Nowadays we’ve been limiting our social interaction to do our part in controlling this devastating virus.
However, physical distancing doesn’t have to mean total isolation. Memories of fun times spent with friends seem to be more valuable than ever. Among my favorite memories: sharing food with incredible friends.
Barry and I recently found the courage to invite a couple over for dinner. We took all the necessary precautions: masks on; each couple with their own set of serveware; only one person pouring wine; wine glasses on the porch rail.
Like I said, all the precautions.
The atmosphere of sincere friendship and bonhomie only magnified the taste of the homemade lasagna, made largely from home-grown ingredients. Delicious! Both the food and the new memories we were making.
Even the 13-foot distance between our tables didn’t diminish our ability to joke and laugh. Time flew as it always does when you’re having a great time!
This unforgettable night has already become one of my favorite memories spent on our porch.
To continue with our series of articles about “breaking bread,” I invited my super-talented friend Dan Wasser to share some of his favorite memories around food and its influence on family, friendship, and community. You can still read the first article in the series, “Growing Up Greek & the Bread of Life,” written by my beloved friend Marie.
Let me tell you a little about Dan Wasser, a data and numbers guy whose clever, perfectly-timed remarks always make me burst out laughing, even when I shouldn’t.
Dan and I worked together for several years. After a long day of meetings, we often spent the evening at a restaurant or ballpark talking about business, family and any crazy topic of the day. Dan and I always shared at least one thing in common: our passion for good food and wine.
Dan was that colleague I could confide in and trust to be direct and honest, to answer the phone when I needed to bounce an idea, or to help me walk through tough decisions or proposals. When you’re leading a team serving the largest retailer in the world, there are plenty of those moments. That’s for sure. And Dan was always there for me.
Like one typically glorious Arkansas summer day I will never forget. I had just added a new responsibility to my already full role: business manager for Fresh Express Organic. Yep, you’ve probably heard: “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” This was a case-in-point.
I was making my first (remote) presentation in this new role to the sales team, including all the VPs and the COO. Gulp. The stakes were high for this business and its relaunch.
Then, with the temperature outside over 100 degrees, the A/C died.
I had already spread out all the data and supporting materials to be ready to answer any question. My home office, being on the second story, felt like an oven ready to bake bread. I could’ve moved to the dining room, but my office was my “safe place.” Now, a very hot one.
Dan and I had agreed to connect 15 minutes before the call. I was sweating like a pig, so I turned on the ceiling fan. Not only was the fan blowing my paperwork everywhere, but I didn’t have enough arms to keep everything down.
Dan said he could hear the fan blowing. Bummer!
Next I opened the mini-blinds and windows. Dan said he could hear the birds chirping and the waterfall running. Double bummer!
By now I felt my sweat was going to drown me, but only five minutes before the call. Oh well, suck it up Daymara...and stay focused.
Fortunately, me being me, I had over-prepared for this presentation and with Dan’s help I had proactively incorporated in the presentation as many “answers” as imaginable, allocating 30 minutes for presentation and 30 minutes for Q&A.
With all the towels handy, we started the meeting, and I managed to finish it within the allotted time. The phase I was dreading came: the Q&A.
I hadn’t fainted…yet!
Only ONE question, and it was mostly a compliment. Not that I wanted to be rude but, after asking for questions the second time, I took the magic silence to thank everyone and say goodbye.
Dan checked on me later that afternoon to confirm I was ready for Happy Hour.
Thank you, Dan, for being such a great friend!
Here is Dan Wasser writing about his love of food...
Food sustains life but for many, this is where it stops. For me, this is where it begins. I love food. I love to prepare it, eat it, share it with family and friends but am a true believer in the philosophy “The cook never cleans.”
We all had our days of eating whatever we wanted and not having to worry about how that Big Mac or Deluxe Taco was going to do bad things to our bodies. I like to eat healthy, tasty foods that are good for me and are a bit different from the “same old, same old.” To me, different means putting a spin on a classic such as spaghetti. I make my own sauce and those who have tried it know and comment on how it tastes better. We season our meat for a day or two. We try to match meals we enjoyed at a local restaurant.
And I love when people prepare food for me.
Which brings me to Daymara Baker. We worked together for a number of years in the corporate world. My team supported her team and she was in charge of one of our largest customers. Until she realized she needed to do more with her life, her skills, her passion than continue to sell produce for a living.
It was during one of my trips to her client in Arkansas that we met at an office where she and I planned our day. Daymara asked if we could work through lunch, which I agreed to, and was told by her that she would bring a few sandwiches and sides. What I didn’t expect was the sandwiches were made with bread she had baked. The bread was fresh and flavorful, and the sandwich was to die for. The sides were perfect for what we were eating, and, yet, even though it was a smaller portion than I’m used to eating at the national chains, it was the right amount.
During another trip to her client (I live in Chicago), Daymara had me join her and her husband for dinner at their house. She showed me her garden, her bread mixer, her kitchen and her set table. I knew this was where her passion lied. The meal was fabulous and the bread brought it all together. The wine didn’t hurt either.
When Daymara announced she was leaving the company to start her own non-profit bakery, preparing those who needed an extra hand for the workforce, and that she would do it her way, I knew she had finally found her mission.
Her days are much longer, her compensation much lower, her drive never greater, her rewards second to none.
If you’re in the area, please stop by Rockin’ Baker, tell Daymara that Dan said hi and try one of her loaves. I know you’ll be leaving the place with a few loaves ‘for later.’
And yes, I’m in a local band that consists of other dads. My family and I hold a backyard party each year to celebrate summer. Of course, in addition to the music, food is front and center! This is my family posing for a picture. The real band is eating me out of house and home.
The Rockin' Baker
Hi, I'm Daymara Baker, founder and CEO of Rockin' Baker. Venezuela native. European-style baker. Proud American and Northwest Arkansan.