Setting the record straight on my business and its future
Rappahannock is my home. It’s given me a meaningful foundation that I am proud to stand on. My efforts the past three years have been focused on offering my skills back to the community, working as the baker and chocolatier of Wholehearted Health Foods. This experience has fulfilled my longtime dream of “making my own food” and hinted at where I need to grow next.
The direction of my work is shifting. Within the kitchen I’ll be emphasizing chocolate and I additionally plan to begin providing education. I’m going to tell you a bit of the story in my own words, so you can understand why.
I started cooking during college in order to feed myself, and it just clicked for me. The practical value was obvious and I appreciated the infinity of choice and combination it presented. This new interest developed into an absorbing passion when I returned home after getting my degree. In the decade since, I’ve expanded my theoretical understanding through cookbooks and practiced the craft in professional environments.
The intersection between cooking and health has been present in my mind since I first discovered it in the context of Eastern spirituality traditions. The idea that our health is directly impacted by our choices around food is old news today, but the concept fascinated me when I first encountered it. From then on I’ve experimented with a variety of approaches to experience this truth for myself.
I began Wholehearted Health Foods to satisfy my need for creative expression, to develop specific skills, and to give back to my community as best I could. These three aspects of my work are representative of what motivates me as I explore living well.
Learning a skill requires trial, error, focus, and repetition. Beginning to sell bread put me in position to become a more skilled bread baker. I had been baking sourdough bread at home already for three years and reached a limit many home bakers know — I was making more bread than my family could eat, and I wanted to make even more bread.
Three years later, I’m making as much bread as the limits of my time, energy, and kitchen allow. Considering those same constraints, I’ve come to know that I can do more with chocolate. As a oneman-show, I’m choosing now to bring the chocolates into the spotlight.
When I initially decided to make “only” three products (bread, granola, and dark chocolate), I thought that was an example of focus. Since then I’ve realized that each of those categories can be a business in itself, and that I was spreading my energy too thin to give each their due respect. By removing bread from the equation after this year’s market season wraps up, I can deliberately redistribute that energy.
Another aspect of focus that my business taught me is that errors scale along with output.
Consistency and presence are two measures that can prevent increasingly costly mistakes.
During my first year I was always trying to bring forward new products. Developing new recipes across three categories every week, while also producing foods for sale, was unsustainable. In years two and three I’ve focused on bringing my core recipes to a level of consistency that I can rely on and be proud of (while also getting more sleep).
Managing energy is a crucial component of sustained performance over time. Foundational elements here include nutrition, exercise, and rest. We can only neglect them temporarily before they lay
us low. Less obvious but similarly important are our relationships with others, with ourselves, and with our environments.
The importance of time management becomes clear in this dynamic. Maintaining and expanding our wellness requires that we attend to all these elements of our lives on a regular, ongoing basis. We each have to balance these needs with an expansive load of additional responsibilities in the world. When we try to wing it, inevitably something will fall by the wayside that we’ll need to circle back to later. Any form of organizing our activity within this conceptual framework can be helpful as a means of keeping up.
Managing our time well doesn’t have to involve any sort of rigorous structure though. It just asks that we periodically touch base with ourselves, to take stock of what we’re giving our energy to and what we’re getting our energy from. Being well is simply finding the sweet spot in that flow.
Humans have a tendency to accumulate things. We love our many tools and can always justify adding on, as if growth was only found in more. Efficiency begins with choice. Being efficient with our limited time and energy means choosing to do the right things, and being able to figure the difference between enough and too much.
Over time, it’s a self-correcting system. Try to do too much for too long and the deficit will emerge.
When the container is full, something must come out before something new enters. In selectively choosing from our many options, we respect the fact of our present limitations. Our selections then become our priorities, and our priorities determine our path forward.
Yes, I am planning to become better at making chocolates, but I’m also trying to bring a new priority into my life and work. I’m opening space. My intention is to fill that space with culinary and wellness education, both for myself and others.
In preparing foods for others, I’ve found that the impact I can have on someone’s health is not as significant as I had initially hoped. Don’t get me wrong — it is gratifying to put bread on someone’s table. It is gratifying to know that someone can benefit from the convenience of granola. And it is gratifying to know that the delight of dark chocolate can feature in an individual’s rituals of self-love. All these elements of gratitude can be further extended as gifts, to demonstrate appreciation and care for another.
