Friday, November 13, 2009

The Lord brings certain people into our lives.

As quoted in a previous post:
"But in Friendship... we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting – any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples 'Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,' can truly say 'You have not chosen one another, but I have chosen you for one another.' The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others."
-C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

I'm being taught a lesson on how I needed to meet this family, in addition to how this family needed both the gospel and some American friends.

I was at the home of the elderly African couple who joined the church this past July. The purpose of the visit was to give them some bread-making supplies (flour, yeast, etc., bread pan, muffin pan), and to show them how to use their electric oven. They had been using the burners on the top, but were unsure of how the oven part worked.

The wife/grand-mother was a bread-maker back in Africa. She's been here a year and hasn't been able to make any bread. She's mostly disabled and walks with great difficulty and pain. So she can't get out and shop, and the other members of the household, though they know how to shop, don't really know how to pick out what would be the American equivalent of the baking supplies she used back in Africa.

In addition to that, they just didn't understand how to operate the electric oven.

It was interesting to learn how they viewed the oven. In their home village, they don't have electric or gas ovens. They used earthen, or perhaps brick, ovens heated by wood or charcoal.

It made me realize how much of our common knowledge is assimilated by us as we grow up. Things can seem so simple, yet we don't realize how they aren't simple to someone who did not grow up around something.

Since we didn't have time to sit around and wait for bread to rise, I decided to make muffins from a store-bought mix; add egg and water, stir, pour into muffin cups, bake for 20 to 22 minues, voila'.

We let the oven pre-heat while I made the batter, put paper muffin cups in the muffin tray.

The concept of an oven thermostat was new to them. (Therefore I think the stove-top burner settings were also a msytery, and that they only used them on the highest setting.) I explained that the oven indicator light (the one on the control panel) comes on when the oven's heating element is on, and it goes off when the temperature setting has been reached. And that when you open the door and let cold air in, the burner turns back on to reheat the oven, and turns off again when the temperature has been reached. This whole concept of a thermostat on a cooking device was new to them, at least to the grandparents.

The grandfather, who has never cooked anything in his life, was doing the translating, so at least it was new to him. I couldn't tell how much of the concepts were actually new or understood by grandma, because she doesn't speak English, and when grandpa translates, I suspect much gets modified or filtered out by his perceptions.

They haven't received visiting teachers yet, but have had a home-teacher for a few weeks. What the home-teacher wants to do is get some Relief Society sisters there, with just grandma, and the grand-daughter (who has taken the missionary lessons, come to church a few times, but hasn't been baptized) as translator. That way, it's "just the girls", without grandpa's translation filters in place. Another benefit is that the ladies won't be afraid to ask other ladies the simple questions.

The "filters" work both ways too. When the cooking lesson comes from a male such as myself, or the translation from English to their language comes from grandpa, I suspect there is also a Mars/Venus filter in place. Since grandpa doesn't cook (and has never cooked), he may not be putting things in terms the ladies need, but also the ladies may be discounting what comes from men in terms of cooking. I just can't tell.

Anyway, they loved the muffins. They weren't the best, just a cheap $1.00 mix from a dollar store. I forgot and put the muffin pan on the lower rack instead of the upper rack, and the bottom of the muffins were slightly over done. So I'll have to make that point about using the upper racks next time. And, also how to adjust the temperature and time. I think the ladies know about adjusting temperature, because that is controlled by how much wood you put in the cooking fire, but that concept would be new to the non-cooking grandpa.

Grandpa was all amazed. He wanted to buy an oven and have it shipped to his relatives back in Africa. He wanted to fly back and teach people this muffin recipe. (Of course such an expense is totally out of his budget, etc., etc.)

Anyway, the muffins came out okay. I explained that I used the paper muffin cups to keep the muffin pan clean, because I'm lazy and didn't want to have to clean a muffin pan. And that the muffin paper cups were optional. And that if you wait a few minutes before peeling off the paper it comes off easier.

But I did open one muffin early and it was cooked just right in the middle. They were a nice golden brown on top, and the apartment was filled with that nice "something good is baking in the oven" aroma, which it never had before during grandma's one year stay, or grandpa's five year stay.

This was an anthropology and sociology lesson for me.

Maybe someday we'll get to a lesson on the BROIL setting.

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At 11/14/2009 10:08:00 PM, Blogger Trouble said...

That is an amazing story! Thank you for telling it. It's wonderful how something that we take for granted can be a miracle to someone else.


At 12/19/2009 08:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How sweet this story! I loved it. The broil would be nice. Oh how amazing!

At 3/24/2010 08:23:00 AM, Blogger Tatiana said...

So fascinating! I wish I could find new immigrants to this country and answer all their questions they may have about things.

It makes me remember, as well, that there are ten gazillion things we don't know about what goes on in other countries and cultures. How much we miss of life and don't even realize we're missing! Now I'm intensely curious what would be the lessons going in the other direction if I were living in a village in some other land?


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