Publication Details

Leong-Salobir, C. Y. (2015). "Cookie" and "Jungle Boy": a historical sketch of the different cooks for different folks in British colonial Southeast Asis, ca. 1850-1960. Global Food History, 1 (1), 59-80.


This article advances the historiography on food and colonialism by using the categories of race, class and masculinity to highlight how social distinctions that were carefully maintained in the domestic sphere became blurred when colonials ventured into the field. South East Asian cooks, known as “Cookie,” were responsible for food preparation in colonial households of Malaysia and Singapore. It was their culinary skills and knowledge of local food supplies that helped develop a hybrid colonial cuisine. Other male servants in British Borneo, called simply “boys” in household, acquired the role of “jungle boys” when accompanying their colonial employers on travel in the hinterland. The servants' food preparation skills and local knowledge helped sustain the British when they ventured into remote regions of British North Borneo and Sarawak. The hardship of jungle travel along with the lack of food supplies and home comforts made the master-servant relationship in the jungle very different from that of the mistress-servant in the colonial home. In the jungle, the private and public spheres of the master-servant relationship merged as the colonial and his servant negotiated means of protection, food preparation and security for the colonial. Using colonial memoirs and cookbooks, this paper looks at the relationship between the British mistress and Cookie and between the colonial master and the field servants in British Borneo. In both cases it was through foodways that a unique relationship developed between the colonizer and the colonized.



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