveals that he was once incredibly social. Since he was once social, he was formerly liked and accepted in society. One can say that the cook dwells in the past of his former lifestyle, and attempts to escape reality through the consumption of alcohol. CWL