A neighborhood couple stopped in the day before Christmas for a once-a-year visit and pleasantries. In the course of our chat, they related how for the past decade or two, the wife's aging mother always burnt the dinner rolls at Christmastime. It had simply come to be expected that the family would all sit down to burnt dinner rolls during the holidays.
Recently, Laurie happened to be at her mother's house and had to bake something in her mother's oven. She threw together a cake she can make with one hand tied behind her back and popped it into the oven at the temperature setting and timing she knows by heart. The cake came out overdone.
This was a eureka moment for Laurie in the heretofore unsolved mystery of the annual burnt Christmas rolls---mother's oven runs too hot! Laurie was struck by the fact that her mother, after so many years, had never put two and two together to conclude that her oven would lie to her---that when the little black line on the dial pointed to 350 degrees the appliance was delivering far more hear than was promised.
I have thought about that anecdote all through the holidays. I have wondered what lesson there is for me in Laurie's mother's years of dinner roll defeat. It seems the poor woman was understandably committed to the literal interpretation of her cookbook, which incontrovertibly instructed her to "Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes." How could Betty Crocker be wrong? How could she second-guess an army of recipe testers that Betty employs to check every entry? It never occurred to Laurie's mom that the fault could lie not in the literal interpretation of the book but in some blindness to her own application of the instructions. When we think we are living by the Book but our observations of the outcome are invariably disappointing, we must perhaps stop and reexamine all factors in the process. Perhaps the Book is in error. More likely there is some fault in our execution.
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