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  • Writer's pictureMiguel Fernández

How to season a salad

My father was a semi-literate peasant from Orense, Galicia, Spain, who emigrated around 1930, aged about 19. He left (and arrived) clandestine, like so many others, trying not to get involved in the already predictable Spanish civil war. Troops, both Phalangist and Communist, passed through rural villages recruiting military service age personnel. The news went ahead, the families pooled the “little money” they could and the young man went to the port of Vigo, trying to board the ship he could find. What my father got seems to be going to Buenos Aires but the “little money” was only enough to get to Rio, or he preferred to disembark here and have “the rest” (imagine, pesetas, here at that time!), I never knew for sure . Like other countrymen of his, with a similar history, they were tough, rude, hardworking, persistent people and, although with very little formal education, extremely common sense and lucidity. Even because anyone who wasn't like that I don't think they survived for us to know. My maternal grandmother was another Galician around here in similar circumstances, illiterate in practice, but she came around 2015 looking for opportunities that Europe did not offer. Although with little education, or even because of it, they were people who greatly admired “wisdom”! The “wisdom” possible for them was the aphorisms (“popular sayings”, “popular phrases”, examples), short phrases transmitted verbally. For them, and for many, culture was and is possible.

How many “phrases” did I not hear repeatedly throughout my childhood: · “There is no evil that lasts forever nor good that does not end”, · “Who speaks one language, counts for one, who speaks two, counts for two, who speaks three, counts for three...” · “I always lied, the day the matter was serious, no one believed it...” · “those who talk a lot say a lot of nonsense” · “a word is worth one gold, a silence two golds” · “the secret is the soul of the business” · “loyalty is key” · “A lot helps those who don’t get in the way” · "The early bird catches the worm..." · “good accounts make good friends” Anyway, they are more or less common, simplifying phrases, considered “wise”, often used in “preaching”, in speeches, indoctrinations, in political or religious catechesis.

But there is an "aphorism" that Dad told me a few times, always falling wonderfully to what he meant, that I've never heard in any other source and that I want to share here because I think it's genius: “TO SEASON A SALAD YOU NEED THREE PEOPLE”. And shut up. I expected to ask “_why?”. Then he explained: _One for the vinegar, another for the oil and finally another for the salt. And I asked again: _ why can't it be just one person doing all three things?

him: for the salad to be well seasoned, three people are needed because: · one has to be economical (avaricious, tight-fisted, authoritarian?) to put the vinegar, · one must be generous (open-handed, wasteful?) to put the oil and · a person must be balanced (fair, not factious?) to put the salt.

And, concluding with a sly “gotcha” look:

Since no one has even two of these characteristics at the same time, it takes three people.

In how many episodes do we want complex issues or that require different skills to be well resolved by a single person or a single group? Most ourselves. We are not aware of this detail. It's a lesson in wisdom. Aware that the world, both on the macro and micro levels, personal or professional, is always a salad that, in order to be well seasoned, must not be acted alone or accompanied by just one type of person or a single point of view or posture. And don't come at me with the politically correct: for things to happen, it is necessary to be kind, democratic, diplomatic, but without the rude (some even rude), the objective, the focused, those who think about future generations and not just the immediacy, without these you won't go anywhere either. Wisdom is looking for the “mix” you need, which is impossible to achieve with just one faction or person.

Miguel Fernández y Fernández, consulting engineer and columnist, 2019jun10

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