I have felt a rant coming on all day; in fact I knew I would have to write about what I saw Sunday at the Gainesville market when I saw it. I felt as I would have if I had seen a mother hit her child in public, and even though the incident I saw was not nearly so traumatic, it may very likely have a lasting effect.
In brief, there was a mother at the market that morning with her two little boys, about four and six years old. The boys were eying cherries on Max Tyson’s table, and I felt at the time that Max was very close to letting them know that it was fine for them to have one right then and there. But before he could offer, their mother walked up and said, “You all don’t like cherries. We’ll come back when the peaches come in.” They looked so bewildered that I felt sorry for them.
The perturbment then set in. Since most of us who have raised children know that a child’s taste buds can change from week to week — as well as his or her sense of adventure and risk when it comes to food — I would like to think that we could also use that knowledge to let the children take advantage of the sampling opportunities at our markets.
Especially when we have produce vendors such as Max Tyson and Chester Hess, who set up tables with every kind of peach and plum and nectarine and tomato — not just for the adults to sample, but for the children to try things they may never have eaten before.
I know from almost ten years of working at markets that children left to their own senses of smell and their own delight in the colors and textures of the fruits and vegetables will try just about anything if given the freedom to do so. I will always remember my favorite twins from years ago who would eat a couple of boxes of berries while their mother was standing in line. I took it upon myself not only to look after them but to let her know what to add to her purchases.
There was also the day that Lukie picked up a jalapeno pepper and took a bite out of it! His eyes got really big and he grimaced a little as he carefully returned the uneaten portion to the basket — and then looked at me as if to ask, “What happened?” But he did not cry and he was not deterred. Today I have no doubt that he and his twin sister, Charlotte, will still try anything and like most of it.
So please feel free to let your children lead you through the market and ask them to pick out what looks good to them. And while we encourage you to let them try whatever they would like, we also ask that once those tasting tables are out there for your pleasure and edification, please supervise them, too. Max Jr. and Sr. already spend half their time cutting samples, but to have to toss an entire plate because a child has grabbed at it with his hands or replace a full plate of samples because one child has wolfed down all of them does cause them to wonder sometimes why they devote so much time and effort to helping you learn what you like best.
After the incident that got me going Sunday I was talking about it with one of our vendors who is also the mother of two boys, and she had another tale worth repeating. Since her boys were young, when they shop they have always selected at least three fruit varieties to get them through the week, with each child selecting a favorite. The family then has fruit for breakfast every morning and again later in the day for snacks or even dessert. But the children always have the honor of picking what they want that week. So no one is telling them what they like or do not like — they choose. I often wonder where kids would lead us if we let them.
See you at the market!
Photo by Bruce Tuten