I’ve found that in retirement one has considerable time to think about many things.
Some of these are really important, like whether or not a colonoscopy is affordable in this year’s budget.
(Note: See previous Post referencing this Procedure. Comment on this mildly annoying topic is included again to provide a coherent theme from Post to Post, but mostly to really irritate my wife. Thought I’d get that out of the way early here. :-)).
Mostly however, these things are of the more mundane variety; things that in the usual hub bub of working and parenting life one might find irritating but which are usually ignored or glossed over in order to maintain harmonious family/personal/business relationships or, for those with serious OCD, to simply avoid going insane.
Last week, something in that category (mundane) happened that rocked my world, or at least as much as my laid back world is rock-able these days, and which as you will read has occupied much of my waking time for days now and is the subject of today’s commentary.
My wife and I were at my son and daughter in law’s house babysitting for our grand daughters. The plan was for my wife to make dinner for the family when the kids came home from work.
Come to think of it, there really wasn’t much of a plan involved at all. Sort of a 1) Get Food, 2) Cook Food, 3) Eat Food kind of thing. But all things considered, without such a plan, omission of any of those tasks or execution of any task out of sequence would render the whole process of making dinner impossible, or even, given that pork was involved, potentially life threatening. So planning is helpful. I learned that during my career as a Project Manager.
MY participation in the plan of course was to participate in task 3) Eat Food.
We brought food for dinner with us, thus completing the 1) Get Food task. However, somewhere between our arrival and the start of 2) Cook Food I began to have hunger pangs which eventually led me to the kitchen in search of something, anything really, to tide me over until supper. Not wishing to eat too much before dinner and in doing so jeopardizing my ability to successfully participate in 3) Eat Food I decided to make a couple of slices of buttered toast.
I tossed the bread into the toaster and turned to the refrigerator to get the butter.
Opening the door I shuddered as I beheld a site which brought back terrible memories from my childhood, adolescence, mature (?) adult years and even today in my dotage.
There in the butter dish lay a small, basically useless little chunk of butter. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that quarter inch rectangular shaped cube left over after the previous butter user has finished buttering something and rather than using that last little chunk decides to escape responsibility for REPLACING THE BUTTER.
But that isn’t what disturbed me most. I’ll even admit here that once or twice in my life I’ve left that little useless chunk in the butter dish myself. (Hmm…I just realized it’s true. Confession really IS good for the soul. At least I feel better after admitting to doing that. Or maybe it’s just that last Cheeto I’m munching on as I write. Whatever.)
No, it was the fact that there in the butter dish was also a new stick of butter STILL IN ITS PAPER WRAPPER !!!
Since I was an infant, or at least since I was old enough to open the refrigerator door to reach for the butter which was likely some time after infancy, I’ve found it to be an Immutable Fact of Life that any time it’s necessary to replace butter on the butter dish two things will result:
- The useless little chunk of left over butter will NEVER be removed from the butter dish
- The NEW butter stick will be placed on the butter dish UNOPENED and in the
process will not only hang over the end of the butter dish but will also, as a result
of the butter dish containing residual scrapes of butter from the previously
opened stick of butter (now reduced to that useless little chunk) have on the bottom part of the wrapper traces of butter.
And the end result? The guy (perhaps girl, but more often I think this happens to guys since this has happened to me so often) who needs the butter to put on the bread now toasting will have to unwrap the new butter stick in order to get to the butter.
Lets get one thing straight at this point. From long, tedious, frustrating experience we all know it’s virtually impossible to effectively use that little left over butter chunk as a spread onto newly toasted toast.
Why? Well, primarily because its shape renders it unsliceable (new word?) via butter knife into portions which can be spread onto the hot toast which will melt into an acceptable spread. When attempted, the knife will slide off the little chunk, in the process knocking off a tiny sliver of useless butter. In a frequently experienced worst case scenario the knife will slide off the leftover butter chunk, launching it out of the butter dish onto the floor.
When this happens the useless butter chunk gets tossed into the garbage (NOT the recyclables, BTW) and the floor must be wiped clean.
Regardless of whether the launch occurs or not, after having attempted unsuccessfully for the millionth time (after all, no one LIKES to waste food) to slice the chunk into usable slices, it inevitably gets tossed in the non-recyclable garbage, which the previous butter user should have done in the first place.
