This dinner is not great.
Though I like to think of myself as a decent cook, the reality is that ingredients are capricious, and I’m even more capricious about following recipes. Sometimes I do, measuring with almost-precision and using almost all of the right ingredients. On occasion, when I’m learning to do something new, I glance and a few recipes and then create some kind of amalgam of my own. Most often, I put ingredients out in a pile, and create dinner. It usually works. Tonight, it didn’t.
Tonight, we’re eating tortellini that is only partially cooked. The noodle part is plenty tender, yielding easily to uncover tough, chewy and unpleasant bits of undercooked cheese. Not even to the al dente stage–the defense of all undercookers of pasta–this is just terrible. Coating these half-jerky, half-pasta morsels is something like pesto. But really it’s more like garlic and almonds (because who wants to pay €8 for a bag of pine nuts?), with some basil added for greenness’s sake. It’s just really dry and chewy, this meal. Timmy and I eat it dutifully (with no complaints from him, to his credit, though plenty from me) and then realize that there are at least three servings more of this feast. So, great news.
I was recently talking with a colleague who lamented that she’d added too much rosemary to her stew, causing it to taste more like pine than anything else.
“And I can’t just throw it out,” she sighed. “There’s beef in that stew!”
We don’t necessarily get lots of beef here in Germany, so this is perhaps a more weighty statement in this community than it would be back home, but the sentiment stands. We don’t want to throw something away if it was valuable. A poorly-executed paper snowflake can go in the fire or recycling, but not a whole dinner. I don’t want to give up on something with ingredients so valuable.
Though not a great culinary experience, this tortellini failure is a fantastic metaphor. (Victory! Dinner: Bad. Metaphor: Priceless) I had a professor in college–in a seminar class on Milton’s Paradise Lost–who referred to the Fall as mankind’s “failure of imagination.” Specifically in Adam’s case, it was an inability to imagine his life–let alone the new-created world–without Eve eternally in it. (Yes, I used to have a class in which we would talk about a single epic poem, three times a week, for an entire quarter. College is magic, people.) If the Fall is our failure of imagination, then I believe that this season, the advent of our Savior into the world, is the victory of imagination from our Creator. Rather than throw the freshly-made, horribly-awry creation away, He fixed it.
Of course the metaphor is flawed, like my dinner. Creation didn’t go wrong because of the creator, like my tortellini disaster, but the rebellion of the created themselves. (A closer analogy, perhaps, would be those days when an entire colony of yeast enacts a coup and refuses to rise, for no good reason at all.) Still, when my temptation is to give up and start over, God never went that way. The story Scripture offers, the story that comes to its climactic height with the resurrection, is one of remaking, recreating. The season of Advent reminds me that–like the beef in my friend’s stew or the tortellini that I would later toss into the oven with some extra water–we are valuable, precious, not to be thrown away or “started over.” And that, as we prepare our hearts to celebrate Christ’s birth, is incredibly good news.