Small Disappointments

This is my column for the December 23 Chatham Record. Don't like using one writing source to fuel another, buy hey, we aren't all lucky enough to get the Chatham Record, so I thought I'd post this.

My life has been overcome with joyful occurrences as of late.

After my trip to Italy and the onset of the Christmas season my boyfriend surprised me when I was truly least expecting it and we are now engaged.

We happily called family and friends to tell them the news. This went on for a couple days until there was no one left to call and we finally had some peace.

I could regale you with the more precious moments, try to pluck a few heartstrings, but to be honest, I’d rather talk about the tortellini.

The tortellini we discovered while on our vacation is called cappelacci di zucca and means squash-filled hats.

I found a recipe in my Mario Batali cookbook Simple Italian Food and decided to make it for friends coming over that Saturday night. “Simple” is not a word I’d use after the experience.

Using an ancient pasta maker my mother had given me years ago (no doubt she’d grown tired of the thousands of hours making homemade pasta takes) I rolled out thin layers of dough from setting one to two to three and so on until I reached setting six and held my breath as the paper-thin dough escaped the metal grasp of the pasta machine, hopefully, without holes.

You can’t fill up pasta with anything if there are holes. Lesson one.

Each little square I cut so carefully using my sharpest knife and never quite measuring up to the three by three inch prototype set out for me by Mario had to be filled with the squash mixture, then folded not once but twice using intense precision and tiny sprays of water for adhesive. Lesson two: no patience, no homemade pasta.

When I’d finally crafted three suitable little hats, I boiled them for the short time required, and performed a taste test.

My creation was not beyond edible, but certainly not good, or tasty, or any other desirable adjective.

I tried several more times, painstakingly forming the triangles, and attempting to get the filling just right, but each time my attempts were met with, again, not failure, but certainly not success.

Lesson three, at least in my book, was: give up.

I was ridiculously dejected after this process. I knew, of course, it didn’t measure up to true tragedy – it was more on the level of a failed Christmas shopping trip to the mall, coming home empty-handed – but weren’t things supposed to flow with ease now? Wasn’t I engaged and happy? Weren’t friends coming over to celebrate? Shouldn’t my squash-filled hats be perfect?

I sat on that bleak Friday afternoon in the solitude and quiet of my kitchen, flour dusting the floor and my dogs’ noses, before realizing the positive response to the first two questions, and the absurdity of the third one.

Cheese and crackers, I thought, will be just fine, and with that, decided this season, especially lately, deserves more than ruminating on the small disappointments.