“A thing offered to God”

How do morning oblations, the Kerrville Farmer’s market and lamb have to do with “a thing sacrificed to God”?

Oh, dear reader…so much. So much.

Many us, myself included, have morning routines that we call “morning routines.” I call them — inside my head, to myself, not aloud — “morning oblations. Washing myself and getting ready for the day. (I know what you’re thinking; stay with me.)

These “morning oblations” would include, first, making a necessary weight adjustment after a few glasses of water throughout the evening — need I give details? — then hopping on the scale, not to see the effect of the adjustment but rather how my 16:8 intermittent fasting experiment is going (it’s going well), brushing my teeth and then splashing my face with cold water three times and rubbing the back of my neck once with cold water. This wakes me up. Shower, shave, and I’m good to go.

The shower and shave sometimes come later, after yoga, were I to publicly admit that in fact I do yoga.


Later yesterday afternoon I’m at the Kerrville Farmer’s Market at Clay and Water Streets. It’s been offline since COVID shut everything down. (We now have “Before COVID” and “After COVID.” I don’t care what people say, the majority of the country is “over” COVID. We just are.)

The afternoon was sunny and blue-sky cheerful. You could see smiles. (Yesterday morning, I saw the smiles of the ladies at Broadway Bank for the first time in 10 months.)

From local pickles to bread to Boerne-made hummus, food of all kinds was on sale. A yoga teacher reminded us of classes, one for 75 minutes and another for 90.

A band played. Toddlers were strolled and kids played nearby.

About halfway around the semi-circle of vendors was a table offering local meats, including goat.

“Do you have goat cheese?” I asked.

“We don’t.” She described some aspect of the goat farming that made them unsuitable for producing cheese in the wild. Which is all fine and good, because I tend to prefer the plastic-wrapped kind that the goats fart out onto the grocery store shelves.

They also had lamb. I asked about ways to cook it.

“Some people flash fry the meat. My husband likes his well done, though.”

I told her that I’ve been asked at restaurants how I’d like my lamb cooked. I tell her that I stumble, not knowing whether it’s more like beef or more like pork. Somehow, the off-white of lambswool makes me think the whole animal is undercooked. And, let’s get real, have you ever seen lamb sushi?

I rest my case.


Dad made the countertops

Lamb also reminded me of Dad. He’d buy these lamb patties, separated from one another by thin pieces of wax paper. He’d buy like twenty at a time and freeze them in two stacks. When he wanted a patty, he’d take out a stack, separate one off with a butter knife, and then throw it in an aluminum skillet in which he had a thin layer of oil heating. The patty clinked onto the pan and then started to steam as it simultaneously thawed and cooked.

He once gave me The Bachelor’s Cookbook. This was supposed to instill in me both a knowledge of and appreciation for food and cooking.

It did neither.

In fact, I don’t know if I even cracked it open. (This is not my copy to the right. The cover shows a Monopoly-like character who no doubt had servants even during his bachelor years. He probably even had carnivore relations with the cook.)

Later in adulthood, I too would toss those lamb patties into a pan and heat them up to a bit beyond lambswool rareness and enjoy them. I’ve never understood how mint sauce goes with them; perhaps I’ll research that.

But don’t hold your breath.

One of my clearest memories was Dad cooking in that kitchen at 50 East 96th Street on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He himself had made the countertops, one with a hinged extension that you’d let hang when entering the kitchen to make room, but for extra eating space you’d flip up and lock. Usually for my brother and me. On the other counter, he’d made a two-foot half-inch raised cutting board, with Spanish tiles set around and below it. This was in a rented apartment they had for forty one years.

Today I’d kill for that countertop.

Dad had wanted to be an architect but had to quit college when his father died (his mother had died when he was 9) and help his stepmother raise his three younger half-siblings, with whom he was very close. Instead of building beautiful things, he went into advertising sales and helped raise three beautiful siblings.

This was in the early 1940s and people did that kind of thing.


Philips Sonicare

At night I use a Philips Sonicare rechargeable toothbrush. I love it.

(I know, I know. You wonder if I’ve lost my way in this post.)

It takes exactly two minutes, because it’s timed to beep four times at thirty-second intervals. You press its button and then gently and thoroughly brush over the four zones: top and bottom, outer and inner. Two minutes. And it does the work for you. I get top grades at the dentist.

Seriously. He’s like, “You get an ‘A.'”

In the morning though, I use my analog toothbrush. Takes about 20 seconds in total, and because I put elbow grease into that act and jerk my head from one side to the other and grimace and flex my biceps, I think I’ve done the same quality job as the Sonicare.

After all, I keep an eye on myself in the mirror as I brush at night and in the morning, and the outcomes should be the same.


Apparently, the 1840s had effective dentists

“Oblation” has largely disappeared from use. As you can see above, it had a slight uptick at the end of 2019, when the Democratic Congress was preparing for the first impeachment of President Trump, and Nancy Pelosi had to brush her teeth a lot more. Whether smiling for the cameras or flashing fangs, she’d need to have them at their whitest.

But wait…

That’s not at all what oblation means, and it’s not why oblation was used a lot more in the 19th century than since 1900.

Oblation doesn’t mean brushing my teeth in the morning.

Oblation doesn’t mean using Sonicare at night.

Oblations don’t lead us to govern better. Especially when those oblations are in fact ablutions. Then, they are really impotent.

The Latin offerre (to offer) became in late Latin oblatio, which of course in middle English became oblation.

And so there we have our root meaning and the reason that brushing my teeth is not really an “oblation.” An oblation literally means “a thing presented to God or a god.” In a church setting, it means the presentation of the bread and wine.

Brushing my teeth is an ablution. Part of my “morning routine.”

But not an oblation. (I literally have been saying “oblation” to myself each morning, when instead I should be saying ablution.)

For the oblation, I’d have to buy a live lamb at the Kerrville Farmer’s Market, slaughter it and place it on the altar.

But wait…

That’s not right, either.

That was done already for me at night.

In the morning, I simply wake. Ablutions needed, but no oblation.

“I and the Village,” by Marc Chagall

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