Monday, April 18, 2011

There It Was, Hidden In Alphabetical Order

We have spent another day in the garage going through boxes.  This time it's books.  And sorting through three boxes of cookbooks reminds me of a couple of stories.  But as you probably realize, everything reminds me of a couple (at least) stories.

Jerry, the former librarian, has always taken very good care of his books.  He knows the proper way to shelve them, the proper way to stack them, and the proper way to handle them.  He could never, however, be bothered with organizing them.

We always had shelf upon shelf of books in no particular order.  In San Diego in the '90s, we had a library off our kitchen.  The cookbooks sat on their own several shelves (because when I unpacked, I put them there).  Any time Jerry wanted a recipe, he would search the shelves of randomly placed cookbooks to find the one he needed.


One day, I had the brilliant idea to organize the cookbooks so Jerry's culinary life and my aesthetic life would be that much more pleasant.  While Jerry was out, I spent a couple of hours alphabetizing the cookbooks.  I was so happy with the results — order out of chaos — that I decided to do the same with our mess of spices in one of the kitchen cabinets.  When I finished (and it didn't take long at all), the spices were in alphabetical order on stepped shelving and two-tiered turntables (which, oddly, I always had on hand and which should tell you something about my personality), easily visible, easily reachable, and exactly where they were supposed to be.  I couldn't wait for Jerry to get home.

When Jerry walked in the door, I pointed at the bookshelves and announced, "Look what I did!"


"I alphabetized the cookbooks!"

He sputtered.  "Well, using what system?"


"Where did you put the Sunset ground beef cookbook?"


"Well, did you put it under Sunset or Ground.  Or is it under Beef?  How am I supposed to find anything?"


"I also alphabetized the spices," I commented as I walked into the kitchen.

"But...  What system did you use?  Is black pepper under Pepper?  Is it under Black?  What about red pepper?  Or Spanish Paprika?  Is Ground Cumin under Cumin or is it under Ground?"

"Jerry, tell me, what system do YOU use for organizing the spices and the cookbooks?"

"I don't use any.  I just search for what I need."

"OK, then, just pretend everything is still a complete mess and keep searching."

I felt very clever.  Unfortunately, the problem with my plan was that it required Jerry to always put the cookbooks and spices back where he found them.  Oh, well.


  1. heeheehee, good one! You'll need a separate "returns" bin from which you can restack. Hey! How about stacking by barcode number? (yes, that's one of my sick jokes. LOL)

  2. Uh-oh. I have my spices on turntables. For years and years, my little spice turntables have followed me around. But they're not organized! A quick spin usually nets what I'm looking for.

    The only things organized alphabetically in our house is the CD collection. Remember CDs? I have French on one side, anglophone on the other, in alphabetical order by artist. Classicals have their own rack in the den. :)

  3. @wcs: CDs... We've still got them, too. And, yes, they've always alphabetized AND organized by genre! I'm in the process of cataloging and numbering them for our move. Sick.

  4. Too organized by half! I'm amazed to find people even more transient than we are! Best of luck with the move to Malaga.

  5. @Craig: Thanks for the good wishes and for your visit. I'm already enjoying getting to know Boris in Ayrshire!


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