Wikimedia Commons, public domain
Philadelphia Skyline from South Street Bridge
Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

The only thing I know about someone called the “Lady from Philadelphia” is that she was a character in a novel, possibly by Charles Dickens. Her advice was often quoted to me by my mother. Other than that, she is something of a mystery. Of Philadelphia, the city, I know even less.

Furthermore, no one of my acquaintance today has ever heard of the Lady from Philadelphia, so what I remember may not be true at all. That said, her part in the novel seemed to consist mainly of helping her unbelievably stupid neighbors out of a jam. The one example that comes to mind involved the making of lemonade.  

This is how it went: The unbelievably stupid neighbors (hereinafter called the USNs) were making a pitcher of lemonade on a hot afternoon. One of them inadvertently added too much sugar, and when the lemonade was sampled by the others, it was deemed undrinkable. What to do? The circle of USNs put their (empty) heads together and decided to counteract the sugar by adding an equal amount of salt. Sadly, this only compounded the problem.

But one of the USNs thought there might still be hope, and offered another suggestion. “Add some spices. Cinnamon and nutmeg.” And so they did, with predictable results.  

At last, the USNs turned to the one source of information that had never failed them. “We'll ask the lady from Philadelphia what to do,” they said, gravely.

And so they took the pitcher of lemonade to their neighbor's house and asked what to do with it. The answer was not long in coming. 

“Throw it out,” said the lady.   

To this day, whenever I cook something that turns out badly, I think of the Lady from Philadelphia and realize that no matter how much it pains me to do it, sometimes the only solution is to “throw it out.”

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