I bet you thought this one was about domestic felicity, or some such – a metaphor celebrating those couples whose quirks just complement each other so perfectly that between them there’s never any waste. One more reason to believe in true love.
Here’s what the poem actually says:
Jack Sprat could eat no fat.
His wife could eat no lean.
And so between them both, you see,
They licked the platter clean.
The first two lines should make any sensible reader suspicious. A man named Jack Sprat avoiding fat might be a quirky-rhymey charming ditty, but what kind of medical condition have you ever heard of that has a problem with lean meat only? These disorders are too weirdly specific and complementary to be organic.
Come to think of it, the rhyme doesn’t say it is a medical condition that restricts the diets of either Sprat. And it doesn’t say they don’t like this or that part of the roast – it says they could not eat it. What’s stopping them?
Then we come to the last line. They licked. The platter. Clean.
Was it dirty when it came to them? Where they given utensils? Why the one platter, for the two people? Even without utensils, why didn’t they use their hands? Why didn’t this poem ever bother us as kids? They licked. The platter. Clean.
The image we are left with is that of two grown people slobbering face-first, like dogs, over a dirty plate of meat. Despite having apparently no tools or hands at their disposal, they adhere to their weirdly specific dietary restrictions. They have to, according to the poem.
Left to our conjecture is the why of it all. What could bring two people to such a bizarre humiliation? We can only rationally conclude that what happened to the Sprats is intended to serve as warning to all the world’s unruly diners. The filet wasn’t good enough for them. No, because Jack Sprat can’t have fat, and his plate has a little tiny bit of fat on the corner – you see? His wife, an even bigger asshole, can have no lean, and as you can see the fat content of her steak isn’t nearly high enough. Well, this one night it seems they sent their plates back one too many times, and the wait-staff finally cracked, tied the couple up and watched them lick leftovers off a platter for their own deranged amusement.
Case regretfully closed.