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Sunday, October 7, 2007

Pot Scrubber

Jon King's October 5th post on The Effective Life is titled "Oh, pot scrubber, my hero." He pays attention to the unnoticed people and objects that support our lives.

The title instantly reminded me of Brother Laurence, the saint of small tasks well done. He is famous for washing the bottoms of the wooden trenchers used as plates at his monastery, when no one else thought the undersides mattered.

I picture him looking a little like Ziggy, straining to reach over the edge of a huge restaurant sized metal sink filled with trenchers. Wait a minute. They didn't have running water. Water was fetched in a pail, and precious. You wouldn't throw wooden plates in to soak, anyhow. They'd warp.

Change the picture. Zig - uh - Brother Laurence - seated beside a big pile of trenchers, say 200 of them. He's as likely to be outdoors as inside, and he has clean sand to scrub the plates. There is probably very little food left on the plates, maybe a little grease or a sodden bit of bread. When you clean two or three metal plates with sand on a camping trip, you just wipe the sand off your hands, on your jeans. Does scrubbing 200 trenchers with sand hurt your hands? Do you have a scrub brush to help? Cleaning the undersides means twice the work, twice the time. Did he try to polish them? Not much finish left after hundreds of scorings with knives, I suppose. At the time, people didn't know about bacteria that could lurk unseen on imperfectly cleaned plates, e.coli, for instance. Unwittingly, by cleaning trenchers carefully, the kitchen assistant may have saved lives, or at least some very unpleasant illnesses.


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