A Prayer of (Burp) Thanks


Thank You, Lord, that we are safe here in Ipswich.

Thank You for sending beautiful Colleen, patron saint of health regulations, down from her home in faraway New Hampshire to rule over us as our public health director, to keep us safe from Zika, west Nile, black death, botulism, and inadequately polished silverware.

We are grateful that in Your mercy You bestowed upon us St. Colleen’s three angel-minions, our most high Board of Health — Susan and Margaret and Dr. Spencer — so zealously committed to the most excruciatingly arcane health regulations that we are virtually guaranteed never to be laid low by the bubonic plague due to unregistered s’mores or an under-grilled onion. Thank You for sparing us from the horror of any Ipswich eating establishment preparing food the way we do at home, where some of us actually wash our hands and our dishes in the very same sink. Forgive us, Lord.

Thank You for giving us a Board of Health ever vigilant in keeping church fundraising events from serving untagged clams, and deterring B&B’s from serving breakfast out of improperly located refrigerators. Thou hast also kept our Board of Health from the sin of worldly compromise, as they judiciously require an official variance for cheese and crackers served without a bed of ice underneath, because as Thou knowest, cheese can go bad in the twinkling of an eye. I think it was room-temperature cheese that killed my cousin Gary. Or maybe it was the crackers. May our Board of Health never sink to the depravity of the “3 R’s,” for Thou and I both know, Lord, that Realistically Relaxed Regulation would surely be the death of us. Thank you that St. Colleen and the Board of Health angels hath made it so difficult for anyone to cook, serve, or eat food in this town that we are in no danger of imbibing even a single microbe, and maybe not even a calorie. We also thank you, Lord, for the strength to survive without adequate nourishment.

Most of all, we thank You, Lord, that we will no longer be plagued by that scourge of ill health, Five Corners Café & Deli. Only You know, Lord, what infestation might have been hiding between the layers of tomorrow’s daily-special “strada.” And we know, Lord, that Thou wilt comfort the multitudes who adored this popular Ipswich institution, including those who never got sick as a result of eating at Five Corners but kept risking it all these years. Who knows what contagion might have swept through Ipswich if Five Corners Café & Deli had been allowed to continue with that basement floor in such disrepair, or that McDeli sandwich cooked without a thermometer stuck in it, or that spatula washed with ordinary Palmolive instead of Board-approved chemicals, or that delayed paperwork, or those late fees. The goofed-up paperwork was especially likely to start an epidemic, Lord; but You quashed that possibility, and we art grateful. Plus, Thou knowest how much our Town relies financially on those fees, Lord: Verily, they are becoming the backbone of our economy. At the same time, we thank Thee for the additional blessing of another empty storefront — our new trademark, for which Ipswich will soon be known far and wide; and now, thanks to thine agents of bounty and blessing, our Board of Health, we have another.

Thank you that we no longer have to put up with Leslie McCormack’s ceaseless cheer expressed through the window to the kitchen, when we now know she was sowing disease and disaster into our Java Monkey smoothies, endangering our intestinal tracts and possibly even positively affecting our moods. Thank you that the scurrilous Leslie was so exhausted by the health board’s faithful assaults that she decided not to go through the grievous process of appeal hearings and battles with the bureaucracy, but rather simply closed up shop, putting an end to this sad chapter in Ipswich history. The fact that we will never again taste Leslie’s “soup, chowder, and chili prepared fresh daily” is a small price to pay, Lord, compared to our gratitude for Thy wisdom in raising up the Ipswich Inquisition to root out this evil. Thank You for saving us from everything Five Corners foisted on us all these years: the fresh, local, seasonal produce from Marini’s Farm; the warm, fresh bread from Jessica’s Bakery; the fresh dairy products from Richardson’s Dairy; the fresh clams from the Ipswich Shellfish Company loaded into Five Corners’ acclaimed chowder — all produced within a 10-mile radius of the Café, which probably somehow brought in even more germs, now that I think about it.

