Thursday, December 6, 2012

On being baffled

Sorry about missing last week. This time of year I get a little… distracted.I started the post below, and then skipped a week of posting because I couldn't get my thoughts together, so I obviously haven't quite learned my lesson yet. :-)

Awhile back, I came across a G.K. Chesterton quote: "If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing badly."* I have to confess that it baffled me. A short while later, a friend whose thoughts I generally regard as wise, if esoteric, repeated the quote excitedly. He looked for all the world as though he were pulling an unexpected gift from behind his back, presenting it eagerly and expecting that it would delight me, too. Instead, I nodded sagely, wondering what of value could be inside such a strangely wrapped package, and I put it aside to wrestle with later.

Months later now, I feel as though I've just found the edge of the giftwrap, though getting the lid off the darn thing is still eluding me.

The idea that an imperfect effort could have some intermediary value isn't too hard for me to grasp. I have art by small children covering several walls, and I love every piece. My childrens' art is worth creating, even if they do it "poorly" by technical standards. I'm sure a goofy little stick figure on a birthday card will still delight me when they're grown. But, for myself, the expectation of growth and of excellent results are intertwined; moderate performance is only acceptable as a means to an end, and not an end itself.

I'm trying to reframe this, trying to find a paradigm that accepts that life is not only the things that you are best at, with everything else for the fire. I amazed to find how deeply I define myself by results rather than actions.

It's hard to really wrap my mind around what things are worth doing, full stop, but I'm starting to see why my friend was eager to share this quote. I'm excited by the glimpses I'm catching as I struggle to unwrap this new framework, too.

This recipe is another quick and easy favorite. It was born not long after my six year old, in the new-baby crazy days of not always making it to the grocery store on time (read:sometime that week). It's vegan, and, if you use garlic powder instead of fresh garlic, all the ingredients are something you can easily keep stocked in the pantry. (Store your pine nuts in the fridge or freezer to keep them from going rancid!) I like this dish quite peppery.  Also, I enjoy substituting canned whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped, for the diced variety. All measurements can be adjusted to taste. Serve with (spinach) salad and crusty French bread.

Pasta and Chickpeas
(serves 2ish as main dish, 4 as side dish)


  1/2 lb linguine
  1Tbsp olive oil (for pasta)
  salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1/2c canned chickpeas, rinsed and patted dry
  2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  1/2tsp dried basil
  1/2tsp dried oregano
  1/4tsp crushed red pepper
  14oz can diced tomatoes, lightly drained
  2 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil

  2 Tbsp pine nuts (highly recommend this addition - I love pine nuts!)
  1/4tsp ground coriander
  1/4tsp dried parsley
  1/8 – 1/4 tsp ground sage


 Start pasta water boiling according to package directions. Add pasta as directed.

Heat skillet over medium heat and add chickpeas and pine nuts, if using.  Lightly toast for 3-4 minutes.
Crumble dried herbs before adding to chickpeas.  Add crushed red pepper and stir.
Add oil to taste, stir and add garlic. Cook till fragrant.
 Add diced tomatoes, and reduce heat to medium.  Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes  
 have taken on the flavor or the seasoning and pasta has been prepared

Drain pasta, do not rinse.  Place in serving bowl, and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Top pasta with tomato-chickpea mixture and serve.

*Where I found the official quote. Thanks internet!

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