Innocent Authenticity

M.F.K Fisher is one of my most cherished authors.  I found her years ago as I dove into the culinary world.  Her writing paints beautiful pictures of the simplest foods, one such story was how to eat a tangerine all surrounded by WWII.

In An Alphabet for Gourmets, she writes;

I is for Innocence…

There is a great difference in my mind between innocence in this gourmand interpretation, and ignorance.  The one presupposes the other, and yet a truly innocent cook or host is never guilty of the great sin of pretension, while many an ignorant one errs hideously in this direction.

Almost any man who is potentially capable of thus cheating his guests is also incapable of telling the truth to himself and will sneak a quick look into a primer of wine names, for instance, and then pretend that he knew all along to serve red wine with red meat or some such truism.  His lie will betray his basic insecurity.

An innocent, on the other hand, will not bother to pretend any knowledge at all. He will, with a child’s bland happiness, do the most God-awful things with his meals, and manage by some alchemy of warmth and understanding to make any honest gourmet pleased and easy at his table. (Fisher, pg. 623)

As I read this passage, I smile, in fact, seeing others and myself in her writing but, not just in the kitchen preparing for dinner guests.

Dealings with sneaky “gourmands”, pretending to have knowledge or care has affected every individual-of all walks of life and all levels of organizations The inauthenticity which can be found within our professional lives breed distrust, and most assuredly betray the individual’s insecurity.

Conversely, I know you can recall an individual who is authentic through and through.  They may cause minor stresses, admit lack of understanding, need more time to develop and grow but, engaging with them you feel warmth and safety, you can’t help but be drawn to them.

Authentic Leadership is the resounding rally cry for employees, employers, great organizations, and small mom and pop shops.  Bill George in True North Discover Your Authentic Leadership suggests you ask three questions that will keep you authentically leading and away from “sin[s] of pretension.”

1. Why do I want to lead?

2. What do I want to accomplish through my leadership?

3. Do I have a sense of purpose, outside of myself, or am I leading to satisfy my own ego need?

Many people struggle between the desire to serve and help people and the desire in receiving other’s attention.  Having a moral compass, as George suggests, can keep you on track and pull you back if your desires align more so with flexing your ego, rather than giving authentically to those around you.

He had not pretended with me nor tried to impress me...because he wanted me to feel gay and relaxed and well thought of, there in his dear woman’s chair, her radio still blasting her stove still hot. I felt truly grateful, and I too felt innocent. (Fisher, pg. 625)

Authenticity found in our homes and offices will not only create an environment of creativity and growth but also that of gratefulness and innocent discovery.  Where is your desire to lead authentically?

*Authors Note: I hope you’ve enjoyed a different perspective brought about by a culinary author.  I have gleaned lessons from many business leaders in leadership books but, I believe lessons can be found anywhere.  Read more of MFK Fisher, you’ll laugh, smile, shake your head, and learn a bit along the way.

M.F.K. Fisher “An Alphabet For Gourmets.”  The Art of Eating, 1937.

Bill George True North:  Discover Your Authentic Leadership, 2003.

original publish date January 20, 2020

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