Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Night Kitchen or How the Internet Can Teach You Everything

my Night Kitchen (apologies to Maurice Sendak)
I've sort of done it all, job-wise: education, non-profit, healthcare, nannying, retail, professional studenting, administration, secretarial.  Nothing was really my cup of tea, and I was always off chasing some artistic rainbow in the sky, like starting a theater company or getting an MFA at clown school. (Not. Kidding.)  I moved to Virginia 3 years ago on a similar whim, basically to start a band with my best friend.  Ah, the foolish ramblings of a young adult (nevermind that I was 28 at the time). But something aligned: in the first 6 weeks in Virginia, The Don't Tell Darlings played our first show and I met my now husband on the contra dance floor.  I moved to Virginia with the puppy-like excitement I feel about all new things. Because I am a puppy. Or, you know, my soul is a puppy. Whatever. I'm easily excited (sometimes to the deep annoyance of my husband, who was born an eighty year-old man.)

But oh the woes of the job hunt! I was burnt out on non-profit work, not a great teacher, and struggling to find a position that was higher than an unpaid internship, but lower than Executive Director.  Meanwhile, I was in my kitchen. Because that's where I spend 80% of my day and night.  I'd always loved to cook, but during those years of relative sloth (under-employment, unemployment, lame employment), my kitchen reminded me of my power to Make Things Happen. That I can add flour and water together, and by doing a little ACTUAL WORK, I can turn it into something that will nourish people I love.  I began to read books, food chemistry texts, blogs, magazines, podcasts. I tried my hand at making sourdough, yogurt, experimenting with cheeses, moonlighting at canning and preserving.  I didn't know how to do these things, but the information was there.  Uh, the INTERNET folks? Seriously, you can learn ANYTHING on that series of tubes. The handmade/homemade revolution is just there for the taking.  And so I took and took and took. I was a subversive domestic, stealthy in the night in my kitchen. And it was delicious. (Most of the time. Don't ask about the skillet cake.)

Now its 2011, and the Don't Tell Darlings are releasing our second CD, I'm married and living in Richmond, and as Millie my bandmate puts it, I'm generally learning to suck at harder things.  Not too shabby for a 30-something who doesn't know what the hell kind of career she wants.  In any case, moving to Richmond meant finding a job to support our wee family.  After a series of epic job interviews and weird circumstances, I went down one afternoon to our pick-up location for our CSA share with Horse & Buggy Produce, and starting chatting with the owner, Brett. I mentioned how great it was that even though we'd just moved an hour down the road, we could get our produce in Richmond and keep our share.  He said he wished that he had more business in Richmond. I said that if he ever needed somebody to work on that, well, I was unemployed. He said, "No, I'm serious, I would really love for someone to work on this." And I said, "No, I'm serious, I'm actually unemployed and interested." We sort of said that back and forth for 15 minutes or so, and finally scheduled a meeting.

This year's tomatoes from Horse & Buggy
It was a match.  A weird, coincidental, totally random meeting. And now, I'm growing Horse & Buggy's business, a service that I'm super-passionate about, and spending my days thinking about food and how to get our incredible food to more people. I'm thinking about cooking and preservation classes, apple tastings, community gatherings, in-home catering and dinners cooked for strangers in their own homes.  I'm watching my cooking even more closely, analyzing my successes and failures, and taking notes for when I cook for others.  I'm brainstorming new things to do with corn when its the 4th week in a row we've gotten it.  I'm driving my husband crazy by picking apart (both figuratively AND literally) the fish that I made last night. When I mentioned my new position to a few friends, the said "Wow, that sounds like the PERFECT job for you."  Huh.

Sometimes it takes a universal smack on the head to know when you've just hit the big time.

So, now you're filled in.  That's my story of arrival, plunging into the night kitchen. How did you come to love food? What keeps you there in the wee hours when you have to get up early the next morning? What was your journey to the kitchen?


  1. Sounds amazing Megan! congrats on the new business!

  2. Excuse me, but your husband is definitely a puppy. Or at least he was on my watch. If he was born an 80-year-old man, where does that leave his brother and sister?

    Also: cheese corn. I'm sure you could gussy it up. Or not.

  3. Cheese corn? I don't know what to say. In Illinois, we call that sacrilege.

  4. I like how the pic of your tomatoes is on your washing machine.

  5. Congratulations! This sounds wonderful!