Saturday, April 17, 2021

forking over

New houses need new accessories.

When I moved into the house with no name six years ago, I had ambitious entertainment plans. With its wide patio and open upper terraces, the house begged to be filled with dinner parties.

None of that happened. But it did not keep from planning that one day it would.

I had brought only a couple of plates and place settings when I moved south. My philosophy then was that I wanted to be as mobile as possible, and "stuff" just got in the way. Owning a house broadened my acquisition horizons.

One day I was in Soriana in Manzanillo when I spotted a rather nifty caddy with colorful tableware. The set looked like something you would take on a picnic in Nebraska. But that informality was exactly what I wanted. So, I bought two sets for the house and one for Dora.

Because I am who I am, I needed a system for hanging each piece so I could tell if any went missing. (One fork did just that after I expanded the number of people in my household. It just disappeared.)

The natural order seemed to be pre-ordained. At least, as far as I was concerned. I would hang them in the same order as they should be laid out for dinner. From the left: salad fork, dinner fork, knife, spoon, and soup spoon. Everyone knows that system.

Well, if they do, it has not quite worked out as I had planned. There are now five people in the house who hang up the utensils. Even though I have described the system to everyone repeatedly, what results borders on chaos. When I return from my trips, I know I will need to re-sort the caddy contents.

The problem is cultural. Even though the order makes sense to me, I cannot remember a local restaurant I have visited locally where the eating utensils are set out on the table. They are often in the center of the table in a glass or, now in these virus-amok times, a waiter will deliver them wrapped together in a funeral shroud napkin. Omar tells me that he has never seen utensils set out a table the way I do -- not even when growing up at home.

So, I am the odd man out here. Even before I moved to Mexico, I had learned the lesson that there is little use in trying to change a cultural-based habit. I will just deal with it.

And that brings me to the real core of this essay. Yesterday I posted a photograph at the bottom of my essay showing the dinner I had prepared using the allspice leaves. Not one person mentioned the error.

You probably all see it now. The utensils are a mirror image of what they should be.

I will confess that I did it on purpose to see if anyone would call me on it. No one did. I suppose there are several reasons why all of you left it unmentioned.

The most obvious is that no one noticed because the purpose of the photograph was to call attention to the meal on the plate, not to the silverware surrounding it. Or, if they did notice, it still did not bother anyone.

Or maybe people noticed and were too polite to point out the error. Though, I suspect most people would have been tempted just a bit to let the air out of my hubris-laden prose. I can think of a few nominees.

And there is the other possibility. Readers did not see it as an error because very few of us sit down to a table where the flatware is properly arranged. 

I would easily fall into that last category. I eat almost all of my meals alone. And, as good as my cooking is, it often ends up not on good china, but in a cheap Chinese-made bowl, and is eaten with a soup spoon. As if I were an extra in a road show of Oliver! I have even rehearsed my lines. "Please, sir, I want some more."

I am now beginning to wonder if the others in my household are the innocent parties, and I am the culprit. Maybe I return the utensils to the caddy willy-nilly. And the photograph was not a test, it was simply another symptom of me coming unstuck from my organized, controlling, culture-handicapped northern life.

If so, I say "amen" to coming unstuck.

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