The wisdom of kissing the cook

WHEN ABC's golf tournament came to a putt-missing conclusion on a Sunday awhile back, I noticed the credits unrolled and the last credit was for a catering service. This is splendid. The wisdom of kissing the cook has long had support from sentient people, and it is high time the television industry put the purveyor of provender up there with the heroes. The last thing in the world I would ever do is attend a golf tournament, or even play a round, and the only reason I watch the matches on my screen is to see the experts miss their putts.

They goof putts that I can goof just as well as they do, and I don't even own a golf club. If, I reason, a forward in basketball shot and shot and missed and missed, the coach would send him away, but tourney after tourney we see the great golfers of the day come on the screen with fanfare, and then they miss their putts.

I don't understand this. But all the same, if I might be assured of a good meal under shady trees off the ninth fairway, and learned that golf as an institution is moving toward nutrition, I might make an exception and attend with interest.

In my Grange days, the tribute to the supper committee had a place in the ritual as essential to the good of the order as the deference to Ceres, and Pomona, and whatever the other one was.

Members of the Patrons of Husbandry never slighted when it came to nourishment. The supper committee was just as important as the Worthy Master, or the Outer Gate Keeper who kept the secrets in Faith, Hope, and Charity and guarded them with Fidelity.

Each committee in turn notified the Grange cooks what it would like, and the refrain was ``All those not solicited please bring cake.'' The annual strawberry festival adorned June, and there might be a hunters' supper in October.

But as the committee rotated, certain established experts stayed in place, and Angie Blethen always cut the pies and cakes. And Solon Orr always made the coffee. This was boiled in a copper wash boiler that had never seen a laundry - the grounds in a bag on a string, so he could agitate them, and huge crockery pitchers lined up for the waitresses to carry up and down the tables. Lem Potter never really served on any supper committee, because he had a dairy farm and always brought a jug of new cream.

Grange members were loyal about attendance, and as the order was family-oriented we always had youngsters. They were orderly and ``well brought up,'' and the girls wore dresses and the boys had neckties. It was a polite membership, and when the Worthy Master rapped and said we might proceed downstairs to the dining hall and partake, the approach was genteel. Folks found places at table and stood in order until the Worthy Chaplain discharged his duty.

Nobody like Brahms or Mozart has ever set down the symphony of a Grange supper. Conversation is not the first purpose, but somebody will ask who baked that biscuit, and might he have a doit of salt, and ``Mertie - you should wear red more often - it becomes you!'' The purpose is gustatory, and intended to fortify the members for the ``work'' upstairs after the meal is over. There will be a novice called a candidate to be marched around the hall to meet in turn sloth, ignorance, folly, and other equally deadly sins, with admonishments from various officers to shun evil companions and embrace rectitude and (possibly) the Republican Party.

The Grange is based on agriculture, and all the degree work exemplifies and ennobles the pursuit of clean living off the soil. I never heard anybody say a mean word about the Grange.

Just as the eldest member of a state legislature has the honor of moving adjournment, whether he is present or not, so somebody would acquire the honor of moving a vote of thanks to the supper committee. In the Grange of my choice this was Nathan Libby. After everybody had enjoyed all the pie he could handle, the Worthy Master would rise at the head table and look over to see if Nathan was ready. Nathan was always ready.

Nathan would stand with his dignity showing in all directions, and he would wipe his lips gently with his paper napkin. ``Worthy Master!'' he would say, and the Worthy Master would tap his gavel alongside an empty bean pot and would intone, ``Give your attention to Worthy Brother Nathan Libby!''

Nathan would say, ``Worthy Master - I move we give a standing vote of thanks to the supper committee!'' No second was ever needed for that motion. Grangers clapped and cheered, and Solon Orr, attending the coffee boiler at the stove, would always step to one side and sit down - it wouldn't be right for him to stand in tribute to himself.

I do hope ABC's network innovation works out. Anything that has a supper committee is worth our approval and support.

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