Cookmanship - or the art of hosting a dinner without being seen to do so.

Perhaps it could be more simply titled 'Cooking through guilt', or simply 'Passive-Aggressive Cooking'. What will follow in this online bookery cook, is the official College of Cookmanship Correspondence Course, curated by Thomas J. Spargo, Chartered Cookman.

The principal aim that should guide you through every single meal that you make for another person should be the implicit agreement that they owe you at least twice the meal you have actually offered. Anything less than that ratio is an unfavourable return.

The course

For proper instruction, one should of course physically attend the Official Cookman College that meets at the conflation of the European borders in the Alps. At the top of an excessively high mountain, in an excessively small kitchen, one will spend a full six weeks learning how to cook, and I mean really cook. If a student applies themself in the proper manner, they will manage to spend the full twleve weeks in the Alps, as they gorge upon the One Hundred per cent Increased Return Meal Rate (100% IRMR). Spending any less time will be regarded as an unfortunate failing of the course and will not even result in being given a packed lunch for the long journey back down the mountains.

The teaching of specific recipes is considered irrelevant to the teaching of the course, despite the attempts of a few upstarts (notably Derrick Johnson-Smythe, who claimed that when he said that he 'didn't know how to cook at all' he really meant it and apparently that was why he was attending the course – a likely story). Instead, students are taught the proper application of everything surrounding the actual cooking.

Recently, this correspondence course has been devised and fallen into my realm as chief instructor. In this course – RRP £12.99 a session, cheques, postal orders sent to P.O. Box Spargo – that you have begun, I always like to begin with the following opening pair of examples from my own experience that best explain the fundamentals of the art of Cookmanship, and hopefully will deter any follow-ons to Johnson-Smythe and his intolerable pursuit of recipes.

Example 1: Searching for a gambit

In the days when I lived in the Angel, Islington, I could be seen popping off to the shops merely across the road. If hosting, I would, as a matter of course, inform the others that I would be at least an hour buying ingredients as it would take me that long to source only the best and most appropriate spices. Fortunately for this gambit, there was a pub – The Trojan Horse, I believe it was called – out of sight around the corner from my favourite vegetable emporium. In such situations, the chef is able to while away a merry hour in the pub before picking up approximately £5 worth of shopping, returning home with a despondent expression, claiming everywhere to be sold out of south Chilean sprouting chillis.

 The pub is in the perfect location for minimal visibility for the long shopping routine gambit. Note the inappropriateness of the café directly across the road.

The pub is in the perfect location for minimal visibility for the long shopping routine gambit. Note the inappropriateness of the café directly across the road.

Remember, reconnaissance is vitally important. Do not attempt this gambit without knowing the location of the all-important pub and its visibility, as well as the maximum amount of time it is feasible to stay inside in the search for 'ingredients'. See Diagram 1.1. for the optimal arrangement that was afforded to me.

Example 2: The Spargo Defence

In this example, I had already declared my kitchen to be well stocked – I was young and foolish – and so was unable to attempt this gambit, partly because I had performed only the previous day. What follows demonstrated one of the shrewdest moves I have ever invented, and I was delighted to find that the College of Cookmanship accepted the Spargo Defence as a valid option for oustment. Let me explain.

The day was Sunday, there were guests present, and they had camped in the living room. Not possessing a televisual device but instead a projected display unit, the guests were demanding viewing of some ghastly feast of drivelling televisual entertainment that offended my delicate sense. Unfortunately, while the projector does create a truly cinematic experience for the viewers, it does leave passers-by rather in the crossfire.

 The layout of the living demonstrates how the image generated by the projector (p), in combination with the range of the speakers (s) made the room quite useless as a reading room for the weary Cookman.

The layout of the living demonstrates how the image generated by the projector (p), in combination with the range of the speakers (s) made the room quite useless as a reading room for the weary Cookman.

Closing my book very heavily, to the notice of no one else, I retreated instead to the kitchen. Looking at the calendar given to me by Ms. Gibbons at christmas, I noted that it was Sunday, the day of roast dinners. Having come to this valuable conclusion, I set about the Spargo Defence. 

Knowing that the guests were watching at least two hours' worth of 'entertainment' I set to work immediately, and quietly. Hiding the activities was of importance, as this defence centres around the final reveal. Maintaining a sitting position between all stages of the roast dinner makes this much easier. If a guest leaves the living room for the water closet, it merely looks like you are reading with the oven on, one of the most normal things in the world.

Eventually, upon the roast dinner being complete, I waited for their current episode of ghastliness to end, and for the new one to start when I opened the door and placed my head in the gap that was formed, announcing the sudden appearance of a roast dinner in the kitchen. 'If anyone wants to eat it, that is,' I added. Not openly claiming ownership over the creation of the dinner solidifies the defence mightily and ensures the 100% IRMR that should always be the goal of a good Cookman. 

The sheepish looks upon the guests' face as they trooped out for dinner was the clearest indication that the first use of the Spargo Defence had been a success and while the guests did the washing up, I wrote to the College to submit it for consideration. The rest is, as they say, geography.


Update (and cry for help): I may, at the request of my very ravenous and potentially dangerous kidnappers, provide some actual recipes in this correspondence course. I would provide a diagram to illustrate where I am being held captive but I fear they might cook me in a broth as punishment, when I am clearly designed to be flambéd and I think they know it, too.