I know, also, what a gift it is to be able to make my own food. You’ve heard the saying- “Give me a fish and I eat for a day. Teach me to fish and I’ll eat for a lifetime.” That speaks most easily to the reason I feel called to shift my offering. Rather than play a limited, occasional role in someone’s eating experience, I want to provide the tools so they can play that role themselves and fully experience the joy of cooking.
Food is a beautiful, integral part of wellness but there is far more to explore. I’ve been extending my personal interests outside of the kitchen in recent years and I’m beginning to understand more about how good life works. I’d like to carry on with my lessons and share the experience with others who find value in them.
I have one more proverb: “By learning you will teach, by teaching you will learn.” There is a powerful reciprocal dynamic involved in education. I want to get closer to it.
My work is living work. A wholehearted life requires engagement with the present as well as periodic self-reflection. As an evolving expression of self, it calls for honoring change as it comes and trusting in the process of growth.
Thank you so much for taking the time to consider my story.
If you’d like to buy some bread, granola, and/or chocolates, you can find me every other weekend at the Rappahannock Farmer’s Market. You can also find my chocolates in Sperryville at the Corner Store. I’m currently looking for more retail partnerships and I’m open to suggestions and invitations to that end.
My personal education is ongoing. My educational content is yet to come. As time and energy allow,
I will be bringing that forth. Feel free to email me email@example.com.
I’m opening space. My intention is to fill that space with culinary and wellness education, both for myself and others.
The Middle St. Gallery in Washington has moved and will begin its new life with an all-member
show, “Summer Dreams,” from Aug. 5 through Labor Day, Sept. 5. In this show the 19 artists in the non-profit co-operative will consider the lazy, hazy, and not-so-crazy days of summer in Rappahannock County and a few points beyond.
The gallery, which has kept its name over several moves in 40 years, is now located on the lower level of 311 Gay St., the building where Tulas’ Restaurant and Bar was formerly located in the Town of Washington, with an entrance on Main Street. The gallery moved after the Middle Street property that previously housed it was purchased by The Inn at Little Washington in March, forcing organizers to vacate its namesake location in recent months.
At the new show, Thomas Spande will offer a rich, summerlush painting of the Hazel River with “a verdant riverbank with a small frog perched and observing nature in its transformations and subtleties.” Meanwhile, Cathy Suiter ventures farther west, to the Shenandoah River, where she offers an oil painting with a view across the river to Springtime trees on the opposite bank. “Spring is the dream of
Summer,” she said.
Phyllis Northup also likes water and is showing a painting of two inverted canoes by a lake. “Floating down a river, swimming or paddling a canoe or kayak on a mountain lake, or just relaxing by a pond or creek, all are things summer dreams are made of,” she said.
Photographers Susan Raines and Jo Levine take us far from Virginia, Raines with a view of a lush summer garden in New Orleans and Levine with a pair of views of “gently undulating green hills of the Palouse Country in Washington State, with a soft, dreamlike quality.”
Perhaps nothing in art is as dreamlike as softly colored and diffusely detailed abstract paintings, and that's just what Phyllis Magrab offers. “Thinking of the light and warmth of summer inspired my two renderings of Summer Dreams – palettes of warm colors, reflecting the summer sun, flow into my abstract images,” she said.
Photographer and digital artist Jim Serbent invites viewers to “feel the summer heat radiating from the sea rocks that form the backgrounds of these digital collage-prints from the Ganseki Koan – Japanese for 'Rock Puzzle' – series.” The puzzling but dramatic rocks remind one of something baked in a very long Summer heatwave.
The ever-imaginative artist, Fae Penland, offers paintings of women's shoes of various types — sneakers, ballet slippers, hiking boots. Of her painting, Suffragette Roots, she said, “It honors the boots women wore to protest for the right to vote. Their work helped enable us to wear the fun shoes that express freedom and be who we are. What better time than Summer to have fun being footloose and fancy free?"
Anita Zymolka Amrhein is showing a lavishly colored and detailed watercolor, “A Charm of Hummingbirds.” “Summer is the time for these birds,” she said. “They are so much fun to watch, even though they seem to always fight for the food.”