We hosted Thanksgiving twice this year. Since too few of our family members share my love of homemade cranberry sauce, I had leftovers. So on Sunday I baked cranberry muffins, and it got me thinking.
I preheated the oven on my poor old range. One of these days it will give up the ghost and we’ll have to buy new.
I pulled out a muffin tin and rinsed it out before greasing it. It had been awhile since I baked. As I dried it, I wondered what path this tin had taken to get to me. Who had mined the metal, made the alloy, designed the factory and machines, and stood on the line stacking or boxing? So many hands worked on this before mine.
I set two mixing bowls on the counter with the dry ingredients listed on the recipe. Oats are recognizable, but the white flour had to travel far from its wheat roots to become that bag we bought at the store.
I whisked the powders together and turned back to the recipe on the screen. I scrolled back up and collected the wet ingredients.
The egg probably took a straight path to my kitchen, but the almond milk had to come from some mysterious process, turning crunchy nuts into something that slightly resembled what had come from a bovine mother.
As I mixed up my batter from scratch, I used ingredients and equipment from across the country and around the globe, manufactured by who knows who doing who knows what. By the end, I had tasty muffins and the sense that my skills were very limited.
But that’s the trend, right? We have such varied conveniences that we have no need to know how to grow our food, sew our clothes, build our furniture, or truly take care of our own survival in any meaningful way. Like so many others, I spend way too much time online, but my real life has turned virtual too, a collection of bits like bytes sent electronically around the world.
There was a time when we learned life skills in childhood, segregated by gender. In the last twenty years, I’ve mended rather than sewed, but I could still follow a pattern if I had to. Once upon a time, I was taught the essentials of knitting, though it never really took, and I still know the basics to darn a sock, though I never do. My husband could build a shelter if he had to, but he’d much rather have power tools to do it.
Our most recent generation is the least equipped to go homesteading. Not only are they less likely to learn basic building and maintenance of home and hearth, their lack of hands-on play is affecting certain abilities. Apparently, all that touch-screen convenience is reducing their fine motor skills, to the point where many medical students lack the dexterity to be surgeons.
We don’t all need to become surgeons, though I hope some do for necessity. Today our most in-demand know-how involves the tapping of keys rather than pounding of hammers. Our modern world is by nature internationally interactive, so that all our survival is based on the interlocking expertise of millions.
My chosen career as a teacher doesn’t directly impact the lives of folks on the other side of the Earth. I’m sure you’ve seen the meme about teachers touching the future. It’s possible that I may influence someone who will invent or manufacture something that will enter your home. But certainly my money, and your own purchases, trickle into unknown pockets in far places.
For now, I just want to say thank you, for the minds that dreamed up this ease, the intellect that designed and invented the mundane tools of everyday life, and the hands that brought them to my kitchen, where I’ll enjoy a cup of tea with my muffin.