Rev. Scott's Letter May 5
Delivered By
Rev. Tom Scott
Delivered On
May 5, 2020
Attached Document



When I was an early teenager, more than 50 years ago, I was no kind of cook at all. There were no lessons in kitchen work from anyone. Frankly, in that household, hiding out until summoned for dinner was the best policy.

Now teenagers get hungry, and not on a schedule. One day, I decided I would make popcorn. How hard could it be? Pan with oil, toss in kernels, put on the lid, keep shaking until the popping stopped. I’d watched my adoptive father’s confident reach to the high cabinet above the stove to get the oil, seen him set the gas burner at about half strength, observed the shaking of the pot until the kernels finished popping and the quick pour out into a waiting bowl. How hard could it be?

Not hard at all...except: when I reached for the oil, I took down the bottle which did NOT read “Wesson”. Instead, it read “Karo”. But I did not know one from the other. But, O Land o Lakes I learned that day that Wesson vegetable oil is quite different than Karo cane syrup.

The burnt mess of kernels glued to the pot bottom was bad enough, but the stench of burning syrup permeated the air.

Of course I had one hellacious mess to deal with—two or three Brillo pads worth of scrubbing to do after chipping out the burnt blobs in the pan. And, need I say, the adults’ enthusiasm for my catastrophe was entirely under control.

I never tried popcorn cooking again in that house. But I did watch the cooking more attentively (when I watched at all), and though there were never any lessons, I did figure out the hard way that not all bottles held oil, not every jar had the same herbs, etc., so it matters what’s in the containers. Vital basic knowledge for cooks starting out. Learning to cook a bit came later, and I must tell you I’ve never, ever, owned a bottle of Karo syrup.

Down the road in life, I lived in a commune for several years and in rotation took my weekly turn preparing dinner for anywhere from 5-16 people. I became a freight yard bulk buyer for the food co-op we were part of, and we all grew vegetables, made our butter, bread, and jelly by hand, and did that urban hippie life together, learning as we went. I still think our granola recipe was the best ever. We had few rules in the House, but number 1 was everyone at the table every night—and we pretty much did it.

My kids grew up with me cooking a lot of the time because Dorothy had a full time job, sometimes with long, crazy commutes. Dorothy is a far better cook than I, but I am fast at what I prepare, and dinner together was of paramount importance. Fortunately, everyone in the family had a low bar for success in the culinary arts when it came to my efforts, and getting something on the table in 30 minutes or so mattered more to me than what the meal was in a era of night meetings, homework, bath time, stories, and household chores. We Scotts love to eat, all kinds of food from all over, but as a neighbor once put it when I offered to set a plate for him, “If you’re cooking, I’m eating”—not that I produced haute cuisine, it was because it was there when it was time to eat.

Aside from disclosing an embarrassing anecdote from long ago, am I driving somewhere or just cruising into the purple haze? Where I’m going with this is in the general direction of illustrating the point that how and why we do a thing matters.

Our being careful and deliberate and attentive now, each time, every day, to all the recommendations and rules we have now regarding the corona virus is far more serious than me THINKING I knew what was cooking oil on that awful day long, long ago, but actually being wrong. My mistake was thinking that making popcorn was easy and not a skillful effort. Truly understanding that there are mistakes to avoid in these dangerous timed really matters. Not to be careful, careful, careful about health matters now is going to be fatal, fatal, fatal for far more people than need be. So, that’s the HOW part of doing what we’re doing.

The WHY we do it is a bit like why I cooked as I did in my various life situations: I was not trying to be a chef, I was just trying to feed people nutritiously, efficiently, and tastily enough so that the really important thing—everyone at the table over dinner—could happen in a timely way.

Someone made a meme on Facebook that says a lot: we do what we do now where we are so that when we all come together again, no one’s missing. Well, we won’t quite be perfect on that goal, but we can make our best efforts to see to it that one great day as many chairs as possible are filled with smiling people happy to be with us. I’m watching, praying, isolating, masking, washing, and eagerly waiting for that great day—and I’ll be looking and expecting to see you there, friends. Be careful ‘til then.

  April 2021  
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