Amazing Bowl-Grace

IMG_0089The new job is going well, though it’s taking much more mental energy than I foolishly predicted.  There’s been plenty of Dinner at the Country House. There were great pies at Thanksgiving, and a wonderful Christmas Dinner, but neither of us has made time to write about cooking or eating or life.

As my tenure in the in the old job wore on, I felt less and less at home. That upset me more and more, especially since I was there so much of the time, and I’d loved the place for so long. As things got bad, I did what I could to make it feel more comfortable: I had a little bud vase on my desk; I had the coffee mug choir members had long ago given me, and I had my bowl.

The new office is well-appointed, and I was so thrown into the work that I hadn’t unpacked my things right away. On the day of my first staff meeting I was served coffee in a mug bearing the logo of a wine cooler I haven’t tasted in probably 20 years. The idea of that logo in a church office amused me so much I’ve been using the mug ever since, and took the choir mug home.

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On my first Tuesday afternoon before the second grade choristers arrived, I found my bowl and used it to heat some leftovers for lunch. I finished eating, washed and dried it in the little kitchenette, and put the bowl on the shelf with some other mismatched plates and dishes that were used by our staff.

Most days I don’t have breakfast and lunch and sometimes dinner in the office, so it was maybe a week later before I noticed that the bowl wasn’t on the shelf. No big deal, I thought; somebody else probably needed a bowl. It’s not like my bowl had my name on it. I used one of the random plates the next time I stayed in the office for dinner between rehearsals.

But my bowl didn’t turn up. I poked around in various cupboards and couldn’t find it. Maybe the somebody who used it dropped it and it broke. I was a little sad because my bowl and I had such a long history, but I’ve felt so at home in the new place that I’ve been perfectly happy to reheat my occasional working-supper in the container I brought it in.

Between services yesterday, the Rector and I were having coffee. Our spirited discussion of Ash Wednesday theology and comparisons of attendance at our services versus the ones in the old neighborhood eventually ran its course. As we rinsed our mugs in the little kitchenette sink, I asked, “Hey, here’s an unrelated question: you wouldn’t happen to have seen a big white bowl, would you?”

She hadn’t seen it. “But it’s probably in the kitchen,” she said.

The kitchen.

The kitchen where we had cooked 400 pancakes for a Shrove Tuesday supper. The one with the industrial-sized stove, the restaurant-quality dishwasher, the sinfully covetable prep tables.

And the dish room.

It never occurred to me to look there. I’d been working here for several months before I knew we had a kitchen. Shrove Tuesday was the first time I’d been in it, and we were so busy serving pancakes that it never occurred to me to look for my bowl.

I scampered off to the dish room, with its floor-to-ceiling shelves of plates and cups and salt-and-pepper set. And bowls. There it was: a big white dish that didn’t quite match the other big white dishes but was close enough that someone no doubt thought it belonged there.

“I found it!” I told her, with probably only a little more enthusiasm than the father displayed when his prodigal son returned home. She said I should take it to my office for safekeeping, but it seemed perfectly safe to me, proudly shelved among lots of other soup bowls and ready for use.

If, in the fullness of time, I have to leave this place, I’ll check in the dish room to collect it. Or maybe I won’t. Maybe it’s got a new home. Meanwhile, the next time I want to heat some leftovers, I know where to find a good bowl.

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