The idea came simply and quietly at the usual time- when I was working on something entirely different.
One of our customers asked if we made any Handpies that could meet their lower-than-usual price point. They loved our pies- as did their customers- but the rising costs of ingredients meant that for a lot of our flavors they would have to charge more than they thought their customers would tolerate.
So rather than cut off the pies completely, they asked my owner- who in turn asked me- if we had any recipes that would 1. Be delicious, 2. Be popular with customers at a cafe, and 3. Wouldn’t use too much of our more expensive ingredients so they could be sold at the desired low point.
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but economics and desperation make fantastic midwives. As I went through our recipe books, checked with suppliers to see what ingredients cost what, and started spitballing ideas on our whiteboard (“Pineapple is cheap right now… a pineapple pie? What’s more expensive right now, berries or nuts? What can one person make quickly to reduce labor?”) three ideas from my past and present slammed into each other.
The father of invention had shown up, and it’s name was “Why Not?”
When it comes to our favorite recipes- whether it’s the dishes we make for family or the ones we sell at our businesses- whether or not to share recipes can cause a lot of emotion either way you lean. The same people that have no problem sharing the recipes they created might be a little twitchy about sharing their family’s “secret” meatloaf. That goes double if you are in the business of cooking for others. Why would you want to give away your perfect fried chicken recipe where a competitor could get it? Can we protect our recipes? Should we protect our recipes and keep them secret?
The short answers are “Sorta?” and “Only if you really want to.”
I turned 34 yesterday. 33 was a busy year for me, and I’m doing my best to be okay with that.
I really started trying to deal with issues that’d been stalking me most of my life, and finally named my demons- Depression and Anxiety.
Lately, my body has been complaining about the tolls I exact from it. Working long, busy hours, and relying on exercise as a stress reliever without truly resting is a lot for anyone to ask of the meat robot they’re piloting. Mine has been more than patient, but lately my back and shoulders have been asking me to lay off for a while.
I published my first book at age 32. I have three other manuscripts in progress, and frankly haven’t advanced as much on them in a year as I might have- much less advertised or placed faith in the book I finished that it deserves.
Yes, the world is in the middle of a fucking pandemic that my government is not managing very well. The omnipresent background anxiety has been playing havoc with my own, and what I will tactfully refer to as the recent “appropriate social unrest” makes the act of writing a fraught experience- but pretending it isn’t happening or that it somehow isn’t appropriate would be against my sense of self.
So, on the first full day into my 34th year of life, coinciding with the 244th “birthday” of my country in crisis, I chose one of the most contemplative activities I know.
Since quarantine and stay-home orders have started, more folks have started getting interested in their kitchens. This is great news, especially as I can see how regularly my educational posts get visited.
For example, a friend of mine has been messaging me recently and asking for advice. Not so much on technique, but on equipment. A messy breakup has left him re-stocking his kitchen:
“Matt,what kind of rolling pin do you use? What material?” ”What do you suggest for bakeware? Any specific brands?” ”If I want to make cheesecake, do I REALLY need a springform pan?”
At first, I answered the questions and referenced my blog here. “I’m pretty sure I had a series called ‘Tools of the Trade’ or something.”
”Well, yeah, but you only got as far as knives, and that was five years ago.”
Staying home for an extended period has gotten a pretty wide assortment of interests out of people. Some folks are getting VERY into home exercise, home improvement projects, shaving their heads, or falling down conspiracy theory rabbit holes that Junji Ito would pass on as too twisted.
Most beautiful of all of them, I think, is “I’ve gotall this time at home now, I’m gonna learn to cook and bake better!”