Archives for posts with tag: Portland

Nov 2nd, 2013

Why I’m a failure—at being a failure.

It should be easy—right?  Like falling off a log you would think, but no.  Being a failure seems much more complicated than that.

I’ve been mulling this topic around for a while and just haven’t made the time to commit it to paper.  But here goes.

Oh, I’ve failed or simply given up many times.  But as an outright failure as a person; I guess I’m a failure in that manner too.

I open myself up a bit to share why this “MeeMee” journey feels so different than anything else I’ve done.

In my bio I talk about growing up in a canning and preserving family—that’s true.  I really could have cared less about it at the time—again, true.  The revelation I write about though, is that I like to cook and have been creating recipes since I was a kid.  But that’s also when this sordid tale started.  I guess I will just blurt it out….I’m fat.  Not fat, but F.A.T. fat.  And that has been enough to ruin myself, my family and anyone and anything around me.  Maybe even you!

Yes, there it is.  Fat = Failure.  No, I didn’t come up with this idea all on my own.  But it has taken many helpful professionals to be able to interject logic and reason into the above equation.

I started eating sticks of butter and buckets of chicken at the tender age of…not!  Really, it is a bit of a chicken and egg type story.  Which came first?  Overeating to soothe my anxiety and fears or the daily tormenting by my “looks are the only thing that matter” father in a household that stayed silent from intervening lest the anger and vile resentment be turned on them.

I will start by saying I am a better cook than my mom and maybe even my grandmas too.  It just makes sense to me.  Food makes sense to me.  Flavors and textures and aromas make sense to me.  I.  Understand.  Food.  Me and food are great buddies.  We go way back.  Magic happens in the kitchen for me.  And that’s all ok, unless you look like me.

My thighs are dimpled with bacon grease and cheezy puffs.  Pop tarts flap on my upper arms like wings.  I have perpetual gravy stains on the front of my clothes to announce my gluttony and shame.

And yet I persisted.  There was a restrained and stilted formal relationship with food while eating in front of others.  It was much like trying to elegantly eat a spaghetti meal with your hands at an important job interview—anxious, painful and inwardly, excruciating.

But, on the flip side, food was also my sensual, compassionate & wholly engulfing secret lover full of forbidden flavors and desires.  It was a tryst that started at an age when those feelings were not yet named.  I began to long for our alone time.  My desire became a deep ache, in the core of my being for ful-FILL-ment.  Just us two together– no words, just understanding.  Desire, chase, need, desire, capture, elation, satisfaction and the immediate need to do it again.

Oh, I’m dirty.  I’m a filthy pig, a sow, a hog, a cow and on and on.  And really, the teases at school were so toothless and lame.  Power.  Power is a 40 year old man that can bring his teenage daughter to tears everyday by reminding her of what a failure she was and would always be.

But how can you really bully someone if they are not dependent on you?  The kids at school that threw paper or made pig noises were hardly worth worrying about.  Even if they thought I was fat I still got to eat lunch—but not at home.  Lunch was a luxury when left in dad’s “care”.  And the adult mind is so much more resourceful for clever insults and witty assaults on the tattered psyche of a little girl.

Why, looking back there wasn’t a thing that my fatness didn’t ruin!  My exemplary grades and honor roll status was nothing to brag about if I didn’t even have a pretty face.  I had fat friends too!  They must have been a bad influence on me because I wasn’t allowed to go out with them as often as my thin friends.  (Jeez, I could have fatted-up my thin friends!)  Also, did you know that looks are a factor in college admissions?  Straight from my dad’s mouth to god’s ear.  I was doomed.

If you have been following along, then you understand the correlation of a + b + cream puffs = failure.  In my quest to avoid the grotesquery of working in the food industry, I have been a nurse’s assistant, a hair dresser, an elementary school teacher and a personal trainer.  And yet I persist.  I have sold thousands and thousands of jars of jam—they can’t all be pity purchases.

I use my warped food-addled thoughts to make flavors and combinations that no one has heard of.  Only a gluttonous bookworm could find a way through the labyrinth of commercial food rules to create a shelf stable Bacon Jam.  I dream in vivid color and wake up with drool on my pillow for the slovenly taste sensations I will bring to market in the future.

