Recently, while out to dinner, a friend asked me the question I've desperately been avoiding: "So, now that the shop has been open for a few months, how do you feel?" It was a good question. An honest question, really. And yet it left me completely shell shocked. Maybe it is because I am superstitious. Or maybe because I've known my fair share of people who have taken risks to follow their dreams and have miserably failed. Either way, I found I wasn't really able to provide a decent answer (unless we're counting awkward facial expressions).
A few weeks back, the chef summed the whole thing up perfectly. "Every night," he said, "I come home and can't believe that people came. And every morning when I wake up, I'm terrified that they'll never come back again."
When I was a little girl, I was the queen of avoiding the dreaded jinx or superstition. I'd make a fool of myself by leaping over sidewalk cracks, turn blue in the face from holding my breath every time I passed a cemetery. In some ways, I guess not all that much has changed. Which is probably why I've avoided any emotionally fueled thought about our shop like the plague. If I think about it -- if I take a few minutes to reflect on the fact that things are going well -- then the proverbial rug will be pulled from beneath us and we'll be forced to stand back and watch this dream of ours come crashing down.
"Afraid?" she said back to me, surprised by my response. "But why? Things are going so well for you guys."
Maybe I should have just said "grateful" and finished my cheese plate, I thought as she looked to me for elaboration.
It was hard for my friend to understand my need for any fear. From her vantage point, the hard part (i.e.: getting the doors open) was long over. To her, and to most people I speak with, that is the scary part. But the more we talked, and the further I explained myself, the more I think we both realized that fear isn't always a bad thing.
In some ways, I think my fears -- fears that the shop will fail, fears that it'll grow too quickly and we won't be able to keep up, fears that this dream will somehow push the chef and I away from each other -- are secretly a good thing. While my childhood fear of the dreaded jinx was probably unneeded (unless I was physically carrying my mother while I tripped over the sidewalk crack, it was unlikely that simply stepping on the rubbery divider would actually break her back), I think in many ways our current fears, our adult fears, keep us grounded. They're what force us back out of bed in the mornings, what keep us working hard late at night, long after the final customer has left, and what remind us that every dollar we earn might be our last. Those same fears that keep us staring at the ceiling while we try to sleep are what keep our doors open and what make us work as hard as we do.
Back in 2011, when our business was a mere two weeks old and we were selling our sandwiches out of a shipping container in Brooklyn, we were invited to participate in a very cool event -- the Brooklyn Night Bazaar. We were certain the invite was a mistake. The event was going to be big -- several thousand people big -- in a warehouse in a super trendy part of town, complete with live music, local artists selling their goods, and a handful of other bigger, better, and way more established food vendors. In short, the chef and I were terrified.
We sold out of product our first night there. I'm still not really sure how we pulled it off. From the minute the doors opened that night, each of us pretty much shifted into auto pilot and before we had a chance to process our fears any further, it was one in the morning, the maintenance crew was sweeping the floor, and we were staring at empty cardboard boxes that were filled with hundreds of rolls just a few hours prior.
Currently, we're in our third season serving our food at the Brooklyn Night Bazaar, an event that now feels like a sort of holiday tradition in the weeks leading up to the new year. And yet, this past weekend, as we listened to the band complete their sound check and we set up our temporary booth, I felt a little bit of the same fear come over me. Did we pack everything? Will people still be interested in our food, despite all the other excellent vendors? Are people even going to come to this damn thing?
But they did. And somehow, it was that sense of initial fear that made the end of the night and the moment when we were able to throw away all those empty bakery boxes feel like a real accomplishment. Somehow, the fear is what reminded us that, just a few hours earlier, we didn't think we'd be able to do it, but we did.
As though the night bazaar was not enough to make me think about the upcoming holiday season, this week the chef and I spotted a vibrant pyramid of containers at our farmers' market that housed the most beautiful, fresh from the bog cranberries. The holidays are coming, people...the proof is in the, well, chutney as it turns out. This recipe relies on two classic autumn flavors -- tart cranberries and sweet apples -- as well as a bit of kick from fresh ginger and crushed red pepper flakes. I'm thinking of making it throughout the holiday season this year -- a season meant for pushing fear to the wayside, reflecting on the past, looking forward to a new year, and being grateful for all you have and how far you've come.
Cranberry, Apple & Ginger Chutney
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup apple cider
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
3 cups fresh cranberries
2 apples, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup minced & peeled ginger root
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
In a large saucepan, stir the sugar, cider and vinegar over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cranberries, apples, ginger and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and season the chutney with salt and pepper. Allow the mixture to cool. Transfer to an airtight jar. When sealed and refrigerated, the chutney will keep for several days.