bread, dinner time conversation, lovely things, miscellaneous, drivel, things I love, tom being tom, Uncategorized

…fifty shades of better…


There’s probably one distinct point in my life where everything really changed. It was a result of my sister beginning to drive. She somehow managed to flip a beautiful, maroon colored Opel Manta into a ditch a quarter of mile from our house. She was sixteen, which means I was twelve, driving a car my dad loved, and as a result, I loved it too. It was small and quirky and odd in the sense that no one else on the planet – or at least our neighborhood – even knew what an Opel was…

It was dug out of the ditch and rested, after negotiation with the insurance company, in our garage. I think it must have been one of those NASCAR style flips – both rotating about one axis while flipping end over end as well, because there was not a single panel unscathed by the event.

It’s the moment in time where I probably most grew to love my father as a human being and someone I admired. We spent endless evenings repairing that Opel – I had no real clue what I was doing – mostly holding wrenches, sticking my arm in spots that his didn’t fit while we hammered and pried the body back into some odd semblance of its former profile. In hindsight – I don’t know if he knew much about body work either, based on the end result – but it ran and it passed the WSP inspection, so I guess he knew enough. I realize, thinking back, he didn’t have a choice. The circumstances we lived in meant that he had to figure it out, and he did.

What really changed me though, wasn’t watching him use a hydraulic jack and a 2×4 to push the entire roof back into it’s original position – which actually fit a windshield once again – it was the endless evenings of conversation. He was, or had, just read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. We talked endlessly and tirelessly about the concept of quality. What it was. Where it came from. Whether it was something you could really identify, or only really knew of if it was missing… I never wanted those nights to end or to have the smell of grease come off of my fingers.

They’re also the questions which have intrigued me from that moment on. The notion that there are higher planes and a vast array of circumstances that things are weighed on. Quality isn’t always a fact, like the ratio of circumference to diameter (pi… 3.1415926…). Sometimes it doesn’t even seem to be there until you’ve seen the full context. Sometimes it depends on what you know – what your tastes are, how much you’ve seen, or limited your experiences. It’s strange in the sense that it’s not unknown to anyone – everyone picks one thing over another…

It’s the reason I found myself, a few years later, completely convinced that I was going to study and major in Philosophy. I was in love with it, still am, and I was surprised when my own dad, the one who introduced me to that world, suddenly didn’t approve…

Maybe it’s the reason I cook the way I do. Maybe it only added to my innate need to question authority or expertise. It’s only gotten worse as the years have gone on. I wonder, and ponder, how in the course of my own lifetime we went from proudly putting footprints on the moon to being required to apologize for leaving any sort of a footprint anywhere – including now, a carbon one…

This has so little to do with bread, which maybe means it has everything to do with it. All of this was spurned by a conversation earlier with someone about the concept of ‘the best’. I’ve always enjoyed the perspective of this person, but I realized how different our worlds are after all of it. I don’t think ‘the best’ is what’s necessarily accepted or agreed upon by experts or professionals. In fact, I think it’s the death knell of everything. It’s the reason I don’t read certain cookbooks, or pretend to know anything about what I really hold dear… Because when I see or hear that ‘experts’ think some ‘thing’ is the best way – I immediately look the other direction. It’s the way I’m wired – and I’m happy I’ve never lost that trait.

Learning to make something or do something in the manner of how other people, no matter how learned, think is best doesn’t make it so. In fact it really means nothing, other than you can replicate their effort. There are a multitude of reasons that go into what makes something better or worse than another. The thought, the care, the circumstance, the intelligence, even the ability of anyone else to see it. Maybe it’s not authority or expertise I’m so leery of at all – it’s people who never question or identify what makes one thing better or worse than another, the ones who have no idea why. Maybe it’s just a part of what defines quality for me…


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