The next step is the unwrapping of the new stick of butter. This process presents its own set of challenges to the ‘needer’ (also a new word?) of the butter.
First let’s talk about how the butter is wrapped.
The wrapper is made of a waxy type of paper which in itself is not a bad thing except that when you add the traces of butter left over from the previous occupant of the butter dish (see Immutable Fact of Life cited above), you get waxed butter wrapping paper with the viscosity and handling characteristics of an oiled eel.
It has often occurred that in lifting the wrapped, oiled eel feeling stick of butter out of the tray, the stick slips out of the hand and falls to the floor. Once again, floor cleaning is necessary albeit without the involvement at this point of the non-recyclable garbage.
Then there’s the matter of removing the wrapper. Maybe it’s just me (I doubt it) but instinctively I start the process by trying to loosen the TOP, or long, section of waxed butter wrapping paper from the enclosed butter.
Hah! Try to do that without ripping the waxy butter paper. Ain’t gonna happen.
Of course once the waxy cover is ripped you usually get butter on your fingers which, in tandem with the eel thing creates an infinitely greater likelihood of additional launch(es) of the new butter stick as unwrapping proceeds.
After realizing the futility of trying to unwrap the new stick from the top side, one must turn to the wrapped ends of the stick seeking an alternative way in.
Which end you choose doesn’t seem to make much difference (feel free to provide feedback if your experience indicates otherwise); however, whichever end is chosen, at least three distinct motions are required to uncover the end of the butter, each of which results in additional butter on the fingers. (Ergo, the origin of the term ‘butter fingers’).
After both ends are unwrapped the final step is to hold the top part of the wrapper (likely previously ripped) and shake the wrapper until the now unwrapped stick of butter either falls into the butter dish or once again hits floor.
And now comes the final insult. By the time you’ve done all of the above the freakin’ toast popped up around fifteen minutes ago and all you’ve done makes no difference cuz you end up with cold butter AND cold toast. A non-starter all around with the exception that you’ve probably got a very clean floor near the base of your refrigerator – if that helps
So, to finish my story about what happened at my son’s house, we left off at the point where I’d turned to the refrigerator to get the damn butter out. When I finally accomplished this, of course I found the new stick of butter too cold to easily slice into sections which would readily melt onto the now frigid bread.
I rapidly concluded the solution to this dilemma would be to soften the butter. And what better way to do this than to put the butter dish with the now unwrapped butter into the microwave oven.
This I proceeded to do, first setting the cook time to five seconds and pressing the ‘Start’ function on the microwave Key Pad.
After the five seconds the oven beeped and I removed the butter to test its firmness. The five seconds clearly was not enough time as the butter still felt cold to the touch.
I returned the dish/butter to the microwave and set the cook time for twenty seconds and again pressed ‘Start’..
Somewhere around the ten second mark it occurred to me that perhaps I’d been too pessimistic in my estimate of butter softening cook time and looked at the Key Pad to locate the ‘Stop’ function. This being my son’s microwave I wasn’t entirely familiar with the Key Pad layout and as the seconds ticked by I frantically scanned the Key Pad for the location of the ‘Stop’ function, having completely forgotten about the alternative way of stopping the butter cooking by opening the door to the microwave.
Finally, twenty seconds was up, the oven beeped and I opened the door to see the results of my effort.
To my astonishment I discovered that not only was the butter well softened, turning it into a remarkable facsimile of the wreck of the Titanic (see illustrations below), but that a good deal of it had melted into the butter dish itself which, while removing it from the oven, dripped onto my son’s oven and onto the floor, once again involving floor cleaning but now with the added task of stove top cleaning.
At this point I held the dripping butter dish over the now ossified toast, poured the melted butter onto the toast and spread it out, thus successfully and after only twenty minutes or so, completing my snack.
I hope the above will be of help to you in once and for all assigning full responsibility for comprehensively replacing butter in butter dishes in your household. I feel confident that once the ramifications of leaving that chunk of used butter in the butter dish and putting a new stick of unwrapped butter are fully understood, your life will be greatly simplified. Or maybe a little.