OK — Little Things Mean a Lot

speegle_ok500_artworkimageO.K. may be the most frequently used word in the world. In Obama parlance, it means “Yes You Can.”

O.K. is an even better word than ‘Yes’ because ‘Yes’ can sometimes mean something negative, such as, “Is this the worst meal you ever had in your whole life?” Of course O.K. doesn’t always mean something is great. Sometimes it means that something is just O.K. Sometimes when you put two letters together they spell “No.” Little words, and little things can mean a lot.

The entire computer language is made up of only ones and zeros but we think we can’t live without them.

Come to think of it, life itself consists of just two threads. The DNA double helix is made up of two long strands composed of only four chemicals. These chemicals — adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine — are found in every living thing from bacteria and plants and trees and elephants to birds and humans.

The chemicals are designated by the letters A, C, G, and T and are arranged in combinations, ranging from a few to hundreds of thousands. The sequence in which they are linked forms the basis of the DNA code and provides the mechanism for storing genetic information.

In the process of genetic engineering, what is transferred from one living organism to another are not what it might seem — bits and pieces of animals or fish or flowers that turn up in fruits and vegetables, as some people imagine, but chemical sequences, such as ATGCCGCGGCTCCTCC and on and on. (There are up to 100,000 letters in each cell in an ear of corn — and close to 3.2 billion such letters in the human genome.)

Genetic engineering involves the transfer of just one or two genes from one single cell. There are some who say genetic engineering is O.K.  Others say, “No it’s not.” (O.K.) Either way, we can’t live without DNA.

Those, who object to having their genes “mixed up,” may have to reconsider eating all the millions of mixed up genes in “two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame-seed bun!” Or Le Bernadin’s White Tuna and Seared Japanese Kobe Beef “Korean BBQ Style”; Fresh Kimchi; Lemon Brown Butter Emulsion.

Compari & Orange Confit Ferran Adria

Compari & Orange Confit Ferran Adria

Or Sorbet of Cheese-stuffed Strawberries with Campari & Orange Confit created by Ferran Adria, the “Salvador Dali of the Kitchen” according to Gourmet magazine.

Some people love mixed up ingredients. Some people prefer to stick to just two foods, like bacon and eggs. Some people are weird.

Some people can hear the music, in all kinds of things — others hear only a cacophony of dissonance.

There are only four strings on a violin. With a bow and four strings, a musician can play jazz, hip-hop, rock and every song and every piece of music ever composed from a Mozart concerto to a gypsy melody. The notes are played in a sequence, like genes, though the sequences change at the will of the player. Similarly a chef understands there are basically only four ways to prepare a meal.

All our foods are either served raw or they are boiled, roasted or fried. Poaching, braising, baking and deep fat frying are simply variations of these processes. The same techniques of broiling and frying apply equally to all tender meats and poultry, while all stews follow a similar pattern.

It is only the substitution of one ingredient for another that makes a French Boeuf Bourguignon appear to be an entirely different dish from a Coq au Vin. In fact, the preparation of these two dishes is almost the same.  They are related not only to each other but also to all other stews. The principles of making stews apply to the preparation of many soups, many sauces, and an infinite variety of other dishes. In other words, a soup is a sauce is a stew.

A sauce becomes a spectacular soufflé with the addition of a few egg yolks and a huge gulp of egg whites. The whole thing is then inflated still further by the heat of the oven and the astonished (you can count on it!) admiration of the assembled company.

By this time, you will no doubt be wondering where I’m headed with all this meandering about violin strings and DNA and sauces and stews. I’m just reminding you that some things which seem to be one thing are actually quite another while many things that seem different, are, in fact, almost the same thing.

So, here at last is the point.  The point is “Hi!”

If you pick up the phone and the voice to which you are connected says, “Hi,” you may immediately recognize these two little letters that identify one person out of all the hundreds you’ve met in your lifetime. You know whether this ‘Hi’ is coming from a child, a man or woman, young or old, a native-born American or a visitor from another country.

You know if this person has a cold in the nose, or has just been fired — or won the lottery. A grimly, growly ‘Hi’ strikes the fear this might be someone from the IRS. A bright and bubbly ‘Hi’ could be a prelude to the announcement of an engagement, a pregnancy, an acceptance to the college of first choice or a preface to telling the listener that he’s just received the Nobel Prize for Literature or a nomination for a James Beard Foundation Award.

All these ‘Hi’s’ are recognizable. They portend joy and happiness or misery and desolation. I’ve noticed some people don’t bother to say ‘Hi’ even when you are standing right next to them. Some folk keep on doing what they were doing as though whatever it is they’re doing is way more important than you.

Receptionists in medical offices are good at this sort of rudeness.  So are some ‘restaurant hosts’ who greet guests glacially. Perhaps they have a genetic defect.  They can’t bring themselves to say just say ‘Hi’ or extend a warm welcome that will add to the pleasure of the evening.

My advice is to say ‘Hi’ to everyone, even the grumpy guy in the kitchen.  (There’s always a grumpy guy in the kitchen.) Say “Hi!” It’ll make him feel O.K. (unless he throws a sharp knife in your direction).

One thought on “OK — Little Things Mean a Lot

  1. This remind me of an essay I read by Sarah Adams entitled, “Be Cool to the Pizza Dude,” which follows along the same theme. I feel that in the US, everyone is so rushed in their everyday lives they rarely have the chance to be pleasant to each other. It has been my experience that a smile and a ‘hello’ goes a long way for your own attitude as well as the way people view you.

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