Noodle Master to the 3rd Degree
Tonight I visited our church cannery in Denver. Every time I go there I am amazed at the things our church does. The gospel is truly about the whole person: spiritual, physical, and emotional. It's unlikely that many folks would get a chance as part of their regular religious experience to make and can chicken-noodle soup, but that was my opportunity tonight.
Of course, as with most things, I was not content to simply be serious about the whole thing. I had to have some fun. My friend Chris went with me, and it's always more fun when you're with a friend. And boy was I glad to have my two-sizes-too-small, flaming-orange Discover-card t-shirt tonight for an easy wardrobe selection. We started the night with safety lessons and instructions (not altogether unlike the safety drill before your plane takes off: if the 100-gallon vat of boiling broth behind you should happen to explode all over you, grab the yellow oxygen mask from above, breathe normally, lean over and press your head to your knees, and kiss your tail end goodbye because the flesh will have already melted off. ...or something along those lines). Once things cranked up, we started by boiling noodles. Pretty passive and somewhat boring. Once the whole line was ready to go, though, Chris and I found ourselves in the (un)lucky position of being the "fillers". We were to take little spickets and fill the cans that had already been stuffed with vegetables and noodles with boiling chicken broth that was being pumped from the 100-gallon vats behind us. After making jokes about it because it had to be such an easy job, we started, and quickly realized that it was in fact a hard job. Seriously. It was not an easy job. Maybe that's why no one else was doing it. So much for my being observant.
You had to fill just the right amount, probably 8 ounces or so in each can, and go as quickly as the cans came by. Talk about pressure. I wouldn't recommend it for any of your OCD folks out there who just have to have it perfect. Imagine the cans whizzing by and what seems to be an ever faster pace. DON'T SCREW UP! EVERYONE IS COUNTING ON YOU! Of course, the jokes came quickly, too.
After filling several hundred cans (my cans were most often near flawlessly filled, by the way!), I determined that I would self-bestow the ever-enviable title of noodle master to the third degree. (Peter, the guy who runs the place, is obviously the only 6th degree noodle master.) Who would have thought that standing there filling cans with a spicket would be such back-breaking work! Maybe there's some sort of stance that you assume once you reach the fourth degree. We certainly hadn't found it yet. We swapped back and forth several times because the backup filler is a much cushier job than first-chair filler-upper. (Guess filling cans is like being in the orchestra.) And of course, there's the bench warming backup-backup filler upper who was next to us, but he never quite offered to take our jobs. He mostly just stood there watching in awe (ok, my interpretation). Guess he liked his position of topping off our already perfect cans.
I enjoy going to the cannery. I only do it a couple times each year, but it always helps me gain a little perspective as to what things are really about. It helps me to appreciate my own blessings and bounty. It also allows me to buy soups and other products at cost, not such a bad blessing by itself! I sometimes wonder how many of our fellow church goers forgo the opportunity to go down there and serve simply because they've never been and don't know what it's all about. They should go. They'd certainly appreciate the experience. In fact, you should all go. I'd recommend all the rest of you become Mormon simply so you can go to the cannery, too. ...except that you're welcome to go even if you're not a church member. :-) But be sure to wear shoes that you don't mind getting squishy wet with chicken broth or whatever happens to be cooking! Mmmmmmm.
As Chris said to me, next time we'll give Mr. Campbell a little more respect when we open some of his chicken-noodle soup; it took some serious work to get it in there!