Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Legend: Some family traditions are
It's upon this assumption this legend rests. Many of the secrets of being a good cook are counterintuitive, and it's easy to adopt an "I don't know how this works, I just know it does" stance as yet another of Mom's recipes proves to turn out only when certain procedures are rigidly followed. The stage is set, so to speak, for the "too big for the pan" joke.
Often told within the Jewish religion, this tale is a parable for teaching the importance of understanding the whys of religious rituals. It is not enough, says this legend, to perform by rote — if observance is to have value, the reasons behind a tradition have to be appreciated as well as the ritual itself faithfully carried out. What better way to express this concept than by telling a tale of a bride and a trimmed roast?
In 2001, the following version of this classic appeared in the Canadian edition of Reader's Digest:
When my friend Dale opens a can, she always turns it upside down to open it from the bottom. One day her young son asked her why. "I don't really know," she said. "My mom always did it that way." She decided to call her mom and ask.This account came to us from a reader in 2005:
"When we brought the cans up from the cellar, the tops were always dusty," her mother explained. "I couldn't be bothered to clean them, so I turned them upside down and opened the bottom."
I was cooking Thanksgiving dinner with my friend who comes from a long line of Black Southern cooks! We were going to cook likeIn 2003 a reader mailed us an especially enjoyable version of the tale:
Well, with every cake that went into the oven, a pan of water went in too... I didn't ask him why, while cooking, figuring that surely it was some secret for making the cakes more moist.
He made sure to point this out to his mother when we arrived. She complimented him on his remembering. I am brave enough to ask, in this crowded kitchen, with food laid out for at least
"I used to put a pan of water in there because my racks were uneven."
A young woman is preparing her first thanksgiving dinner. As she gets everything ready for thanksgiving day, she very sternly reminds herself to let the turkey finish thawing in the sink overnight. She puts it in and places the dishrack over the top of the bird. Her husband walks into the kitchen and sees this. "Why are you doing that?" he asks.Just to prove it's not only the ladies who fall into the trap of imitating without understanding, we leave you with this bit of humor from 1958:
"My mom always did that to help the turkey thaw" she told him.
The next day Mom calls to see how everything is going. "Fine, Ma. I have everything ready to go in the oven. I even remembered to put the rack over the turkey last night."
This seemed to confuse her mother a bit. "What are you talking about?" she asked.
"Oh, I remember you always put the dish rack over the turkey when it was thawing in the sink," she said.
There was a pause on the end of the line. "Yes, but honey, we had cats!"
A more frightened than injured young Seabee electrician was brought into the hospital suffering from electrical burns. Shortly afterward his instructor, a chief electrician, arrived. "Why on earth didn't you turn off the main power switch before you tried to splice the wires?" asked the chief.
"I wanted to save time, chief, and I've seen you stand on one leg, grab the wires and splice without turning off the power."
"My God, kid," exclaimed the chief. "Didn't you know I have a wooden leg?"
Barbara "wooden you know it?" Mikkelson
Sightings: This legend surfaces in a 1994 episode of television's
Last updated: 3 November 2005
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