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Patience, Pride, and Pasta


Editor’s note: DC Service Corps Volunteer PJ Herrera recounts an adventure he had with homemade pasta and shares the resulting lessons he learned.

The afternoon of January 1st started off about as well as an afternoon can. Alessia, Sam, and I had just returned from the Basilica, where we had gone to Mass. After walking in the door, I immediately went to the kitchen to make pasta sauce, so that it could simmer for a few hours until dinner. Then we all went into the family room and attempted to read, quickly succumbing to the warmth of couches as we fell into our naps. At 5:30, after waking up from our peaceful slumber, I got my new pasta machine out and started to make dough while Alessia finished up some garlic mozzarella bread (which was bomb-diggity). Everything was going well so far and I thought it would only take an hour to finish up all the cooking, getting us to the table at 6:30. I mean, all I had to do is make the dough, pass it through the machine a few times to thin it out, then cut it and throw it in the water to cook for a few minutes. Shouldn’t take long at all, right? Right?

WRONG. I was a fool. A FOOL! The pasta making was a hot mess. Altogether, after messing up the dough on my first try, struggling to get it to the right consistency and pass it through the pasta maker, employing Alessia’s help an hour or so in, finally starting to make good sheets, making a disastrous mistake just before being able to cut the sheets into noodles, restarting from the beginning, and finishing at long last, we ate just before 9 PM. Wow. The whole process was exhausting, but the meal that came out as a result was fantastic! Would I say that it justified three hours of work for some pasta? Debatable. But I did notice that there were a few lessons, more like reminders, that I could take away from the ordeal.

First, patience is important, especially with oneself. I was getting very upset with the fact that I couldn’t make something as simple as good pasta dough. Luckily, I’ve had homemade pasta before and knew that once I did get the hang of it, it would be great. How often do I lose sight of my goal right after I hit some trouble? Life is not constant consolation and I have to keep the future in mind, while working and living concretely in the moment.

The next thing I was reminded of is the importance of friends. I struggled on my own for a long time until I asked Alessia for help. From then on, we bounced ideas off each other, helped feed dough into the machine (two pairs of hands made this way easier), and mourned ruined batches together. I can be tempted to think that when I’m going through something difficult, it is best to just keep it to myself and not bother anyone with it. That stands in opposition to the principle of accompaniment that FMS strives to embody. Even if a friend cannot immediately solve your problem or give you advice, they can walk with you through the trial. That company is invaluable and makes everything just a little more bearable.

Finally, I learned that I need to laugh at myself more. When you get flour everywhere, keep making holes in the sheets—holes that shouldn’t be there—and have to redo every step at least twice while getting angry, it is best to just step back for a second, humble yourself, and laugh at it all.

While I was very dramatic in this retelling, I recognize that all we did was make some pasta. It took a long time and was frustrating, though this activity falls rather low on the hierarchy of toil. It is important to note, though, that even pasta can teach lessons in the spiritual life.

Reflection question: What are some ways in which you are being called to be more patience with yourself?

PJ is serving at So Others Might Eat (S.O.M.E.) during his year with DC Service Corps. While in the nation’s capital, he aims to build his professional experience to supplement his Master of Public Health degree from Boston University. PJ also wants to deepen his relationship with Jesus Christ through shared life with his Casa San Salvador community members. Finally, he hopes to continue his vocation discernment during this year of servant leadership formation. Please pray for PJ!