I’ve (slowly) been chasing my tail and have been scared of my (over-sized) shadow for most of my life.  For what?  To get to the part where I say, “I’m ok.”  I cook.  I call myself a foodie, not a fatty.  My weight and my making a food product have about as much correlation as that of being right handed.

Am I all better?  No, but figuring out that the failure is not me—it’s the parent that couldn’t love and nurture me and the familial and societal structures that support the misogynist evisceration of a child’s heart and soul.

Now, I’m the 40 year old parent with a chubby-cheeked daughter.  If she grows up to feel like a failure because of me, then that’s when I will know that I have accomplished being a failure myself.  I want my daughter to feel uninhibited joy and lick any cake battered beater offered to her.  “Play with your food” and “Don’t clean your plate,” I will bellow from the head of the table.  And for god’s sake Evi, never, ever be ashamed of who you are and what makes you happy.



               I’m on vacation at Crater Lake.  Although this time is about relaxing, it’s also time for reflection.  Although I can’t physically make jams, I’ve still got plenty of thoughts “stirring” around.  Yes, it is hard to turn the jam making hamsters-on-a-wheel thoughts off. 

               I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t written a blog in a while.  I get great ideas—lots of them—and then get caught up in the day-to-day stuff of my biz, and nothing gets written. 

               Anyway…what a booming time!  I’m much busier than last year and I feel my biz is starting to get roots in the local Portland Foodie Scene.  It’s a great time to be a foodie entrepreneur, but that’s another blog entry.

               The first cool thing is that I bought a 6 gallon steam kettle.  It is a piece of machinery with about a 3 x 3 footprint.  It is a stainless steel cauldron type vessel that has double walls with water vapor inside them.  The heating elements makes the vapor into steam and it heats the product (jam) evenly all around the kettle.  The advantage to this is that there isn’t a hot spot on the bottom like with a traditional cooktop.  Plus, it gets hot enough that I can fry off the bacon and then simmer it down with the rest of the ingredients for my bacon jam! 

               Yes, the 6 gallon capacity is awesome!  However, I have realized that it doesn’t take long before I have made more jam than I can package and process in one night.  I rent time in a bakery after hours and often drive home sticky and bleary eyed after a long night.

               Enter the helpers—Lisa & Ruby have been my main helpers as kitchen prep and babysitters for my daughter, Evi.  They and another helper, Leah, are the college-aged daughters of my tennis team mates.  I was lucky to have such a ready source of summer labor! 

               However, that pool is drying up as the girls, one by one, go back to school.  My next source of labor will be from the farmer’s markets.  As many vendors fold up their tents and hibernate for the winter, my second season kicks off. 

               I’m lucky in that way—I get two seasons—the farmer’s markets and then the holiday craft fairs.  Yep, I just put a bird, er bow, on it and voila!  October and the first part of November are so-so for sales, but boy, oh boy, things get crazy right up to Christmas.  I love to see the people swooping up armloads of jam not only for themselves, but giving it as gifts.  What great advertising around the country and the world!

               This year I’ve already been thinking about how I can maximize my time and get maximum exposure during that time.  Last year I ended up at a couple of dud shows by waiting too long to sign up for them.  I made the mistake of waiting until Oct/Nov to start my holiday preparation-but now I know I should really start in July and August. 

               I’m going to concentrate on making gift boxes of my best sellers so people can just grab and go.  This year I also have professionally designed labels with the nutritional information and bar code on it.  A fellow crafter made some really cool wooden boxes specifically for my jams.  He makes them from scraps from a pallet making plant.  I like that they are made from reclaimed wood and how functional they are long after the fruit spreads are gone. 

               Lastly, I finally have a steady retail location!  Ten of my spreads are at Local Choice Market, 9th & Everett, in the Pearl.  To me, this feels like the “Big Time.”  I usually end up doing a demo there a couple hours each weekend.  People are sometimes surprised to meet me, MeeMee, the maker of all of the Goodies.  The shoppers and especially the staff at Local Choice have been very supportive and appreciative of my hard work on the fruit spreads.  Plus, you can find Just Raspberry & Just Blueberry spreads only at this location. 

               The demos go well, but it’s usually during the time when I’m at one of my weekend farmer’s market.  I have had to trust my 100 sf of vendor real estate to others.  I feel like an over protective mother when I give so many instructions to my helpers!  It always turns out fine, but until now, my husband has been the only one to tread on this sacred ground.