Being Mardi Gras (I typed this last night), I thought it an appropriate time to celebrate something of great importance to us, our family, and friends. There are countless adages, proverbs, and sayings about what it means to be either, and the differences, or sameness they contain. For us, we simply could not be where we are today, without the never-ending support, encouragement, and genuine kindness of those in our lives. I often mention my grandfather, and his inspiring rhetoric, magnetism, and persistence. While it is true that I take certain inspiration from him, no amount of text could contain the constant, consistent, and loving championing my mother has shown me throughout my life. We had rough times, but, more often than not, we made the absolute best of them. We laughed as we watched Mystery Science Theater 3000, and Seinfeld re-runs. She encouraged me in every facet of my expression. Albeit, I am unsure of the quality of my foray into watercolors, “The Toucan”, as it were. If ever I found inspiration in some new craft, experiment, or subject, she was there to drive me to a convention center; for whatever Gemstone-Computer-Metalwork-Botany show had come to our small chunk of life in South Florida. We sought out the best bagels, no mater how far! She did it all by herself, an incredible feat, when I look at our new parentlife, which, by the way, I just trademarked. Despite any typical misgivings one might have, she fully embraced my studies, when I switched from the career-minded International Relations, to “History of Food”, whatever that might be. Now, while Ali is a mother, and I am a father, I think about how we can recreate this magnanimous gesture for Esme. My mom is enamored by her new role as grandmother, despite her generation’s disdain for such a moniker.
Our friends are people who allow us to be ourselves. Friends are those we surround ourselves with in the hope of making each other better, stronger, whole. Ali and I are incredibly fortunate to have stumbled upon a treasure trove of amazing people, which we call our friends.
My friend Justin and his family have known me since I was six-years old, playing a mock-form of racketball with some old wooden paddles and a foam ball. (*We may have broken some things. Sorry, Alan) They have, as a unit, been there for me at every turn, and I would do just about anything for any one of them. Justin once ate an entire pint-jar of my Heirloom Tomato Jam, back in college, one of my very first preserve creations. That, ladies and gentleman, is how you spell, F-R-I-E-N-D. He traveled across the mighty Atlantic to be at my side, while I was at my worst, dumped, alone, in London, miserable. We traveled to exotic lands like the south of France, and Amsterdam. There are countless occasions in which Justin has shown himself to be the most excellent of friends (like when let me sleep in his room for six weeks that summer I was unsure of my future). He is certainly more than that, as an only child, he is my brother.
Brian, wherever you might be in the swamp that is Tallahassee (for those of you living in the rest of the world, Tallahassee is the rather peculiar state capital of Florida, which, is, contrary to popular belief/desire, a formal state in the Union), you are the friend who has seen me through some incredible journeys, and new experiences. We traveled the country together, in his tiny Mazda Protege. (Carlos, he is a 2000 beige-ish model with no hubcaps). We ate new things (like ), we met an amazing Pecan Research Scientist together in the outer realm of Shreveport, LA while trying to conduct a self-guided “tour” a former cotton plantation. Brian and I apprenticed on a farm together in rural Maine, where I garnered some of the agricultural (and other…less important, like how much a turn-of-the-century iron furnace weighs (an unknowable amount), and how many salt-of-the-earth Mainer scrap metal collectors it takes to convince you to help them dig it out of the ground) knowledge I now carry with me. He lived in my roommate’s cats (Gatsby the Catsby) room for most of my senior year of college. During that time, Brian and I ventured into the unknown of foods, and began making wild flavors of preserves. His excitement, helped push me forward.
We made friends where we met ourselves, in Brooklyn, like the amazing sister duo Elsen at who showed the art of Pie-ing* to Ali, where she saw them enter the immense, and deserved success. They threw us an earth-shatteringly awesome baby shower before we moved down to the Triangle: avocado BLT’s + pie + baby = yes!
Since moving down here to the great Old North State, we have already been lucky enough to gain more spectacular friends, like Emily, Lee, Noelle, Scott, Nick & Casey at Duke Campus Farm/Nicholas School/Durhamites who helped us with our very first workshop, and hopefully (many) more to come.
Our friends Sara & Rob will try just about anything we come up with, which is far less expensive than say, paying some sort of “test panel” or other such nonsense. They are now with dog, yay! I think that makes sense, linguistically. Then there’s the people who heard about our jams and what we’re trying to do and were instant supporters. Jill, Nick, Sharon, Kim, Johanna, Andrea… the list is far too long.
At this stage, Ali will very likely tell me that I have written far too much, and that no one will even make it to this point of the post. I shall test her hypothesis on you, however, and just mention one more thing.
Ali is the best thing that has ever happened to my eccentric, fool-hearty, and mercurial self. My words are fleeting dew on the morning grass, and I have no capacity for writing what she makes me feel. I love her with all my heart. She is the most loving, determined, reliable, and ebullient co-captain for this which we call life, I can possibly conceive of. Without her, we probably would not even have a website. I would likely be on the side of the road, largely ungroomed, waving a “unique” vintage sign with my brand scrawled onto it with something both illegible, and too sardonic to be thought of as funny beneath it. We definitely would not have a baby. Right? Yeah, definitely; that movie Junior seemed a bit lacking in the scientific method department.
We is defined as our family, friends, community, and other small-mediumish socially-aware ventures in the ilk of: Fullsteam Brewery, CRUMB, Big Spoon Roasters, Heeks Farm, ECO Organics, SEEDS, Monuts Donuts, Two Pounds Mustard, Perrywinkle Farm, Duke Campus Farm, The Cookery, Respite Cafe, Zely & Ritz, Bread & Butter, and many more blogguers (Yeah, I typed that), and food enthusiasts across the largely western area of the world.
Go call your mom, your best friend, or that egregiously kind freshman-year adviser you had, who still emails you asking how your life is going. And really cares. Tell them, “hey…thanks”.