Coaching basketball at the professional level, commanding a United Nations peace-keeping mission, and getting kids to eat something for the first time – the latter a category generally construed to mean anything with so much as a splinter of family tree in Kingdom Vegetable, but often including everything not already vetted and approved via previous personal experience (a logical circularity seemingly lost on my own children) – all present management challenges worthy of the cheesy gurus atop airport book store best-seller racks. They also share a fundamental common thread, in that they all depend at least as much on the application of politics as they do of force: The ego out of all proportion to stature, the sheer and petty zealotry, the general perspective of world-as-sandbox… all demand a balance between the firm hand of leadership, the futility of negotiating with toddlers, and the imperative of coming out on top when the final score is tallied.
In seeking out such a balance, I really do try, insofar as there exists a common factor to our family’s 5 discrete sets of capricious preferences (actually, only 4 sets, because I’ll eat just about anything, and my tastes don’t count as capricious, because I’m the one doing the cooking), to engage the kids in the process of building a menu, and one of my favorite, if not uniformly successful, strategies for acquiring homestead rights in the ensuing debate is to shop together at our local farmer’s market: I point out what I like and why, they remind of their favorite stalls, and we eat the various samples as we talk to the farmers who produced them. And we try to let the market dictate the menu, rather than the other way around, because this, too, constitutes bedrock for the proximal cook, the respect for soil and season over cookbook and whim, and I sincerely hope that my kids will grow up with some appreciation for the many connections between fresh and good.
(This thread actually is going somewhere – hopefully to the recipe for the advertised salsa – despite all evidence to the contrary but, as our editor correctly reminds me, I have a tendency to try my readers’ patience. I also have to show up to my day job from time to time. So I’m going to put up the rest of this little missive, including our family assault on the farmer’s market and the ensuing recipe for a damn good corn sauce, in my next post. And, as ever, thanks for your patience.)