(Her name was Amanda, but for reasons no one could ever understand, they all called her Duffy.)


So dig. One day, bright and lovely (yes, both) Mrs. Ward—a real sharp old tack if ever there was
one—was in her kitchen cookin’ up some soup when Duffy fell by.
“What are you up to?” asked Duffy.
“Oh, said Mrs. Ward, “just checking the buoyancy on these root crops.”
“Which root crops?”
“Potatoes and carrots mostly, for now.”
That response inspired Duffy to lay down a tight little paradiddle of questions.
“Are you only using root crops? What about onions? Are onions a root crop? Are you gonna use
celery? Is celery a root crop? What is a root crop?”
“I may toss some onions in there,” said Mrs. Ward, adagio.
“Oh,” said Duffy, “Can I help?”
“It’s a solo gig, dear,” said Mrs. Ward, “it pretty much swings all by itself.”
“Oh,” said Duffy, who then found a chair and placed it underneath herself.

It was not long, of course, before Duffy had her fill of just sitting around, eyeballin’ the proceedings.
She was feelin’ kinda antsy, you know, desirous to render some assistance, albeit of an unskilled sort.
So, she put the query again to Mrs. Ward. “Is there ANYTHING I can do to help?”
“I don’t mean to put you down,” said Mrs. Ward as she diced some onions in a mean staccato, “but it’s
a solid ix-nay on that, kiddo.”
“Mom let’s me do stuff when she’s cooking,” said Duffy.
“That’s because your mom is cool from coast to coast, and I’m sure she doesn’t mind others sittin’ in.”
said Mrs. Ward.
“She does…” Duffy insisted, “Mom lets me do all kinds of cookin’.”
“I’m sure she does, Dear,” said Mrs. Ward, “But, it’s more like, I don’t
need your help and less like, I
want it. I’m sure you can dig that. ‘Sides, ain’ nobody ever hit you with the fact that too many
cooks can spoil the soup?”
“No, I hadn’t heard that,” said Duffy. And after giving it some thought, added, “How many cooks IS too

Mrs. Ward stopped stirring the soup and, looking up at the ceiling, gnawed on that conundrum for a
tick. “If I ever knew, I’ve forgotten,”  she said.Then she made this offer, “If there’s an answer, I’m sure
you’ll find it, little Duff.”
See, Mrs. Ward, eternally hip, knew Duffy to be a clever little chick.
“I could set up an experiment and find out,” spouted Duffy.
“There you go,” said Mrs. Ward, “jump on in there, Kiddo. I’m sure there’ll be some real need for that
particular track in the final mix.”
Duffy was on her feet much quicker than immediately.
“Be sure to fall in here again and hit me with the coda,” Mrs. Ward said, and started nudging Duffy
toward the exit.
To be honest with you, I think she was anxious to get back to that soup.

While apologizing for having intervened upon and interrupting the culinary process, Duffy slipped
backward-like (and by that I mean, in a backward manner) right on out the door. Then, in a most
rabbit-like manner, she made tracks in a generally homeward direction… which is pretty much the best
some kids can do.
“That kid’s too much,” said Mrs. Ward to the four walls.
And who really knows if they were even listenin’?


Falling back in at the familial domicile Duffy found her mother—who has always been with it all the
way—stretched out on the couch, way in over her head, submersed in Geoffry Chaucer.
(A strange old cat who wrote almost before anyone else could even read.)
“Mrs. Ward says that too many cooks can spoil the soup,” said Duffy.
“Did she put a handle on that for you?” asked her mom, putting down the book.
“No, but I didn’t need one. I intend,” said Duffy, “to find out just
exactly how many cooks it takes to
spoil the soup.”
“Crazy!” said Mom. “That’s music to my ears.”
Duffy’s mom knew with a certainty that whatever was about to hit would be, like Chaucer, maybe a bit
confusing, but entertaining nonetheless.

“And, when I find out, I will let the world know,” declared Duffy.
Picking up on Duffy’s sincerity, her mom asked, “How are you going to make that happen?”
“I’ll just invite everybody I know to put something in this great big humongous pot and, after each one
puts something in, I’ll taste it to see if it’s spoiled yet. But,” she mused, “I wonder how I’ll know when
that soup is spoiled.”
Her mother—a woman who knew a few things and had a gnawing hunger to know a few more—
knocked out this kindly advice. “Don’t sprain your brain, my little one, it’s an insensitive soul who
doesn’t know spoiled soup soon as it crosses thier lips.”
“OK, so when it tastes spoily then, I’ll count up all the people who put stuff in there and we’ll know how
many cooks is too many.”
“Well,” said her mother, “I dig where you’re goin’ with that, and I’m right behind you. If you need me
someone on bass, just put out a shout in my direction. Click?” asked her mother.
Duffy nodded. “Clack!” said Duffy.
That was their way. I mean, such was their understanding.
“Tres bien,” said her mother, and so saying dove back into Mister Chaucer’s good work. And in so
doing, her mother proved herself to be hip in a very special way.

