[Sca-cooks] OT: And From Our File of Ancient Traditions You Never Heard Of, #716

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Wed Jan 28 13:18:43 PST 2009

Hullo, the list!

I just got back from a lunch date with an old friend I hadn't seen in  
a few months. We had a lovely time eating inexpensive Indian food  
(lamb do piaz, hubba hubba!) in one of the 287 Indian restaurants on  
East Sixth Street, and shooting the breeze.

As many on this list are aware, we celebrate the Lunar New Year as a  
semi-religious holiday around here, and in general we've tried over  
the years to adhere as best we can to the traditions with which my  
wife and I were raised. A lot of them rear their heads around the New  
Year season. Whenever I think I've got a handle on all of them, I find  
there are two or three more I'd never heard of, so in general I try  
not to let myself be surprised, and to go with the flow as much as  
possible, and figure it all out as I go.

So, this morning I am alone in the house, preparing to leave. I spot  
at the front door the enormous carmine-red lacquered bowl that  
normally lives on our dining table, which we theoretically use for  
fruit, but which also can accumulate almost any small object that had  
gravitated toward the dining table. A pencil stub, a binder clip,  
maybe a gently-used but not burnt-out light bulb, half a loaf of  
commercial sliced potato bread. Six paper napkins from a recent pizza  
delivery. You know. Stuff.

Last week, in preparation for New Year's, we brought home about two  
dozen large, sweet, beautiful navel oranges and placed them in the  
bowl on the dining table. At some point on the evening before New  
Year's Day, the bowl had migrated to the front door, where it has  
remained, dispensing oranges, little red envelopes stuffed with small  
amounts of lucky money, and little hard candies, through the New Year  
celebration. Guests, if any, pick up oranges, an envelope, and some  
candy as they leave, the UPS man or the postal carrier, the building  
super, they frequently receive these items (the building super doesn't  
get $2 in his envelope, though!).

After a few days, the bowl isn't empty, but I can see the bottom.  
Knowing that my lady wife would be pleased to know that I had brought  
our friend oranges, red envelopes, and candy for himself and his wife,  
I picked these items up and placed them in a bag, then looked down  
into the bottom of the bowl. There, at the bottom, are about a dozen  
little plastic packets. They appear to contain soy sauce, duck sauce,  
and mustard.

For a  few minutes I pondered this quandary. What do I do with the soy  
sauce, duck sauce and mustard? Are we supposed to be giving these out  
to people to add savor to their lives in the coming year? It wouldn't  
be the most bizarre thing I'd ever heard. Okay, what if they're just  
random soy sauce, duck sauce and mustard from the takeout restaurant  
down the street, and they just happened to get buried under oranges  
and forgotten? After all, sometimes soy sauce is just soy sauce. On  
the other hand, what if these packets are deemed essential to  
everybody's having a good year? You know, the Butterfly Effect? Could  
I be ruining someone's year, and possibly even their lives, for  
Heaven's sake, by _not_ presenting them with little packets of soy  
sauce, duck sauce and mustard? Who am I to say what's important and  
not important? Do I want to take a chance on being responsible for a  
major downturn in somebody's life, _just_ because of my selfish and  
lazy failure to do right by them and give them soy sauce for New  
Year's? Well, I didn't want that on my conscience!

So, dutifully, I added a few packets of soy sauce, duck sauce, and  
mustard to the bag and went out. I'm over 99% sure that they're of  
absolutely no significance whatsoever; I just wanted to see my  
friend's face when I explained to him _WHY_ he was getting the soy  

We discussed this over lunch, and he said I could probably have simply  
left the soy sauce home and fibbed to my lady wife, telling her that I  
had delivered the condiments when in fact I had not. I didn't feel  
that that was right, though; it felt like a neon sign begging for bad  
karma, to me. No, I said, you're just going to have to take your soy  
sauce, duck sauce and mustard like a man, and if you have a problem  
with it, take it up with Susan.

There are all sorts of punch lines I'm sure we could come up with, but  
I think we probably don't need to embellish this little story any. I'm  
going to ask my wife about the soy sauce this evening, and I'm sure it  
just got there by accident -- but it never hurts to be sure!


"Most men worry about their own bellies, and other people's souls,  
when we all ought to worry about our own souls, and other people's  
			-- Rabbi Israel Salanter

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