Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The song of harvest home

At first, working as a cook seemed like a scarier version of what I'd been doing for years. The pans and utensils seemed too big; recipes that started with 40 cloves of garlic or 20 pounds of tuna seemed ridiculous.

Now that I've settled into the proportions, I'm really enjoying it. It felt good to realize that I'd made the house recipe for granola so many times I could just go into the cool storeroom and start scooping out the grain: 10 quarts of oats, 3 of rye flakes, 2 of oat bran . . .

The Icelandic sagas feature women as secondary characters, but I remember being fascinated by the fact that "housewife" was treated as an important job. Back then running a household was indisputably a full-time occupation, partly because Icelanders lived in longhouses with dozens of people. (Think Riders of Rohan type dwelling.) Getting a household through the winter took major preparation and planning. In one saga, a house is thrown into turmoil because of the wife's bad management, and it looks like they may run out of food. A woman's position of honor was once synonymous with her role as a provider of food: our word "lady" is from Old English hlǣfdige, "loaf-kneader".

Well, my job isn't that important. But I do enjoy feeding a lot of people.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Bad Quakers

Things you really shouldn't do during meeting for worship or moments of silence:

1) sleep
2) wink at people
3) bend over so far your hat falls off
4) make your grocery list
5) make small talk
6) crack your knuckles
7) kill ants
8) audibly clean your teeth
9) hit people

I've witnessed all of the above, though as far as I know I'm guilty only of 1 and 7.

Postscript, January 15: today I told a friend about this list, and she calmly answered, "Oh, we had someone die in meeting once."