The Slurping of the Soup by
(39 Stories)

Prompted By Pet Peeves

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Thanks to Afred Noyes, author of “The Highwayman,” (1915) and to my father, Irving Fink, who learned it by heart and enjoyed reciting all 102 lines till the end of his life.

And he cooked with a smiling twinkle,/His paring knife a-twinkle,/ His graters and ladles a-twinkle, as he prepped an amazing potage.

We lived in a house of six bedrooms, after our college years

Employed but with quite meager salaries: an amiable group of peers

And most of us came from Harvard, but others we found through ads

And we each took a turn at the cooking—


We each took a turn at the cooking; and the meals really weren’t half-bad


We’d each put ten bucks in the kitty, and that would suffice for a week

And some would cook all vegetarian, while others more happily served meat

Our dinners increased in variety, as newcomers augmented our rolls

Thus Linda recruited Elmo

Elmo enlisted Eduardo

Eduardo, who offered bruschetta, with freshly made pesto in bowls


Sometimes a bit of romance would change the dynamic of the house

As Patty brought in Marco, who would one day become her spouse

He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, as though he stepped right from a mirage

And he cooked with a smiling twinkle,

His paring knife a-twinkle,

His graters and ladles a-twinkle, as he prepped an amazing potage.


Now Tom was another new fella: Plain-spoken and quite down-to-earth

Chugging beers and stressing over law books, he slowly expanded his girth

Tom’s ears were most attentive to the resonant call: “a table!”

He sprang with his spoon to the table

As the rest of us sidled to the table

Saw the gourmet potage at the table. Then he dug right in like a slob.


Perhaps in a different context, the slurping of soup might be prized

Reared in high-caste Costa Rica, such sounds Marco truly despised

Tom’s volume reached a crescendo as, onto the soup he did glom

Smooth Marco began to unravel

His twinkle was now more like gravel

He grabbed a big spoon at the table– and slurped even louder than Tom!


In the archives of peeves that are pettish, let’s remember this dinnertime showdown

When Marco perceived his fine delicacy being treated like swill at some hoedown

And Tom was perennially hungry,  not looking to cause a melee

If you watch our old house in the moonlight

In the ancient flickers of moonlight

You’ll hear Tom and Marco by moonlight still dueling in their peerless way.


Profile photo of Dale Borman Fink Dale Borman Fink
Dale Borman Fink retired in 2020 from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, MA, where he taught courses related to research methods, early childhood education, special education, and children’s literature. Prior to that he was involved in childcare, after-school care, and support for the families of children with disabilities. Among his books are Making a Place for Kids with Disabilities (2000) Control the Climate, Not the Children: Discipline in School Age Care (1995), and a children’s book, Mr. Silver and Mrs. Gold (1980). In 2018, he edited a volume of his father's recollections, called SHOPKEEPER'S SON.

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Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    I like your Featured image and description of your housemates, in this tribute poem. The slurping must have been exasperating, indeed. You can use that example again for the “manners” prompt.

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    Very clever take-off on a poem, Dale. I love the featured image of the soup tureen. I have one that’s similar that was my late mother-in-law’s. It sits on a shelf looking pretty but unused because … who wants to wash another thing. She would have disapproved of slurping and serving from a pot.

  3. Bravo Dale!
    May your table be ever bountiful!

  4. Slurping…major pet peeve! Along with noisy chewing. Alas, I have one friend who…never mind.

  5. John Shutkin says:

    Very clever, Dale. And may I assume that you track Noyes’ rhyme scheme exactly? (I once memorized the poem, but it is now long gone.)

    I also enjoyed the fact that, unlike the rest of us, you did not focus on your own peeve, but that of a housemate. Very unselfish and observant. But where DID you stand on the slurpy peeve scale?

    And, like Betsy, I also thought of the upcoming “manners” prompt and how nicely this story would fit in there as well.

    • John, thanks for these comments! I I tracked the original exactly in the opening verse and in the overall use of stanzas and rhymes. But I took a few liberties in the later verses, such as rhyming gravel with unravel (lines 4 and 5 didn’t rhyme in the Noyes version). BTW a few phrases were direct steals for the cognoscenti, such as the repetition of “twinkle” and the “French-cocked hat on his forehead.” And the ending with the motif of the moonlight.
      As to where I stood: I think I mostly SAT with my mouth agape as Marco, the most refined member of the house, with his aristocratic Latin American manners, began the noisiest display of slurping ever witnessed!

  6. Suzy says:

    I only know Noyes’ poem as a song, because it was beautifully set to music by Phil Ochs. It makes me cry every time I hear it.

    This was very creative!

  7. Khati Hendry says:

    I was singing the poem as per Phil Ochs until I recalled it was also just a poem. The group housing and dinner scene was very familiar too–I certainly could relate, although I don’t recall slurping competitions. You haven’t lost your theatrical talents.

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