Essays from John Gould
(Page 3 of 6)
"Look how I have to chase doughnuts around!" she says, and it's true the little fork always snagged them so pertly.Skip to next paragraph
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We went looking for another. I took her to the city, and while I attended to my philanthropies she went up one side and down the other and asked in all the stores for a three-tined fork. None of them had one. None of them had anything even like it, she said, but in one store she bought a two-tined fork because the man was so nice. It is heavier and bigger than the favorite, and she hoped it might do but it doesn't. No character.
Then one day I had a chance, so I made the rounds of the stores she missed, and I saw about every kind of fork currently available. They run heavily to a three-tined picnic fork with an extension shank on them, So you can thread on a hot dog and cook it over a fire six feet away. That's no kind of a fire to cook a hot dog on, anyway.
I became alarmed at the situation among our storekeepers they would hear me ask for a small three-tined kitchen fork (holding my hands about so) and they would beam and come trotting back with one of these barbecue spits with the long handle. It proves they are disposed to trade and friendly, but I can't say it is evidence of deep powers of comprehension. I looked at about fifteen of these forks, and couldn't fight it any longer. I went home.
It is just a little three-tined steel fork with a wooden handle, about like a dinner fork and two tine's are no good and four tines are no good. You must take my word for it, I don't know why. It may be feminine logic, a phase of philosophy in which I am interested but not well versed. Anyway, that's what it is, and I'd like to buy one. Just one.
"Maybe," she said. "Maybe if you write a piece about it somebody will know." She seldom, if ever, thus presumes on my extracurricular literary pursuits, and this shows how serious it is. If it works, I may get some scrambled eggs again without lumps.
I'd say, offhand, the monetary value shouldn't exceed a dollar at the utmost, even with today's expanded ideas. But when a family's entire happiness and future security is at stake, price is no object.
[Editor's note: John and Dottie later received scores of letters from around the world containing dozens of forks. The missing one was discovered much later, stuck in a sink trap.]
"You know," I said, looking up from the vast bookkeeping connected with my many philanthropies, "It's been a long time since we've had a mess of dried beef on potatoes." Truth is, it has. Used to be almost a staple in the old days made a good, hearty meal that everybody dove into, and all at once it came to me that it's been a long time.
"Well," she welled, "I was going to give you a three-way choice for supper tonight hummingbird tongues on Melba toast with Turkish Delight, Mongolian pheasant tinder glass with kumquat soufflé, and dried beef on potatoes with hardtack."
"I would take the dried beef," I said, and she said, "It's the most expensive."
This turns out to be disturbingly so. What, from the memories of youth, was always a great way to stretch short pennies into the greatest good for the greatest number has become an epicure's ne plus ultra of the age of enlightenment, and she has been hanging back on dried beef so she might have more money to spend for food.
When I hear somebody ask, "What is the world coming to?" I always make answer that I do not know.
She observes, too, that when she does buy some dried beef these days it is not the same as it used to be. It used to come in fairly large slices, rolled together adroitly so it would fill the bottle or can. Now it is otherwise; you get two-three sheets wrapped around a gorm of shreds and crumbs, and pride of workmanship is gone. The bundle doesn't open out into the same product.
It has variously been observed by astute observers that a great many of the good things to eat that adorned the simple life back on the farm were cheap. This fact was known to the custodian of the family exchequer, but was not suspected by the others. We thought we ate those things because they were the best things in the world to eat. Take baked beans. On a farm that regularly laid out 10 to 15 acres of baking beans there wasn't anything any cheaper. But when adorned with honest pork, laced with dark molasses, and suitably infused with love and ginger, a pot of beans on the supper table was about as high off the hog as anybody wanted. We thought that was pretty good.