Farmers Markets, Cooking & Narrative Emergence

A collage of six photos of homemade recipes.


I cook like I work. Each week (sometimes several times a week), Farmers Markets pique my curiosity and offer inspiration. Based on the ingredients on offer, I seek emergent menus: how might these combine to produce a flavorful and balanced meal? How might these ingredients combine for greatest affect?

On Saturday, the amazing organic vegetable farmer at a local market offered splendid collard greens and beets. Another farmer had bacon. The supermarket offered plump organic chickens. And I recalled a recipe for a smokey beet cornbread… Eureka! A southern-themed dinner, complete with peach and blueberry cobbler.

This synthesis is different than improvisation (that came when the cornbread was paired with fried eggs for breakfast, and the leftover chicken breast with sesame noodles for dinner). This is about allowing a central theme to emerge.

A day earlier, an amazing woman with whom I am working offered stories of her impact, and her foundational values, attributes, and vision. We’ve been gathering these seemingly disparate stories for several weeks, seeking to find an emergent theme. We are weaving elements from the smaller stories into a unified whole that makes sense: the Big Story of Her Work. Epiphany! Scores of stories came together to form one clear narrative.

Now, by reinforcing one narrative, my client is better positioned to establish herself as she desires to be known, and approach her career transition with confidence and exuberance.

I relish new and surprising ingredients — and I delight in discovering new and surprising stories. Both add complexity and nuance. Each trip to a Farmers Market is a creative and cultural journey. Every person offers an unheard story. A rich diversity of ingredients, people, and stories disrupts assumptions and enriches cultural understanding.

Listen appreciatively to ingredients, to people, and to stories. Whether ingredients or events, they can often combine to create meaning. Whether it is a meal or a story, the result of listening is a gift that nourishes.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

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