A tribute to MFK Fisher
My tween age son has the habit of answering “I don’t mind” to most parental questions. So do his friends. We recently had one over for a spot of lunch. I asked him if he wanted second helpings – the boy seems to be growing by the minute, he must be hungry! “I don’t mind,” he answered.
“I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand what you mean by that,” I said.
“Uh, well, I don’t really mind, you know?”
Oh, was this meant to clarify things? I hung in there. “So is this a yes or a no kind of not minding?”
“MUUUUUUM, you are embarrassing him! He doesn’t mind!”
I will spare you the follow up to this clumsy exchange. Suffice to say that lunch was swiftly terminated by two fleeing boys, one (my tween age son) looking for a a hole to jump in, and the other (the easy going chappy) still hungry or again full – we will never know.
Unfortunately this wasn’t a rare example of “not minding”. It was one of many and I was beginning to despair. What should I do about this seemingly un-bothered generation of children?
Thankfully a newly discovered Californian food writer has come to my rescue. In Love in a dish and other pieces Melanie Frances Kennedy (MFK) Fisher recounts the anecdote of her first Coast to Coast travel experience with her Uncle Evans. Sat in the train’s dining-car, the 19 year old Fisher is asked by her uncle which omelette she would rather order, whether with wild asparagus or fresh mushrooms. Her answer rings close to my ears: “I really don’t care,” she said, something which didn’t go down well with Uncle Evans. He delivered a most eloquent tirade:
“You should never say that again, dear girl. It is stupid, which you are not. It implies that the attentions of your host are basically wasted on you. So make up your mind before you open your mouth. Let him believe, even if it is a lie, that you would infinitely prefer the exotic wild asparagus to the banal mushrooms, or vice versa. Let him feel that it matters to you…and even that he does!”
I will make a note of these wise words, which left a lasting impression on young MFK Fisher, and I will recite them at any future instance of my son and his friends “not minding”. Tween age son will hate me for it, but his friends’ mothers won’t, of this I am positive, and the world will be full of gentlemen in the making, well mannered, attentive and honest!
A big thank you from the bottom of my heart goes to our own Jilanne Hoffmann, (www.JilanneHoffmann.com) who recommended MFK Fisher’s books to me only a few days ago. Wonderful reading tip, Jilanne, thanks!
Do your children “mind” or “not mind”? As always, I will love to hear from you.
All the best,