Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
This phrase, it seems, can be traced back to St. Jerome, who referred to it as a common saying in his introductory remarks to the Epistle to the Ephesians in his translation of the New Testament: “Equi donati dentes non inspiciuntur.” A rather mangled literal translation would go something like this: “A given horse’s teeth are not inspected.” Horses’ gums recede as they age making their teeth appear longer (hence the term, “long in the tooth”). Inspecting the teeth of a horse given as a gift was considered ungrateful. It would mean that recipient is trying to see if the horse is old (undesirable) or young (more desirable).
B lived in this gigantic brick house, a turn of the century mansion by the state capitol that was used for lobbyists. Most of the time he was there alone. When I was first divorced, he invited me over often to keep my mind off of things. One night, perched on the hard, Victorian sofa next to the massive fireplace, we were drinking a bottle of wine and talking about mythology. Sometime during the night we migrated out to the hot tub, wine glasses in hand, gazing skyward and talked about the mythologies of space. It did take my mind off of other things.
All of my friends were extremely supportive when I got divorced and I decided that I wanted to do something for them. I made brownies. I wrapped them up neatly and made a plate for Hanna, a plate for Tor, a plate for Duane, a plate for BB and a plate for B. As I was putting the pretty bows on, I noticed on the table the book I had just finished – Pathways to Bliss – which had inspired B and my conversation. I wrapped it up with his brownies.
I delivered BB her plate and she ate them while we shared an afternoon cocktail. I delivered Hanna’s and she ate them while we chattted in her shop about her new girlfriend. I delivered them the Tor and he licked his fingers and smiled as we sat on the park bench in front of his apartment. I delivered them to Duane and he asked, “Are they special brownies?”
“No. Sorry,” I said.
I delivered them to B, but he wasn’t home. So I left them in the Turret entry way of his massive rental mansion, along with the book.
“Did you enjoy the brownies? I don’t remember if you liked nuts or not…” I said next time I saw him.
“I didn’t eat them, K. I don’t want loaded gifts…Please don’t try to fix me. I don’t need any self-help books.” He said, caustically.
“B,” I answered sadly, “you should have eaten the brownies. That was just the book I told you about. You said it sounded interesting… I thought you would enjoy the source instead of my interpretation.” I turned on my heels and walked out.
My sister gave me a book right around that time too. It was C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. I knew that was a loaded gift. She also wrote me a note about how I might find strength in Christ. Like B, I loathed the idea of someone trying to “fix” me. But I thought about it for a while, then I picked up the book and I read it. Not because I thought Christ was going to knock on my door and say “Hey glad you read my book, now let me pay your mortgage for you!” I read it because she had kind intentions. What I found in there was a bit of a surprise. I found a lot of Buddhism and it inspired me to do some more reading on Buddhism. The Buddha didn’t pay my mortgage either, but the words were reassuring.
We put such expectations and make such implications about gifts and sometimes they aren’t always right. Sometimes we might be surprised by what we find when we open it. Sometimes we would do well to remember that people express their concern in the ways they know how, not always in the ways we expect.
For my friends Birthday this year (in February) I gave him a book and a little chocolate bar. I’m pretty certain he hasn’t read the book, but the other day he finally tried the chocolate. He said that Chocolate and salt did not appeal to him, he was afraid he wouldn’t like it and I think he didn’t have the heart to tell me. I received this picture about 2pm in the afternoon on Tuesday with the message – “This is sooo awesome! I loved it!”
I looked at the background carefully, then I just had to ask:
“Are you in your office right now with your pants off?”
Seattle Chocolate (Available at Ralph’s Thriftway and Bayview Thriftway in Olympia):
Our premium chocolates are carefully prepared in small batches with the highest quality, all-natural European chocolate with no preservatives, additives or extenders. Each product is crafted by blending dark and milk chocolates to achieve the best flavor profile.
By constantly searching the best flavor houses in the world, we’re able to offer all-natural ingredients, including double-distilled Northwest peppermint oil, legendary Seattle espresso, pure hazelnut butter and freeze-dried natural blackberries. The smooth, meltaway texture that has made our truffles so famous is created by carefully tempering the soft, creamy chocolate center and its outer shell. The result is a perfectly blended confection that literally melts on your tongue.
Our base chocolate cacao contents are:
- 53 – 65% Dark Chocolate
- 33% Milk Chocolate
- 30% White Chocolate
We recommend storing our chocolate in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight and away from strong odors. The ideal storage temperature is 55-70 degrees F. If possible, do not store your chocolate in the refrigerator. Excess moisture in the fridge can cause sugar bloom.
Every Seattle Chocolates treat is certified Kosher.