Saturday, August 20, 2016


Columbia Spy is privileged to publish several articles by Columbia native Mike Clark, with permission of the author. The essays were previously published in The Globe Leader and 50-plus Senior News and will continue to be reprinted in the Spy over the next few weeks.

By Mike Clark

I found an outdated container of beef gravy in the back of our refrigerator while gathering ingredients for dinner.

My wife asked why I was placing it on the kitchen counter instead of immediately throwing it away. She pressed me on this simple little act because I do have a tendency to deposit dirty dishes in the sink and on the counter instead of putting them right into the dishwasher.

One requires more effort than the other, I guess.

So, I got defensive and replied somewhat flippantly that I needed to keep the rancid gravy there for several months as I was working on an empirical study to reject the null hypothesis that claims flies (and other critters) are not spontaneously generated from inorganic substances.

A scientist used mutton gravy in one of the original studies, but beef gravy, I thought, would serve the same purpose for my experiment, which I wasn’t going to do anyway.

It’s not necessary to understand the preceding arcane, scientific jargon. The theory of spontaneous generation is antiquated and obscure (and long ago debunked). The reason I thought of it is probably because I’m also antiquated and obscure (and often debunked).

Also, it was my way of temporarily evading further discussion about my indolence. I didn’t want to waste my time on any discussion of that. That’s mostly because my wife has plenty of evidence to support her hypothesis that I am somewhat indolent.

I had another incident with leftover chicken gravy not so long ago. The forgotten glop had dehydrated into a crackled yellow plug that easily dropped out of the plastic storage cup when I ditched it, which made for a neat and easy disposal. It just made a muffled plunk when it hit the trash can.

Don’t ask me why leftover gravy so seldom gets used in our house. Maybe it’s because we only make gravy in small measures and very little goes unused during a meal. What’s left can easily get jammed to the back of the refrigerator and overlooked.

Gravy is not the only leftover that gets shuffled throughout the refrigerator until it is forgotten. If there really was statistical significance that beasties could be spontaneously generated from a variety of non-living substances, our refrigerator, at various times, could become a real and thriving ecosystem unto itself.

Perhaps a different organism could arise from each different leftover.

Imagine what living thing could slink from a neglected blue-green, furry tomato. What would you think if you opened the refrigerator door and saw a legless, gape-mouthed creature pop up from the casserole dish containing 2-month-old scalloped potatoes?

And what about the brute that could be growing inside a plastic vessel half full of dried-out baked beans? Could a new species of fowl be spawned from that leftover Thanksgiving turkey leg?

I can only imagine the screams of terror if I went for a glass of juice and saw the toothy grin of a scaly fiend just waiting to be set free from the crisper drawer. If ever there was a time when my wife needed to be there for me, that would be it.

My wife claims that there is a strong correlation between forgotten leftovers and my laziness. I reminded her that one of the basic tenets of statistics is that correlation does not imply causation.

Right then, I knew I had overplayed my hand.

Mike Clark writes a regular column for The Globe Leader newspaper in New Wilmington, Pa. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in organizational behavior/applied psychology from Albright College. Mike lives outside Columbia, Pa., and can be contacted at

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for another great little story, I've enjoyed them!