Monday, May 16, 2016

Why Do You Do So?

Quite a few years ago now, I recall reading a true story that went like this:

A newly married young man was curious about his wife's unusual cooking habit:  she cut off and threw away the ends of a canned ham prior to baking it.  When he asked her why she did so, the bride responded that she did so because her mother did so.  The groom, still curious, went to ask his mother-in-law why she did so.  The mother-in-law said that she did not throw away the ends of the ham but that she did cut the ends off because her mother did so.  The groom, more curious than ever, went then to his grandmother-in-law and asked her why she did so.  The grandmother-in-law replied that she had to cut off the ends of the ham or it wouldn't fit into her baking pan. 

A simple common sense solution to a real-life issue had extended through the years to become a wasteful habit in the third generation but the new bride never thought to ask why she did so.

I recall also a time when my parents had to go on a work-related journey.  It was the middle of the school year, so they left me in the care of reliable neighbors whose children attended the same school.  The neighbors had what I thought to be an unusual habit.  They ate four meals each day:  breakfast, lunch, dinner, and leftovers.  Any cooked food had to be eaten by the end of the day and anything that was leftover until the next day was thrown out.  I was curious so I asked why they did so.  The wife recalled an itinerant childhood after her family emigrated to the West Coast from Oklahoma; they always made sure that all cooked food was eaten by bedtime each day.  As she grew up and raised a family of her own, the habit remained ingrained.

Thinking back on it later with a greater knowledge of history, I realized that there must have been more to the story.  Someone who lived it as a child might not have recalled all the facts or might even have been protected by her parents from the stark reality.  During the Dust Bowl when Okies came to California to search for work as itinerant farm hands, jobs were not easily found.  Food was frequently scarce, refrigeration was not available, scavenging animals could be a problem for those who lived in tent cities, and no one knew where they might be living from one day to the next.  People could not afford to waste their valuable resources.  It simply made sense not to leave any cooked foods overnight.

We all have interesting family habits, most of which were likely rooted in common sense, that we may not even see as unusual until someone else asks why do you do so?  It's interesting to explore and to try to figure out why we do so. 

Perhaps you might want to think today about some habits you might have and why you do so, and then leave a bread crumb trail behind so that those who come after will know why they do so.

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