A very close friend told me the other day an interesting story. It’s about an old Romanian habit, of cutting the margins of the pie. She started like this:
“When I was little, I remember that every time we baked a pie, my mom will lay out the dough in the tray, and then cut the margins of it. I never understood why. The dough could have been made to cover the entire tray equally, so no need for cutting the extras.
So one day I asked her: “Mom, why do we cut the margins of the pie?”. To my surprise, she nodded and gave the most unexpected answer: “Honey, I don’t know. I learned this from my mother. Why don’t you ask her when she visits, next week?”.
And so I did, next time my grandmother came, I asked her upfront, even before saying hello: “Grannie, why do we cut the margins of the pie?”. Grannie was more accustomed with me, so she wasn’t surprised at all by my abrupt approach. She gently nodded and told me: “Honey, I have no idea, better ask you grand-grand mother, because that’s how I learned from her”.
Now, my grand-grand mother wasn’t at her best, as you can imagine. But next time we visited her, in her country side house, I went straight to her and asked: “Gran-grannie, why are we cutting the margins of the pie?”. She immediately stood up, took my hand and took me to her oven. “See, honey, she started, we have a very tiny oven. The pie simply didn’t fit in. So we had to cut the margins a bit. But nowadays, with your fancy, big oven, there’s no need to do this anymore, I reckon”.
The Margins That We Still Cut From The Pie, Instead Of Eating The Whole Thing
As my close friend ended her story, we were both preparing to go outside, for a walk. We both live in Spain, but in different cities, fortunately within the same time zone, so the allowed out times are the same: we can go out between 8PM and 11PM. So, we both went out, while still keeping the conversation open on our phones (something we’ve been doing every day since the emergency state was approved in Spain, but that’s another story). Outside, there were quite a lot of people enjoying their recent privilege (being allowed outside, after 45 days of quarantine, that is) but, to our surprise, there were also people at the balconies, starting to applaud.
During the quarantine, every evening at 8 PM, people will go outside on their balconies and applaud for a few minutes. In the beginning, this was to support the nurses and doctors fighting the pandemic, but it slowly melted into a bigger thing. I guess these applauds were also a form of socializing, a form of supporting each other, not only the nurses, some sort of fixed event that will pinch the fluid routine of the quarantine with a hopeful and positive message.
“Are they applauding in your city too?” I asked my friend. “Yes, they are, she nodded, surprised, and I find this strange. Why would they still sit in their balconies and applaud, when they can actually go outside and literally support whoever they want to support right now?”
And then it hit me. Well, this is because this is how they learned it. I know this applauding thing isn’t even remotely as old as the cutting the margins of the pie, it doesn’t span over dozens of years, but the fluidity of time during the quarantine made it seem like it was there for ever. It was something so present in our routine that we took it for granted. This is what we do at 8PM, we go out and applaud.
But the initial reason of this applauding session (which I found quite uplifting in the beginning) wasn’t there anymore. Something else, more useful, could have been done instead of applauding. Like going out for a walk, seeing and talking to real people.
Suddenly, applauding became so empty and meaningless.
And this is happening so much, in so many areas of our lives. We keep doing things that were once required, but now they aren’t anymore. We succumb to patterns, auto-pilot activities or habits that we implemented sometimes in the past, without realizing if they’re still required. Without understanding if we really need to do this, or it’s time to move forward.
Cutting the margins of the pie was the wise thing to do back when the oven was too little. Going out in the balconies and applaud was the right thing to do when we weren’t allowed outside.
But now we have bigger ovens and we’re allowed outside.
As I was strolling along my street in Valencia, I started to talk to my friend about other areas in our lives where we’re still cutting the margins of the pie, instead of, you know, baking the whole damn thing and eating it.
But, like I said, this is another story.