Friday, May 28, 2010

Showtime and The Grateful Dumpling

Today is quite the momentous occasion in that it marks the first day of the Grateful Dumpling, our first family foray into the crazy world of retail sales. Heaven help us. We are making a go of selling meat, veggie, and apple dumplings that are as locally derived as possible. We are using local meat, apples, tofu, and eventually veggies, but due to the timing of our endeavor, couldn't get too much local produce. We'll have to work on that one. Just wanted to mention that R made the sign and as usual, she did a fabulous job.

Today is also the first day of the Farmer's Market and we are just figuring out all the things we need to do. Talk about going down to the wire. I spoke with the Hanover FM director yesterday for the first time, she was a little peeved I hadn't called her back sooner, and we hashed out some details. I think she was a little concerned that we hadn't spoken sooner, but by the end of the conversation, she said it seemed that we'd done all of this before, which I took as a compliment. A reach, I know, but you have to grab it when you can.

As of yesterday, we hadn't even obtained several things we needed for the market, including a tent, chafing dishes (I didn't even know what they were), Sterno, and a stove. The stove thing is complicated. We were told by the Vermont crew that we weren't allowed to cook at the market. No change in temp was the mantra, so we had to bring and serve food at the same temp. In other words, we couldn't bring cold food and cook it, and we couldn't bring hot food and let it get cold. I know how ridiculous this sounds, but those are the rules, so we figured we'd cook the food at home and keep it hot until the market, whereby we'd put them in chafing dishes and keep the warm. Not the best idea. We had originally planned on cooking the frozen dumplings on site, but now we had to change plans.

WELL, after speaking the NH folks, they said it was ridiculous to try to keep them hot, and to just cook them on site. We had to scramble to change our plans, which meant we needed a propane stove and propane to cook them. Also, we hadn't tested this approach since we assumed we weren't going to employ it. Why didn't we investigate this sooner?

We ordered a tent, but won't get it for about a week, at least, so we managed to finagle one from our friend, and didn't pick it up until yesterday afternoon. Also, we didn't know where to get chafing dishes until yesterday, and managed to borrow those, as well. They can be pretty pricey, and we don't want to plunge into an investment in something we're not sure is a long term deal. That, and the fact that I'm incredibly cheap. Anyway, I made a few calls and found them in some unlikely places.

In fact, I asked my neighbors, B&KJ, if they knew of them, and sure enough, they had some and were willing to let us borrow them. For the record, they are the nicest people I've ever met, and are always willing to help us out if we need it. I jumped at the opportunity, being cheap and all, and learned a thing or two about chafing dishes (why the heck are they called that?). KJ had the disposable kind, which is perfect for us. I don't want to borrow them for too long and will get some of our own soon enough, especially if they make a economical, disposable version. He also wanted to give us all of his Sterno, but I told him that wouldn't be necessary and I would get some. Little did I know what was in store for me.

Now that we had chafing dishes, we now needed Sterno. I mistakenly believed that Sterno was a camping thing, when in fact, it's nothing of the sort. Consequently, that stuff is not that easy to find. Sure, you can go to Wally World (as my Mentor would say) and find it, but that's a bit of a trek, so I tried to find it closer by, with no luck. I finally found it at the NE Kitchen Depot, and even then, the guys working there didn't know what Sterno was. It's called something else, but it was obvious they had no idea what I was referring to. What century were you born in?

We did catch a small break. Because of the weather, t-ball was canceled, so though N was a little bummed, it was one less place to be, although A still had rehearsal for her show, which was going to be late.

As for the market, there were legal hurdles to attend to. In an effort to protect the consumer, NH and VT have strict guidelines regarding the sale of food, rightfully so, though this makes our lives more complicated. Since they are separate states, their rules are not identical. And since we are total losers, we didn't learn about the rules until the zero hour. Fortunately, since we are selling at a FM, there is some flexibility, but not a lot. We have to answer to a higher power. This wouldn't be so bad if we had planned a little earlier and been ready, but since I didn't talk to the NH people until yesterday, we had to scramble, but nothing insurmountable. I think things are in working order, but who cares what I think?

The guy who is supposed to make our t-shirts if flaking out, but we can't blame him, he's a busy guy, and our order is a small one. Even still, it would have been nice to have our tied-eyes for the sale. You just can't have it all. We are promoting the healthy local thing, as well as the eco-friendly approach. This means our containers are from recycled material and are compostable, and at some point we'd like to give back to the community, but one thing at a time here. For the record, being local and eco-friendly are not the cost-effective approach, which as most of you know, goes against my nature, but sometimes you have to get your priorities, straight, especially if you want to save the planet.

I think there will be music, but I'll bring my CD player and Dead CDs, just for effect. There is no electricity, but I'll bring my jump box and plug in until the thing runs out of juice. Speaking of juice, we were told yesterday that there were too many lemonade vendors, so we had to switch gears once again and now we're selling local apple cider. Again, not the economical approach, but much cooler.

Today I have to load up the truck, get to the market early and set up, and then start cooking. We have no idea how many of these things we'll sell, or for that matter, how many to bring. Cooking them on site is a better way to go because that way there is less waste, though cooking on site can be stressful when you have a queue that reaches all the way to Harvard.

Either way, this should be interesting. Regardless of what happens, I can assure you that this will be an adventure, filled with learning experiences, both good and bad.

Until then, thanks for reading.

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