cooked wife

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gil12345

Senior Member
chinese
Hi there,

“After this, Meg had Mr. Scott to dinner by special invitation, and served him up a pleasant feast without a cooked wife for the first course, on which occasion she was so gay and gracious, and made everything go off so charmingly, that Mr. Scott told John he was a lucky fellow, and shook his head over the hardships of bachelorhood all the way home.”

Excerpt From: Louisa May Alcott. “Little Women.” iBooks. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott on iBooks

What does it mean? Did it say that Meg, as a wife, didn't cook the first course? It seems that she did it, somehow.

Gil
 
  • Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    It's a famous book, but I haven't read it, so I can only speculate.
    Could it be some kind of joke? Perhaps Meg was an inexperienced cook, and has been learning. Perhaps on a previous attempt to cook, she had scalded or burned herself by being careless, and on this occasion she had avoided "cooking" herself, and cooked only the food.
     

    gil12345

    Senior Member
    chinese
    It's a famous book, but I haven't read it, so I can only speculate.
    Could it be some kind of joke? Perhaps Meg was an inexperienced cook, and has been learning. Perhaps on a previous attempt to cook, she had scalded or burned herself by being careless, and on this occasion she had avoided "cooking" herself, and cooked only the food.
    Last time, she failed to prepare the feast as her husband expected. This time she tried to made it up by inviting her husband's friend for a nice dinner. So what does it mean?
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    You have read the previous text, so you should know that the previous occasion was a complete disaster and that she was hot, flustered and in tears as a result of the preparation of the meal being such a failure. On this occasion all went smoothly, so the first course was served without her being hot, flustered and in tears. She had not cooked herself as well as the meal, but had only cooked the meal.
     

    Sparky Malarky

    Moderator
    English - US
    If I remember correctly, Edinburgher is pretty close. I believe that Meg had told John to invite friends home for dinner with no notice to her. But the first time he did so, she had been trying to make jelly and hand been having a horrible day in the kitchen. She was exhausted and overwhelmed and had no dinner prepared.

    We don't normally refer to someone in that condition as "cooked," but perhaps that was a more common idiom when the book was written. And even today someone who was hot, tired, and frustrated might say something like "I'm fried."
     

    gil12345

    Senior Member
    chinese
    You have read the previous text, so you should know that the previous occasion was a complete disaster and that she was hot, flustered and in tears as a result of the preparation of the meal being such a failure. On this occasion all went smoothly, so the first course was served without her being hot, flustered and in tears. She had not cooked herself as well as the meal, but had only cooked the meal.
    Is it better to say "...without being a cooked wife..."? I didn't get it because I did not see the metaphor. Thank you
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    It's not an idiom, it's just a humorous remark. The previous meal had a cooked wife at the beginning, this meal didn't. You have to consider the whole phrase, gil, "without a cooked wife for the first course"; "without being a cooked wife for the first course" wouldn't make sense. So you could think of it as meaning "without there being a cooked (hot, flustered, tearful) wife sitting at the table at the beginning of the meal"
     

    gil12345

    Senior Member
    chinese
    If I remember correctly, Edinburgher is pretty close. I believe that Meg had told John to invite friends home for dinner with no notice to her. But the first time he did so, she had been trying to make jelly and hand been having a horrible day in the kitchen. She was exhausted and overwhelmed and had no dinner prepared.

    We don't normally refer to someone in that condition as "cooked," but perhaps that was a more common idiom when the book was written. And even today someone who was hot, tired, and frustrated might say something like "I'm fried."
    Your explanations really are really helpful.
     

    gil12345

    Senior Member
    chinese
    It's not an idiom, it's just a humorous remark. The previous meal had a cooked wife at the beginning, this meal didn't. You have to consider the whole phrase, gil, "without a cooked wife for the first course"; "without being a cooked wife for the first course" wouldn't make sense. So you could think of it as meaning "without there being a cooked (hot, flustered, tearful) wife sitting at the table at the beginning of the meal"
    Really great. Thanks a lot
     

    gil12345

    Senior Member
    chinese
    It's not an idiom, it's just a humorous remark. The previous meal had a cooked wife at the beginning, this meal didn't. You have to consider the whole phrase, gil, "without a cooked wife for the first course"; "without being a cooked wife for the first course" wouldn't make sense. So you could think of it as meaning "without there being a cooked (hot, flustered, tearful) wife sitting at the table at the beginning of the meal"
    You are saying the wife was not eating with the guest, right? If so, is it the social protocol that a wife is not allowed to eat with the guests? Or is it one time thing because she screwed up last time and now just focused on cooking?
     

    Sparky Malarky

    Moderator
    English - US
    You are saying the wife was not eating with the guest, right? If so, is it the social protocol that a wife is not allowed to eat with the guests? Or is it one time thing because she screwed up last time and now just focused on cooking?
    No. In some cultures the wife sits with the guests, especially if she has servants. In others, she acts as a servant and doesn't sit down. This passage says nothing about whether the wife sits with the guests or not. I would assume she does so.
     

    gil12345

    Senior Member
    chinese
    No. In some cultures the wife sits with the guests, especially if she has servants. In others, she acts as a servant and doesn't sit down. This passage says nothing about whether the wife sits with the guests or not. I would assume she does so.
    I am a little confused as you and Andygc meant differently. So I only need to understand that for this time, Meg did not feel frustrated as before and was happy with cooking. Am I right?
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    We didn't mean different things. For the disaster meal she would have been at the table, but hot, flustered, etc. For the second meal she was at the table, not hot, flustered, etc, but cool, calm, collected and the perfect hostess.
     

    gil12345

    Senior Member
    chinese
    We didn't mean different things. For the disaster meal she would have been at the table, but hot, flustered, etc. For the second meal she was at the table, not hot, flustered, etc, but cool, calm, collected and the perfect hostess.
    I was misled by "So you could think of it as meaning "without there being a cooked (hot, flustered, tearful) wife sitting at the table at the beginning of the meal."
    In fact, for the first time, there was no dinner for the guest and her.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    There was a dinner both times. The first time the dinner was inedible (the fruit had salt instead of sugar on it, etc) and the wife was "cooked" (worn out, upset). The second time the dinner went well and the wife was happy. There was a cooked wife at the first dinner, but a happy wife at the second dinner. The second dinner had no cooked wife. The second dinner was without a cooked wife (but with a happy wife instead).
     

    gil12345

    Senior Member
    chinese
    There was a dinner both times. The first time the dinner was inedible (the fruit had salt instead of sugar on it, etc) and the wife was "cooked" (worn out, upset). The second time the dinner went well and the wife was happy. There was a cooked wife at the first dinner, but a happy wife at the second dinner. The second dinner had no cooked wife. The second dinner was without a cooked wife (but with a happy wife instead).
    The first time Meg "bemoan herself in her own room." And after her husband and his friend went away, "she found traces of a promiscuous lunch."

    I think for the first time the wife was not present at the table with the guest and somehow his husband and his friend had a good lunch. Maybe Meg did not prepare the foods in an appropriate way. But did the husband eat those? I think not.
     
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