                                  Almost—but not quite—

So, Duffy invited everybody, everybody, everybody to the soup test…even Mrs. Ward who was a
pretty good cook on her own. And, here’s how she went about it.

She drew up a nice invitation, because to get all those cooks together, everybody would have to know
about it, natch. Duffy and her mom had those fine invitations copied and Duffy hand-colored EVERY
SINGLE…well, most of …quite a few, anyway. Then Duffy tromped around the neighborhood handing
out the invitations…with a big toothy grin (Which is the way these things are best done.) She button-
holed every passing upright individual saying, “Would you like to participate in an experiment to
discover how many cooks it takes to spoil the soup?”

When the big day arrived Duffy was up with the chickens. She was out in the kitchen looking through
the cupboards when her mother came shuffling in on those goofy-looking, pink, furry slippers-like
“What’s all the racket?” Mom asked while rubbing her sleepy orbs.
“Today’s the day!” Duffy said brightly. “Today’s the day we find out how many cooks spoil the soup.”
“Oh, I nearly forgot,” said her mother. “We’ll have to break once in a while to clean up, otherwise
things could get WAY out of hand.”
“OK Mom,” said Duffy. “I’m gonna need a BIG pot, and I can’t find one.”
Duffy’s mom found a BIG pot. “How’s this?”
“Bigger!” cried Duffy.
Her mom disappeared into another room and came back with an even larger pot.
“BIGGER!” whined Duffy.
So, her mom went down the spooky old basement steps and after much rummaging around (just listen
to that awful racket) emerged with a truly gigantic pot.
“How’s this?” she asked triumphantly.
“Wow,” said Duffy, “I didn’t even know they made them that big.”

Do I really need to tell you what it looked like with all those people lined up outside, each holding their
own special—sometimes secret and sometimes VERY secret—ingredient?  Some had bags full of
ingredients, some had just a pinch. Some had several ingredients but wanted to taste the soup before
deciding which to add. When Duffy entered the kitchen wearing a judge’s robes and carrying a gavel—
this was her mother’s suggestion—all eyes were on her.
“This is a gas,” declared Mrs. Ward panning around on the crowd. She had an inkling that very soon
that joint would be jumpin’. And she, always the sensitive sort, was not far from right.

As soon as Duffy raised that gavel in the air… Duffy’s Mom stepped forward and declared, “Slide on in

Well, so, you know, at first it was a groove. But, that was only for the nonce. It really began to unravel,
post-haste.  Squabbling’ broke out, and soon there was division in the ranks. Some cooks thought the
first thing in the pot should be water, others thought the first thing in should be stock. Arguments soon
arose between those who thought they should use chicken broth and those who believed with all their
hearts—and apparently in their souls as well—that it should be vegetable stock. This is not even to
mention the problem that arose over the use of garlic and bouquet garnee. By the time each of these
quibbles was, one by one, resolved, something not fully understood-like had transpired.

Do I really need to tell you how truly-uncool a mess that kitchen had become? But, let me put it to you
this way…it was getting cozier in there all the time. Of course, tedium was never, de facto, part of the
plan, but neither was the kind of mayhem that was brewing therein. It was madness, fortissimo. Pretty
soon the whole affair was all out the window-like. Duffy and her Mom were at their wits’ end, and Mrs.
Ward was keeping good time with ‘em, when they all began to realize that orchestration is indeed
everything. There's a reason a set is called a set-- 'cause otherwise it's really unsettling.

After a very short while, three or four bars at most, Duffy’s mom announced to the milling throng “Take
five while I mingle with the principal.”  
She whispered into her daughter’s ear, “We need to wrap this session up”. Duffy nodded in
agreement and raised that gavel in the air……and …CLACK, as they say… Duffy banged her gavel
down on the nearest surface. Having done that, she declared the experiment a success, subito forte..
“It’s over!” she yelled.

The crowd stood frozen before her.
“I’m all ears,” encouraged Mrs. Ward.
“How many cooks does it take to spoil the soup?” someone shouted.

So, like, then there was some mumbling and maybe a tad more milling in the crowd.
“Anything more than one,” said Duffy, with a very winning smile.
And the crowd, after giving it some thought, but before splitting, could not help but all agree.

“Duffy, you are certainly the most,” said Mrs. Ward giving her a big hug, “and that’s the least I can
“Click?” asked Duffy.
“Clack,” Mom and Mrs. Ward both agreed.
And, just like that…click-clack…the experiment was history.

And, having so said, I must now me fade.