Saturday, October 08, 2011

At Least 10,000 People Helped You

With Thanksgiving Day looming, I wanted to share something I came across recently. John owns a cookbook that was copyrighted in 1934 and printed in 1943. The Mystery Chef’s Own Cookbook is a fascinating book; the author, John MacPherson, was the host of a Depression Era/wartime radio recipe show and was, at that time, very popular.

In the introduction of the book, he has a section entitled At Least Ten Thousand People Help You To Prepare Each Meal. I present it here for your reflection. Thanksgiving Day is, in my opinion, the perfect time for such a reminder. Keep in mind, as you read this, that it was written sometime in the 1930’s. Production and delivery methods differ somewhat now, but the message is still the same.

When you sit down at your dinner table tonight, think for a moment of how many people were employed in the growing and preparation of the ingredients you used in cooking that dinner.

When I say ten thousand men and women help us to prepare each meal, I believe the estimate is conservative; and I think you will agree with me when we have traced through the people involved in the production of just one ingredient from its source to your table.

Let us take a pan of hot biscuits. What are the ingredients required? Flour, butter, baking powder and salt (the liquid used can be water). You and I have all these ingredients in our kitchens, ready for use at a moment’s notice. But how did they get there?

Suppose we trace just one of these – flour – from its source to you. The farmer has planted the seed and it has grown to maturity – a waving field of golden grain in the Northwest. Give your imagination free rein as we follow the grains of wheat from that field in the Northwest to your kitchen, where it arrived in the form of a sack of flour. I do not have to fill in all the details, but let me trace in a very superficial way a picture that will show some of those employed in the work of placing that flour in your hands.

First there are the men who sowed and cultivated the grain, and then the threshing machines and the men who run them. Now the trucks are hauling the wheat to a ship on the Great Lakes. Follow that ship – watch the stokers as they shovel coal (and don’t forget the miners who mined the coal which drives the ship’s engines). The ship carries the grain to a great flour mill with its roaring machinery, and here a vast number of men is employed. Then there are the cotton pickers in the South who pick the cotton that feeds the looms that weave the sacks in which the flour is put. And there are the printers who print the name on the sack in order that you and I may be able to recognize the brand of flour we want – an important service since all flours are not alike and the flour we use makes a great difference in the success we have in baking.

I am not going to fill in this picture further, more than to ask you to follow the flour from the mill as it makes its way to you by rail or ship. Think of all the changes of locomotives on the railroad and of all the railroad men that had a part in handling the flour on its way to the grocery store.

Then remember that flour is only one of the many ingredients used in the preparation of a dinner. Trace all these ingredients from their source to your kitchen.

The grocer’s boy is only the messenger bringing to you the fruit of ten thousand other hands.

What are you going to do with these ingredients? Throw together a careless meal? Or are you going to be the artist – one worthy to receive the work of these ten thousand hands, and with loving care prepare a meal so delicious that you will be repaid a thousandfold for your work by the enthusiastic praise of those who are fortunate enough to dine at your table.

Happy Thanksgiving

to all my Canadian friends and family

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