Collards, tomatoes, olives, and pecans and THE ORDINARY MANIFESTO

Collards, olives, and pecans

Today marks the one-year anniversary of this blog! Our little Ordinary is growing up. I’ve rambled on from week to week, with no apparent purpose or direction. Sometime over the summer, on a warm, golden, unplanned day, the kind it hurts to think about now that it’s getting cold and every moment is scheduled, I sat beside a creek watching my boys catch water bugs. I thought about The Ordinary, and I realized that it has a pattern and a purpose. I’ve been struggling to define it in my head, but I think I do actually have a hidden agenda, and it all stems from the idea of ordinariness. I’d like to celbrate the ordinary, and the day-to-day, and to say that ordinary things, well-done and well-observed, take on beauty and value. When I realized this, in the summer, I got very excited like a little kid, and thought about writing a manifesto (which is something I would have done as a child). And then, like a little kid, I got distracted, and other concerns took over. But on this, the auspicious occasion of our one-year anniversary, I’d like to attempt to collect my addled thoughts in…


* We believe, as the Specials say, that nobody is special, which means that everybody is. Everybody is strange and surprising and capable of remarkable things.

* We believe that there’s great value in just being alive, staying alive, and keeping the ones you love alive, if you notice everything and question everything as you move through life.

* I joke a lot about championing mediocrity and lack of ambition, but I’m speaking of those things as they relate to our current definition of success. We believe that the way we define success, and the achievements that we value and reward in our society are skewed. Compassion, kindness and imagination deserve more recognition than wealth, fame, or salesmanship, and are worth passionately pursuing.

* We believe that there’s value in all jobs, if they’re done with love and care, and …

* … We believe that this includes the job of caring for a home and raising children. It’s a cliché to say that this is the hardest or most important job, but there is some truth to that old chestnut. Nobody should be criticized for maintaining a career outside the home while they raise children, but nobody should be deemed a failure if they decide to put that career on hold. We realize that it can seem like the most ordinary job at times, in its relentless everyday-ness, so it is important to notice everything, and to approach it with creativity.

* We believe that creativity is valuable – for each person and for all people in a society. This is true on a large scale – in the creation of books and films and music, (and the reception of those things), but it is true on the small scale of the ordinary as well. Day-to-day life can be elevated by the application of imagination and observation. Preparing meals, for instance, which seems like a tedious chore to many, can become a source of joy as well as sustenance. In all creative endeavors, as in life, soul, grace, and honesty are more important than cleverness or talent.

* We believe there’s great beauty in simple things, if they’re well-seasoned. This is true in art and food and life.

* We believe there’s beauty in economy – in using every part of something – in having what you need and using what you have.

* We believe there’s beauty in the every day – in things that you do every day. There’s beauty in the rhythm and the pattern and the expected, and in the times that the pattern changes, even for a moment, which can make you step outside of your expectations and seem very perfect.

* We believe that there’s beauty in art that celebrates the ordinary, and in ordinary life lived as art. When something is captured and observed, when it is noticed, it can become important.

* We believe it’s important to find balance in your life – to find a way that you’re comfortable taking things from the world and giving them back to the world.

So that’s it, for now! These observations are subject to change and open to discussion!!

Collards, tomatoes, olives and pecans might seem like a simple dish with which to celebrate The Ordinary’s birthday, but I think it’s perfect. It’s made of fairly humble foods, but it’s one of my favorite things I’ve made in some time. It uses vegetables we’ve gotten from the farm, it’s very simply seasoned, but it turned out to have such a nice combination of flavors and textures. Sweet, spicy, salty, acidic, and soft and crunchy, all at the same time. It was a very delightful surprise.

Here’s a short list of ONE songs, to mark the occasion.

1 medium-sized bunch collards, washed, spiny stems removed
1 T olive oil
1 clove garlic – minced
1 t black mustard seeds
1 t nigella seeds
2 or 3 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
1/2 cup olives (I used kalamata) pitted and roughly chopped
cayenne to taste
salt & black pepper
1/3 cup chopped toasted pecans

Boil a large pot of salted water. Drop the collards in and cook 20 to 25 minutes, till quite soft. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain. Roughly chop.

Cut the tops off the tomatoes, gently squeeze the seeds out, and cut a small X in the bottoms. Drop them in the collard cooking water for less than a minute, till the skins are puckered. Remove and drain. When they’re cool enough to handle, peel them and roughly chop them.

Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, mustard seeds and nigella seeds. When the garlic starts to brown and the mustard seeds start to pop (after about a minute), add the tomatoes. Stir till they’re well coated. Add the olives, collards, cayenne and about 1/4 cup of water. Reduce heat to low, and cook till the collards are very soft, and the tomatoes are almost like a paste – about half an hour. Add a tablespoon of water to the pan as necessary to keep it from drying out.

Season well with salt and pepper, move to a pretty bowl, and scatter the pecans over the top.


6 thoughts on “Collards, tomatoes, olives, and pecans and THE ORDINARY MANIFESTO

  1. Claire, congratulations! I love this blog, I love your stories, and I love your recipes (which I really need to start trying, because they all look delicious). I’m always psyched when an email alert pops up with a new post from here. You make the ordinary very special indeed.

  2. Happy Anniversary to The Ordinary!

    Hail to Compassion, Kindness, and Imagination!

    Love your manifesto which got me thinking a lot, especially about the word Career.

    In youth when, I first heard the word, career, another word came: Anxiety. The physical reaction was a tummy ache.

    Some people have jobs rather than careers. I was one of those. Jobs paid the rent, helped me grow-up, brought on new experiences, new friends, and sometimes, new places. My father, grandmothers, grandfathers, mother…. had jobs. Jobs were not passion or career. One pursued interests after work. I concluded, it’s OK to just have a job. Be responsible.

    What’s not OK is to abandon our loves and passions. No matter how our jobs may weigh us down and take a large slice of our life, we must find a way to keep our wonder years alive. Dance, Art, Writing,Horses, Dogs, Clouds, Soccer, Baseball, Fashion, Entomology…We don’t have to be pros to keep what was always ours.

    After reading your Manifesto, I decided to face the word Career, so I opened my dictionary and looked it up. One of the definitions is the one we think of today as a professional career. But there was another, ” a course or a passage”. Hmmm. Perhaps, my family and I have had careers, after all.

    Then there was another word, Careerism from the 1930s, but that’s a word for another time.

    I’ll leave you with this that I committed to memory some years ago because I liked it….

    Shakespeare’s Benedick:

    “Shall Quips and Sentences and these Paper Bullets of the Brain awe a Man from the Career of his Humor? NO!!! The world must be peopled.”

    • Thanks for the beautiful, thoughtful response! I’ve always wanted a career, but ended up with jobs. It’s one of those words that seems to be defined by money – it’s a career if you make money doing it – but maybe it shouldn’t be defined that way!

    • Thanks for your beautiful, thoughtful response. I’ve always wanted a career, but ended up with jobs. It’s one of those words that seems to be defined by money – it’s a career if you make money doing it. But maybe it shouldn’t be defined that way.

  3. Happy anniversary! Your manifesto is inspiring and thought-provoking. In fact, so many of your blog posts just make me think a little bit more about ‘stuff’. And I like that, so thank you.
    I definitely agree with Yan Jing’s Family that “we must find a way to keep our wonder years alive”…love that phrase!

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