Cook’s Cook: The Cook who Cooked for Captain Cook

Coinciding with the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s Endeavour voyage, prepare to jump abroad and sail through a story from the other side of history. It is often the characters in the background during great moments that give us the most rounded and fullest of accounts.

Written in the form of a diary by John Thompson, the one-handed cook for Captain Cook on his ship the Endeavour, this is the story a voyage to discover a new southern continent. Gavin Bishop has written and illustrated a book of many layers, that conveys this chronological and empirical account of the voyage but also the human experience. We see the labour-intensive work of the crew, the lifestyles of the gentlemen explorers and their encounters with people from other lands.

Bishop’s style captures much of the nuances of late eighteenth-century cartoon beautifully painted in sepia and blue watercolour schemes, skewed angle speech bubbles, along with recipes, facts and information in scrolled and rope frames. John Thompson’s recipes themselves are extraordinary, from the plain to the bizarre, you will probably never look at pease porridge the same, and will probably want to cover your dog’s ears in one particular section. John Thompson’s narration is both gritty and witty, but it is a window into the hardship, humour and indeed human endeavour that was required to make such explorations possible.