Have you ever received the gift of a frozen whole raccoon? No? I was invited into a trailer with both live and taxidermied bears, and as a result of having behaved in a manner worthy, I was gifted a whole frozen raccoon-furry feet still attached. I have been handed a whole frozen bunny-still furry-by it’s bereft owner who wanted me to meet the beloved pet that died and he couldn’t bear to part with. I have had an Igloo cooler with 2 halves of a whole deer-and by whole I mean WHOLE, recently dispatched deer, dropped at the bakery. I had a beloved FedEx driver show me a picture of the massive hawk in his freezer that all his people claim to keep for good luck. I have found and rescued more dogs and cats than I can count. We have had baby sheep and steers visit the bakery. We have raised sick baby chickens in the bathroom. I have made friendships with dogs that would drag their owners for blocks to get to me at the farmer’s market so we could have our morning chat. And downtown, the police horses would come visit and demand oatmeal cookies as a treat. There are before sunrise walkers on the island whose dogs know to run up to the kitchen door for a hug and a whisker of cheese. There are island cats who lounge out front waiting for teacups of cream. There is a one footed grackle who returns every year for Logan to toss him crumbs. It has been quite a decade of bizarre (and magical) animal interactions and the host of people who genuinely love them.
“I needed comfort. I was going to make scones.” Goldy April 2001 Diane Mott Davidson When people ask me my favorite thing to make, the answer is always scones. I have been making scones for 20 years and I never, ever tire of making them. (Jam bars and cinnamon rolls, however, reduce me to gnashing of teeth EVERY. TIME.) I suppose it is the attention scones demand when done-insisting they be eaten piping hot-ideally lavished with clotted cream. And in those few bites, you can be still and think about nothing else other than the beauty of those simple, clean, basic ingredients and the gorgeousness they create when combined. That is a moment to be treasured and a pause in which to think thoughts to give you clarity and the courage to start anew, with maybe less, to a much better end. Small snack-big learning. I am including a recipe for one of my favorite scones below.
In the 10 years prior to launching out on my own in a retail space, there was a decade of private catering, baking for coffee shops, barista-ing, and running bakeries for others and pastry chef-ing in the wee hours. So in a way, it was it’s own culinary-hospitality grad school program. I have roasted coffee and created recipes for a massive coffee chain you would know, learned to make bagels on the scale of 1000’s in Charleston, pulled off catered affairs for 100’s of people (one of those my sister almost killed me. It involved sand dunes, summer, and a remote location) so by the time we got to a retail store I was ready to retire from the party scene! You can only do so many weddings (and sometimes with some people over the course of time, MULTIPLE WEDDINGS) so many times before the beauty starts to elude you. It’s like my birthday, after making hundreds of birthday cakes a year for people I know and WANT to have a lovely birthday, by the time mine rolls around-HARD PASS. No thanks!
But there are gifts that come all year long year after year and when I look around the bakery or my home, everything has a story to tell! Susan’s handmade Sugar Bag sign from downtown, Mom’s yellow wooden sun from a Riverfest 12 years ago, Terri’s travel trunk, Jessi’s mom’s shelves, Joseph Peter’s tables and lamps, Claudia’s signs, Janice’s mixer, a million hand written recipes mailed to me, stacks of cookbooks from Cameron’s mom, Ginny’s bear and internal organ reindeer, Shelly’s art from 100 Wisconsin fairs, Liz’s beer steins and mugs, Katie’s treasured trinkets, Tom and Desiree’s stove, Josh’s bread slicer, Uncle John’s desk, Grandpa Jack’s fishing knife, Logan and Connor’s cryptic notes taped to all fridge surfaces, Shawn’s designs, Joanie’s giant snowmen, Sara’s art, Kenny’s sewing machine, Cathy and CJ’s art, June’s table, Billy and Alex’s pool table lamp, Lenny’s garden urns, Romelle’s pie pans, Jan and Piper’s book shelves, fridges from Mainsail, I could literally tell you a story about every piece in that shop. No joke. Whether it was a gift, a donation a trade out for eternal birthday pies the stories are there, reminding me of all the good and kind people in the world.
To be honest, I didn’t know what I was doing when I embarked on this journey all these years ago. It’s like the time I was little and at my grandparents house down in the swamps of Florida and I decided to catch a fish and went right down to the lake’s edge with a net (this was strictly forbidden as the gator population here was terrible and people’s dogs disappeared regularly) and decided to fish. As beginner’s luck would have it there was an ENORMOUS spawning gar fish there for the taking and I smugly scooped it up and staggered over to the adults. To my dismay, I promptly had to return the poor fish to the water and was told AGAIN, not to go the water’s edge and that this did NOT count as mastering the art of fishing since that fish was not up to it’s usual snuff. Which is a bit how I feel about, Sugar, it seemed like such a simple thing, make birthday cake and hand out some lattes in 18 square feet, how hard can it be? Silly, silly girl. Much, much harder. And so you take it apart and put it back together, again and again and again. We moved from downtown after “a massive series of unfortunate events”. Some people ask for signs-man did we get them. Exploding toasters, theft, people removing fingertips to write poetry in blood, people who would stand outside the window before daylight staring at me-not blinking-in drug addled-states, sabotaged espresso machines, destroyed coffee grinders from some prankster dropping a dime in the hopper, run my finger thru an espresso grinder, an accident with a food processor that put slivers of almond through my contact into my eye, a bad knife cut from a pear and when I ran to my car to go buy loads of bandages I find some INSANE attorney from Raleigh brought her 15 year old daughter to downtown Wilmington at CHRISTMAS to teach her to parallel park a STATION wagon and has crushed the front part of my car so I can’t drive away and must stand there bleeding while this lovely…mother…shrieks at me repeatedly that she is an attorney! All this was truly during the last 3 months we were downtown. How my hair didn’t turn white, I don’t know, and this was when Connor was still a toddler, we had a puppy, and Logan was in middle school. So, it seemed time to move on to much quieter pastures even though we had made the MOST wonderful friends. Do you remember what the island was like in 2013? Swingbridge, the Pirate ship, way less houses and neighborhoods, much quieter EXCEPT from May to Labor Day, but outside of those times it was a sleepy little town. Since then, housing developments, condos, marinas, shopping centers, have popped up like toadstools. When I used to drive out here to work in 2000 there was no Harris Teeter on the corner but a shack with goats! So we came, started small, just one side, 900 square feet, and then we redid it and grew another 900 feet and then we redid it and added another 1000 square feet BUT then we needed a market, oh man I loved that market, but Florence and some nasty people, decided “no market” and so we added the Little House, because the Island is sorely lacking in adorable, historic houses, and I ADORED the Little House but sadly, the pandemic has claimed her too, and so you see, the cycle never really ends, scoop it up, sway smugly, put it back-wail of despair- and start over. BUT
“If you sit around and wait for inspiration, all you get is a sore a&*.” Wayne Thibeaud
I am bad at waiting and worse at patience, so we have just kept trying, Shawn, the kids, Mom and I, many combinations of many things all these years. Picking up the pieces as they fall after each incident, trying to remain focused on the things that have always mattered to me-feeding people. I can’t bear hunger, it should not exist anywhere.
There are lots of things I have yet to do, that I am hoping to drag my family through. Mercifully, they are escaping my long-cherished dream of being the first female president, but it does NOT mean that they will get out of my bed and breakfast dream. I have wanted to do that, always. 15 Years ago I made bread for lots of bed and breakfasts downtown and would often help at some of them or work there on weekends and just loved it. We shall see. If you know someone with a perfectly gorgeous house that needs keeping, you let me know.
Thank you for all the memories and the treasures.