Although a man of questionable literary talent, William Shakespeare was a marvel at cooking out-of-doors. When it came to open-flame cuisine, the Bard was far more capable than most realize, and was, in fact, much better known for his “Gryled Lyme-Hyssop Filet of Pike With Glaze of Tamarynd” than any of his only moderately successful dramatic works.
Those of us “in the know,” however, often find clues as to Shakespeare’s interest in fine cuisine encoded within the language of the plays themselves. Take, for instance, this little paean to the barbecue from one of his lesser-known plays, “All’s Well Done That Ends Well Done.”
Shakespeare’s Seven Stages of Barbecue
All the world’s a grill,
And all the men and women merely diners,
They have their tongs and spatulas,
And one cook in his time bastes many meats,
His barbecue consisting of seven ages. At first the salad,
Green and crisp in the mixing bowl.
Then, the wine– poured from the bottle
And shining in the glass, creeping down throats
Willingly to stomach. And then the snacks,
Crunchy, like chips, with a salty ballad
Made to his muncher’s tummy. Then a fishy,
Full of strange odors, and breaded like the perch,
Subtle in flavour, glazed, and garnished in citrus,
Soft and delightful,
Even in the diner’s mouth. And then the meat
In fair round belly, with good fat lin’d,
With marinade severe, and portion of formal cut,
Full of fine juices, and succulent goodness,
And so it plays its part.
The sixth age shifts
Into the clean and sofa’d sitting room,
With creamed ice in bowls, and cake and pie,
The ruddy glows well display’d, a belly too wide,
Turning again towards the red grape,
And decaf coffee all around. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second helpings or mere oblivion,
With scrapings filling the brown eye’d dog,
Sans meat, sans bread, sans cheese, sans everything.