Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy Days

Finally the day has arrived! With blessings from the State of New Jersey, I began producing dry flour blend last week. It now is just a matter of days until I have enough inventory to start selling and shipping.

  Standing at my stainless steel prep table and bopping to old Gretchen Wilson tunes, I’m happier than I’ve been at work for years. Everything about the moment reminds me of the time immediately after graduate school, when I worked 12 hours a day in the darkroom. Now, as then, I’m on a trajectory of converting discoveries into tangibles. The difference being that everyone can consume today’s tangibles. They’re not just designed for art collectors. 

It is immensely gratifying to embrace the work that’s taken a lifetime to discover. While it would be tempting to regret the years doing other things, it would also be a mistake. Everything counts: the botany my mother taught me, my father’s political analyses, the science I studied in high school and thought I’d pursue as a career until math beat me up, the ways I messed up as an undergraduate, the art I made, the art career at which I did not succeed, the years of teaching, the celiac disease that laid me low.

Sometimes my body wishes I’d reached this work sooner. Lifting an 88-pound sack of flour or crawling hands-and-knees on a concrete floor to vacuum up debris truly is better work for 20-somethings. But I’m proud to still be able to do it, even if it hurts the next day. I guess it’s safe to say that a life of adventure sports also counts. Being able to climb 5.9, skate pre-bronze, and tele-ski double diamonds, while not stupendous accomplishments, have left me with the strength and agility to bounce back from most insults.

But the purpose of today’s posting is not to brag; it’s to celebrate and acknowledge. A point has been reached in a cycle, and the next spin of the wheel is bound to be interesting. 

 I must say I did not get here alone. I truly am standing on the backs of others, from my government - which created the roads I travel on, the sewers and water supply I need, and the tax structures and food regulations which keep me and my consumers safe - to the consultants, partners and friends who’ve supported and advised and helped so much. My wife Leslie Bryan deserves special praise. It was her suggestion that I “Do something with that baking talent after you retire” that got me on this track. Her constant encouragement in the kitchen and at the dining table keeps me going. My friend Paul Sadowski also deserves praise. Paul suggested I make a bake-at-home product, which prompted me to develop the bread-in-a-bag technology I use today.

I know I’ll miss some deserving names, but I have to do this. Public thanks extend to my business partner TJ Fontenette and his wife Vanette. Their insight and acumen were crucial to the launch of this project. Their children are my biggest fans, too. Jan Kahn of Godiva Chocolates contributed terrific early advice, as did retired baker Frank Kitchens. Although she does not know it, cookbook author and GF guru Annalise Roberts contributed hugely. So did the late Bette Hagman. Same goes for Dee of Dee’s One Smart Cookies; chef Rebecca Riley; bread-maker and sourdough advocate Sharon Kane; great friends Betsy and Gary Ford; in-laws Bob and Ann Bryan (a BIG special Thank You for your extreme generosity); chef Arlene Jacobs; author Eugenia Bone; logo designer Andrea Rinaldi; packaging designer Anna Ocón Beltrán; all my honest (and some dishonest!) taste-testers; friends who put up with early versions of “bread”; you my gentle readers; and the dozens of email responders, scientific article-writers, librarians, bakers, telephone-answerers and bookstore clerks who put up with the slightly crazed researcher who is me. 

Dessert = Gut. 
Alas I’m not posting any recipes today. It’s not that I’m too busy to make dessert (that would be inexcusable!), it’s just that I want to get this News and Thank-You out. And, maybe, take a little breather from dessert: I had a friend over for dinner the other night and between us we polished off a dozen micro-pies. Translation: I need to spend an hour this afternoon in the pool, not with a rolling pin. Stay tuned, however - I want to make some deconstructed things. Apples are flooding the markets, and this also is the season for hot chocolate. I’m thinking upside-down apple pie (crust-filled apples in a bowl), and cookies made with cocoa instead of flour and “chunked” with pieces of puff-pastry. All in small sizes for families like mine.

See you next post - and don’t forget to check my website and sign up for my newsletter.

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