Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Library Chapter 2

When Sean came to visit us, he offered to make Tiramisu for us and other guests at Christmas time. Sean is an excellent cook, so this was a special treat. We went shopping for the dessert's ingredients, and I nearly choked when I saw the price of the marscapone cheese. There wasn't a substitute for it, and Sean needed not just one container, but several.

A few weeks ago, while browsing at the local library in South Lansing, I ran across a cookbook that touted that I can make my own dairy products, like butter, yogurt, sour cream, creme fraiche, cream cheese and more. Because I was interested in saving some cash and wanted to know more about yogurt making, I checked it out and after turning a few pages, I found the recipe and technique for making marscapone. It was amazingly simple and much, much less inexpensive. All it requires is a double boiler, heavy whipping cream and a small amount of white vinegar. And a little time.

The book that illuminated this and other gourmet treats, such as goat cheese, is The Home Creamery by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley. When I checked it out, visions of having to get a small cow to live in our back yard plus a couple of huge vats to store all the milk danced in my head. A nice fantasy, including a chicken coop to produce our own eggs every morning. Or bring to my own imaginary booth at a local prestigious Farmer's Market in Okemos. Maybe become a guest on Eric Villegas' award winning program on Michigan cuisine "Fork in the Road" (on your local PBS station. Yup, sought after by culinary afficiendos from all over the world. Don't tell them that LeBlanc Farms is about as big as a postage stamp.

But coming back to earth, I know that animal husbandry and farming is no easy way to make a living. But I sometimes do dream of being a small food processing company--all fresh, organic and lovingly produced. It started about 17 years ago, when I contributed baked goods to our church rummage sale. Dennis, husband and delivery man, told me that the ladies snatched up the cappuccino cookies (wrapped in plastic and put in white lunch bags tied in a black grosgrain bow) before they even hit the sales table. One of those ladies had a famous catering company and pursued me for the cookie recipe. When that happened, I knew I had something and it wasn't just the cookies. But I also learned that I should have charged more for the cookies and should have asked for compensation when I gave away the recipe.

So I've had my eye out for ideas for unique products. I had gone to a couple of fancy food conventions and I know who gets the attention easily and who has to work harder for it. But these days, I think, everyone has to work harder than usual. Is anyone going to snatch up my cookies before they even have a chance to cool anymore? At a profit?

I've been watching and it seems the most success goes to the ones who know who they are and are able to draw from that innate creativity to bring to the market something that no one else could possibly duplicate. And instead of the business becoming their life, their life becomes the business and they work hard to bring it to its fullest potential because of their passion. And I guess passion is what I have in spades.

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