As the story continues I suppose it is important to tell the stories of baking and fried chicken and cakes and gardens. I learned to cook early, but it wasn’t from teaching myself. When you grow up on the farm you aren’t around that many kids. I was raised in the kitchens of my aunt and my grandfather. The two shared a big garden behind his house. There was an orchard, an overgrown grape arbor, and rows of seeds in jars on shelves, but for me the most memorable part of it all was the rows of corn with beans growing up in them. Morning glories would weave in and out as the season wore on the the weeds would take over and they’d move on to the late garden, a massive mess of turnips and greens in the front half of the garden. My favorite moments in that garden were when my aunt would be picking beans and filling old enamel buckets. The beans would soon fill the large aluminum pants that she’d sit in the swing and snap. They often times say society is so messed up today because enough people don’t sit around snapping and stringing beans with their families. I would have to agree with whoever they are.
When we weren’t in the garden we were in the kitchen. My family was known for their cooking. I grew up hearing people in town talk about the meals my great grandmother would make for the men that worked on the farm. I grew up going to church dinners and funeral dinners and ice cream socials with my aunt and her cakes or her pies. From red velvet cakes, to pea picking, to italian cream cakes, my aunt would make them all. I would stand on the plastic tan stool beside her at the counter. She would let me add ingredients or mix, or attempt to ice the cakes. My favorite was when we’d make chocolate chip cookies and she’d let me eat the dough. Phebie was right…the recipe on the bag of the chocolate chip bag really is the best.
I have a thing, its likely a weird obsession…but when someone in my family dies, I want their dining table. I want to collect the places were I was the most happy. For me sitting around my aunt’s clawfoot dining table was my happiest. When I was little she married a preacher with a whole slew of a family. I was never shy to invite myself to dinner. Around the table I learned that the idea of community and the bonds that community create are far stronger and far more important than those that families create. That was an idea I wanted to make the corner stone of this business. I have always wanted it to be about community building. Whether that is an appreciation of your roots, your hometown, your current location, or those communities that are create and fostered online like the one we’ve built today. My closest friends today are all ones that I have met through this business. We come together and explore tiny towns, and big cities. We share stories and meals around tables in diners and cafes across the globe. We share successes and failures over coffee in shops that are far more trendy than we’ve ever dreamt of being.
I can assure you—there is a point to these rambling stories of my youth. I wanted to create the brand to be a way to carry on those traditions and the warmth I experienced growing up on the farm and in my tiny town of 300. When we first launched this business in the summer of 2011 I had a manifesto of everything we represented. The focus of that was slowing life down to appreciate the little things in life. It was taking time to drink sweet tea on wide front porches under the shade of grand old oaks. It was about sharing stories of the past and creating memories of the future. It was about airing out that old quilt of your great grandmothers and putting it to use. At the time I didn’t know global adventures would be part of the picture, but today we live in a globalized world. I may spend my week days sitting in a living room in Beaver Dam and may spend the weekend surrounded by friends in Washington DC, or Maine, or Iceland. The ideas and the truths are universal…and I am privileged to get to be the voice behind it all. It’s somewhere between Martha Stewart and Ansel Adams.