Should I De-Bone the Anchovies? And Other Questions You Don't Know Who to Ask.

olives, anchovies, and garlic… just a typical Thursday night.

olives, anchovies, and garlic… just a typical Thursday night.

I haven’t done a lot of cooking in the last few months. I struggled to find the energy and time between work and graduate school; and since both of my roommates are fairly accomplished as home cooks, the pressure to make a “nice meal” was pretty minimal. And then with a week away from home for work and the holidays, this week has been one of the first real opportunities I have had in months to cook an honest meal - as I said, I have been eating just fine, thank you. I made tomato soup the other night, from The Pioneer Woman’s Dinnertime cookbook. But this recipe caught my eye and called out to me… the perfect recipe for making on a chilly night when time is a bit more available and stress is low… Pasta Puttanesca.

If you aren’t familiar with it, Puttanesca sauce is flavored with olives and anchovies, cooked down in onions, wine, and broth. It’s a salty, briny delight (if you like that sort of thing). But the preparation of this meal gave me the opportunity to ponder, are you supposed to pull those tiny, translucent bones out of the anchovy filets? When I opened the yellow tin and saw the filets, I was pretty sure I wanted to remove some of the more obvious bones, although that task wasn’t quite as easy as it seemed. I pulled and failed to grasp several times before managing to remove a bone, repeating until all of the fish has been looked over and cleaned up. As I stood at my kitchen sink, twinkle lights and wine adding to the warmth of the night, it came to me: Was this even necessary? Surely I wouldn’t die if I diced up the filets and threw them in the sauce, bones and all? Which was the correct way of thinking about these teeny, tiny fish? Someone, somewhere had to know. And yet… I kept pulling at the tiny, tiny bones.

I could get really philosophical and deep about the need for community and mentoring. As human beings we will always encounter questions that we just can’t grasp the answer to… or perhaps just struggle to interpret all of the results of our Google search. And as Christians, it is vial to our growth to live in community with other believers and learn from those who are mature in the faith. But frankly, I’m struck by how I all too often edit my own questions, failing to allow vulnerability to creep through into my relationships as I wrestle. Maybe anchovy bones weren’t the biggest issue I faced today (they weren’t) but the fishy taste has me searching for something more… something akin to trust.

Asking questions isn’t a terribly scary thing when you are two - the entire world is a question. My friends who parent beautiful and bright-eyed children wrestle with how to keep their own sanity while navigating the barrage of questions from their toddlers who just want to understand every last thing about the world in which they live. But somewhere between two and twenty it seems as though we lose the ability to ask questions. Oh… is it just me?

I don’t mean the polite social questions of “Do you have the time?” But the big, earthy, scary questions. Who am I? What am I doing here in the world? Do I de-bone the anchovies or am I just wasting my fine motor skills and time? The question isn’t the point, necessarily. There’s an implicit amount of vulnerability that comes with asking a question: “I don’t know the answer and I am willing to risk seeming like a fool to receive your wisdom.” It’s a risk of vulnerability to find out that yes, in the end, I was wasting my time by pulling out the bones… after Googling the question… apparently, the bones actually dissolve in the heat on the stove. But if you have some knowledge to the contrary, let me know. I’m willing to learn.