In our ex-city, there is a shop which sells Indian food. I can’t even remember the name of it, because I know where it is, so why would I need to know the name of the shop?* The point of this is that the shop sold frozen parathas and chapatis, and they were very tasty. They also sold homemade samosas on Fridays and Saturdays, and, even though it was a drive, sometimes I would deviate from whatever errands I was running, to get a couple for the Handsome Sidekick and myself to have for dinner.
But even though the samosas were amazing, it’s the breads we miss. We eat a fair bit of Indian food, so I’ve started experimenting again with making my own Indian bread. I decided to start with naan, since I’ve made it before and it seemed more forgiving than chapatis (it’s thicker, and less likely to stick). Into the depths of the internet I dived, to find a good naan recipe.
I checked out about eight. Most of them were similar. They varied in the number of servings, the resting time, whether they were to be baked in an oven or fried on a hotplate, whether they contained yeast or eggs or salt. So I read through all these recipes, and then took note of the things they had in common, and what I wanted to work with, and created a recipe from that.
As I was kneading out the dough, I started thinking about recipes and how I’m almost compelled to change them, even the first time I make the food. It’s as if I want to rebel at being told how to make something, even though the person who wrote the recipe doubtless had reasons for including or leaving out certain ingredients. Most of the time, though, the recipe can handle some tweaking. Occasionally, such tweaking results in disaster, but not often. There are just a lot ways to get similar results. Plus, I’m cooking for my tastes, and those of my family. I know them, the person writing the recipe did not (and said person is obviously cooking for his/her own tastes, as well).
This seems relevant in the greater scheme of things, because I seem to be coming across the ‘you’re doing it wrong’ sentiment a lot recently. Second Offspring seems to have this particular whinge on replay, when the rules she’s so carefully decided upon don’t seem to mesh with what her siblings want to do. For her, ‘you’re doing it wrong’ basically translates to: ‘you’re doing it a different way to the way I had imagined in my head, which I had decided in advance was ‘right’, and therefore your non-compliance to my rules, which I’ve not necessarily communicated with you, makes me utterly livid’.
At her age, ‘black and white’ is standard point of view. I’m sure that will change in a few years. Until then, she has to bump into opposition regularly, and learn to make compromises. It’s a gradual move towards an emotionally mature person, and one day, I imagine (or hope!) she’ll get there.
She’s not the only one, however. I seem to hear the ‘you’re doing it wrong’ like a mantra, from so many different directions, and in light of Second Offspring’s outbursts at her siblings, it made me wonder why people are so adamant that their view is the right one, and those of others is so wrong? You’re doing your diet wrong (or you’re doing the wrong diet); you’re doing your religion wrong (or you’re following the wrong religion); you’re making that recipe wrong (or you’re using the wrong recipe, and making the wrong food); you’re using ‘wrong’ wrong (when it should be ‘wrongly’)!
Putting aside that there are many ways to get the same result, what is it about knowing we’re ‘right’ which is so satisfying, and why do we need others to accept this, in order to feel justified? Surely, if we have enough confidence in what we believe, it shouldn’t matter what others think? I’m not saying healthy discourse should be discouraged. I’ve enjoyed many a discussion on various topics, where I’ve held a different belief to colleagues or friends, and we’ve still been able to see each other’s points of view, probably because nobody has been insistent on his or her point of view being the only valid one.
Having one’s own ideas challenged is not only a valuable way of reassessing the validity of these ideas, it’s also a method by which to convince people that this is a way fit to emulate. Just yelling the loudest in the hopes it will drown out all others seems like a very five year old approach, which, if Second Offspring’s siblings’ reaction is anything to go by, is fairly ineffective.
It’s true that there are many ways to do something wrong. But telling someone that before they even begin isn’t going to necessarily prevent them from making mistakes. Sometimes, they just need to make mistakes. And then, when they get around to doing it right, it still might not be the way we’d imagined. It’s just important to accept that doing it in some other way does not necessarily equate to ‘wrong’. It means different, and while that might be confronting, it’s probably good for us. Even doing it wrong can sometimes lead to some amazing discoveries, and it can lead to some disastrous meals. Either way, it’s far more interesting than just listening to a one-way-only dictate, and what’s more, it provides opportunity to learn, and discover, and create. Perhaps what’s needed is less of the accusatory ‘you’re doing it wrong’, and more of a congratulatory, ‘you’re doing it!’
*I tend to do this with destinations and directions, a lot. It gets difficult if I have to tell people how to get places. Apparently not everyone navigates via landmarks.