On making pasta, and other Small Things

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Today, the children and I made pasta, and it was a small thing, really, but also a big deal, as the small things so often are.

It was a big deal because I had been ill and it was the first time I had been able to summon the energy for such a task. And because my boy had been ill and it was the first thing I had found that drew him away from the sofa and the screen. And because my daughter and I have been doing the hard work of getting clear about some boundaries and we so desperately needed some joyful, gentle connection. And because food has been hard for all of us lately. And because, for our family, all the big, “fun” activities others jump into over the holidays can quickly become overwhelming, intense and difficult. Because we have to retreat home so often, gather the children close, and practise calm, quiet, homely pursuits, rejecting the more adventurous ones. Yes, pasta making today was a big deal for all these reasons, and others, too.

As I checked the recipe books, I travelled, and felt again a little of the Mediterranean sun, the decadence of being on holiday, the colours and flavours of Italy.

The children shared out the eggs to crack: our son likes the blue ones, our daughter the brown. We had been out to the hens to collect them, and as the dough formed, we admired its yellow colour, surely helped by the freshness of the eggs.

They loved the kneading and we laughed at all the noises they made as they pounded and pulled and karate-chopped the dough.

And my daughter took some spare dough and played contentedly alongside my son and I as we set up the pasta machine. She pottered about in her toy kitchen and cut heart shapes and rolled and moulded and pretend-cooked pancakes and fed her baby dolls.

And my son took the pasta machine parts out of the box and carefully put them together and then, side by side, we began rolling the dough through the machine. Happily. And I could see the dough was perfect: stretchy enough, thin enough, just slightly translucent, with that lovely colour from the fresh eggs.

And we hung it and dried it and after the children had gone off to other things, I sat quietly and filled it with cheese and fragrant basil and ham and spinach, carefully pinching together the sides. As the plate filled with little ravioli parcels, I thought what a satisfying task it was.

Small moments like this feel all the more “big” in the context of the harder parts of life. My daughter watches a lot of families on YouTube, and their lives are so beautiful, so charmed, so adventurous. Sometimes I think we are both a little wistful as we watch them. But a friend reminded me this week that it’s in the tougher times (and, I would add, the ordinary times) that we get to prove what family means to us, and to learn the precious lesson that although life can throw us challenges, we can come through them together.

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