The road to tolerance has many detours

Tolerance is a value that I aspire to, and a value I want my children to have. I know that this is not everyone’s cup of tea….their mug of coffee, their stein of beer.

I would love to be Right. All the time. Right job, right country, right political party, right religion, right lifestyle. When I meet someone who has surety in all of the above—or even any of the above–I envy it.  To be so solid in one’s beliefs!

In practice, I’ve found that things are rarely so black and white. The situations in which I’ve been most sure while looking from my point of view only have so often evolved into a different picture when I’ve been forced to look at them through someone else’s eyes. I don’t reference even the big, important points of view like religion or politics, but the small ones. A different team at work who uses a service my team provides. We are so sure that they don’t have their act together until a joint conversation helps us understand: yeah, there were things we did to cause or escalate the problem. “Why on earth did Person X  engage in Bad Act Y?” I asked myself one day (with much greater specificity in my Xs and Ys.). Then I talked to Person X. Person X was able to easily convince me that Bad Act Y was the best possible option of the very limited options available.

If I can be so wrong on the little things, chances are good that a better outcome would occur if we considered an alternative point of view on the Big Things.

The Gooner Triumphal Feast, where we eat a dish from the country of Arsenal’s man of the match on the day of a win, exists for many reasons. It is a means of taking a full-day victory lap. Of trying something new. But it is also to understand a different culture, to see things from a different point of view. You are what you eat, or so they say.  Let us “be” them for an evening.

The price of the democratic way of life is a growing appreciation of people’s differences, not merely as tolerable, but as the essence of a rich and rewarding human experience.

Jerome Nathanson

On several occasions, we have been stretched by the exercise. The Czech roast we made, for example. There was a reason that cut of meat cost less than $3, but the preparation of the roast made it very delicious on the night it was first served. It was only when faced with leftovers that I understood how little meat was involved, and how much was fat. Once I dutifully removed the fat to use the rest in another way, it just didn’t taste anywhere the same. Who normally eats and is grateful for such a cut of meat? Does it always find a buyer or is it one of many parts of the animal that often go to waste as we—I—become more and more spoiled.

On other occasions, what strikes us in the Gooner Triumphal Feast is how similar all cultures are and how hard it is sometimes to find something we don’t already eat with great regularity. How the dish we ate the previous week from Spain is very similar to the dish we might eat the next week from Chile.

Arsenal won its match against Bournemouth Sunday, 0-2.  It had been a while since we scored a goal, but once the spell was broken by Mesut Ozil in the 23rd minute, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain added a second within two minutes. The Ox is a man who needed a goal. It was far from a great game, but Arsenal showed us a little something different, including sitting back and inviting attack. We parked a bus for some of the time, quite a small bus it must be said. Bournemouth had plenty of shots on goal, but most of them quite a ways out. Petr Cech handled them, when he had to, with little drama. (She says, hoping her family doesn’t share the shrieks and gasps emitted during the second half.)

After the match, you couldn’t have seen a more diverse set of ideas floated about who was the man of the match (Aaron Ramsey, Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain), but it was clear to me that it was Mesut Ozil. He broke the goalless spell with a lovely goal and he had a marvelous match.

Ozil, you will recall, is German.

I set about making Fasnacht Kuechles, a traditional German recipe that is usually made on Shrove Tuesday (today) the day before Ash Wednesday, supposedly to use up leavening in anticipation of Lent. It’s kind of like a donut. I’ve made them only a few times. It’s a typical yeast preparation where most of the time is spent with the dough rising. I was rather unfocused given that it was Super Bowl Sunday, but I mixed up the dough, kneaded it, raised it once, rolled it out and cut it into individual pieces, and raised the dough a second time.

At some point while I was doing this, I was reminded of a time when my son, 9 years old at the time, had been asked by a friend what he thought about Jurgen Klinsmann being named the Men’s US National Team soccer coach. My small son replied “He’s a dirty German.” I was appalled that my son, himself with German blood, would make such a racial slur. (I was preparing for a confrontation with my husband, he of the Polish blood, the maker of comments about “my” racial propensity to invade homelands such as “his” own.)  But the person with whom my son was speaking gently questioned my son to find out what he really meant. My son was saying Jurgen Klinsmann is German. He was saying that, as a player, Jurgen Klinsmann was sometimes dirty. I had jumped to the wrong conclusion and was ready to start World War III.

Nothing says “winner” like fried dough.

Following the second rise of the dough, I was just getting ready to deep fry the cakes when, almost simultaneously, I realized two serious problems with the Triumphal dish.

First, hours ago, I forgot to put the salt that the recipe requires in the dough. After the second rise when the dough was cut into small cakes, it was probably too late unless I wanted to combine it all back together and complete a third and fourth rise. As it was already late in the evening, I fried them, saltless.

Second, I forgot that Ozil is Muslim. Though he may be German, he doesn’t celebrate Lent. Fasnacht Kuechles are just not what he would eat.

Ach! We try so hard to be tolerant, only to fail.

Still, we celebrated Ozil.  Not as he would have himself, but as well as our good intentions allowed.


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