Saturday, August 19, 2006

And the Pickle Fork Ran Away With the Grapefruit Spoon

I (as regular readers know) have been settling an estate for months now, and have had occasion to go through any number of antique items. As I have gone through the sterling silver of several different households of ancestors, I have been amazed by the specialization of the various tools. Pickle forks, for example -- they have either two or three tines, which are either splayed or notched and are about half the size and half the width of a regular fork. It is designed so that a slippery pickle will be unable to escape its piercing grasp. As they were accessory items, the handles were often decorated, and quite ornate. The grapefruit spoon had a pointed tip and slightly sharper edges to its bowl so that a grapefruit's sections could be more efficiently grasped.

Now, here is where my character is displayed in its full conflicted nature for all to view.

I love things like this - nut picks, pickle forks, napkin rings, sugar tongs, tiny sauce ladles, grapefruit spoons and the whole panoply of specialized sterling. I love setting a table that shimmers in candlelight with cut glass, china, crystal and sterling. I love thinking enough of my guests that I want to make their first impression of my table a big moment that welcomes them and dazzles them all at once.

But I could never justify buying any of it. I have inherited a good bit of it - not all matched, but all very lovely. And I will auction off much of it that I could never need. But I confess that there are times that owning any of it troubles me.

There are children dying of starvation while I polish a sterling pickle fork.

I wish this were only a trite cliche, but it is tragically real. The solution appears to be getting more complex daily. If I get rid of my pickle fork, no babies will live that would have died yesterday. What this silver fork really points to is the emotional distance we have gotten to in the western world from issues of suffering. The mechanisms by which I can get food into that starving child's mouth are getting more, not less dispersed. To use an analogy from earlier -- the food IS sliding off that child's fork. More and more things get in the way, get inbetween me and that baby.

War. Politics. Corruption. Organizations that do not deliver. Food and farm systems designed for corporate profit, not individual sustainable income.

Yes, I send money -- and prayers...but the volume of hungry cries is growing, not abating. And today I polished my grapefruit spoons, knowing that shame does not nourish a baby either. But feeling it anyway. Shame and helplessness. Is there perhaps a sterling silver tong for those?


Blogger Ginger said...

What a poignant post. How well I know the train of thought.

Thank you.

12:56 PM  
Blogger Rainbow dreams said...

Living in a very affluent community I know those feelings only too well - helplessness and shame - and that although we do what we can, it's not enough...

but that doesn't mean we don't keep searching and trying to find ways, and doing what we can, be it through sending money, or raising awareness, fairtrade, or whatever - doesn't stop those feelings though...

7:21 PM  

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