And finally, I thank you, Lord, for giving my 14-year-old daughter the opportunity, these past few weeks, to work at Five Corners as her very first-ever job, and letting her leave behind that squalid hovel with a first-hand understanding of what it really means to work in the food service industry here in Ipswich: in her own words, “hassles with the Health Department.”

Lord, Thou hast done a good thing, protecting us through thy watchful servants the Board of Health. For no one can get sick at an Ipswich restaurant if there are no restaurants left. And not just restaurants, but inns, B&B’s, church events, school fundraisers, and other dangerous enterprises.

Yea, verily, no one in Ipswich will ever get spoiled food, if no food is available.



Doug Brendel lives on unwashed veggies and undercooked eggs in his home on outer Linebrook Road. Click “Follow” to get “The Outsidah” in your inbox.



14 thoughts on “A Prayer of (Burp) Thanks

  1. Anonymous

    I’m just as upset and angry as you that another truly local establishment has been forced out.

    Still mourning Marty’s as an authentic piece of our identity.

  2. Sue

    I’m just as upset and angry as you that another truly local establishment has been forced out.

    Still mourning Marty’s as an authentic piece of our identity.

  3. Bob Metz

    Well now…will it be Doug who sings the laments of the ill or God forbid the dead…when that Ipswich Guardian…Angel isn’t there when a food borne illness or infection gets lucky…and enters your gut…what will you cry then…”Oh woes me! Yon Board of Health hath failed me miserably…oh why hath thee foresaken me!!!”…Come on people…they have job to do…and it is enforcing the laws and regs of the state…based in good science…not to facilitate business but to protect your backsides and that of your loved ones & pals…you have not lived until you’ve eaten a chowder, improperly heated or cooled, by someone who forgot to wash their hands, after wiping their backside…one scenario is waking up, eyes wide open and you are not sure you’re going to make it…and if you do you don’t know which end is going to blow first. Grow up and be grateful they are there. If this post is to graphic to bad. Reality sucks.

  4. Pat C

    The unelected Board of Health anywhere, not just Ipswich, is way too powerful. An infraction of any of some of the idiotic rules and regulations that they impose on businesses stifles innovation and discourages new business ventures. These nit pickers are power that knows no bounds. Anything goes in the name of our “health and safety”.

    Of course the board of health can and should be able to protect our health. But not by trying to manage every possible danger in our lives by never ending dictates requiring nonsensical rules and regulation that must be followed or else…And let’s not forget the all important very expensive licenses that they can approve..or not.Even fundraising non profit bake sales are under their scrutiny.

    The Board of Health’s overreach and ability to control is out of control and, at times, defies logic and common sense. All they have to do is justify their actions by citing the tiresome “… For your health and safety” mantra.

    And so, Mr Metz, I am all grown up and I am not grateful for the micro managing,heavy handed protection afforded me by the Board of Health to keep me safe at any cost.

    • Bob Metz

      Doug you have a fine wit and I would assume a background in words and stories. Your flourish with pen or typeset exceeds mine, but I am sure that your background in food science is somewhat lacking.

      Thankfully the town employees the most knowledgeable and qualified. They are there not as a friend, but protectors of the general public.

      There may be deficiencies they may allow and those they cannot. That my friend is their call as the professional – their lane…not yours. For that I am grateful and ergo give the benefit of them doubt.

      It’s always a sad day when something we cherish goes away for one reason or another. I’ve seen it all to often. It can be as painful as losing a close friend.

      The folk at the Health Dept understand the impact of their decisions. I seriously doubt they conduct their job with the intention of closing an individual’s or family business. I’m sure a lot of thought goes into their decisions.

      As for being grown up, I’ll leave that for others to determine…not my bailiwick. Myself, I still have a lot of growth left in me. It will be a sad day for me when growth ceases.

  5. Anonymous

    This Board of Health crossed the line between Government due diligence and harassment! Very Sad. Good Luck Leslie in your next endeavor!

  6. i think its important to remember our enforcement and regulatory professionals need to be accountable to the communities they serve. when their practices become overly burdensome, that needs to be looked at seriously. the law exists to serve the people, no the other way around

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