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Following twenty years of farmer's markets selling locally grown vegetables, native fruits, and local honey Linda created Marianne's Kitchen in Shoreview, MN, an oasis of good food, conversation and laughter in a suburban food desert. Operating from 2011-2017 the cafe offered home made soups, fresh bread baked daily, great sandwiches and treats and a complete line of gluten-free soups, pickled products, jams, jellies, salsas and locally sourced soups, honey and grains.

The Marianne's Kitchen of sharing, conversation, and learning continues with ongoing commentary, food reviews and food finds as we grow, cook and eat our food and sample local restaurants.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Lessons from.a lifetime with Marian in the kitchen

Year 5….more new adventures

As we embark on Year 5 at Marianne’s Kitchen, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on our first four years in business.

This week, some national restaurant chains reported their financial results.  Some didn’t meet analysts’expectations; some beat them by a penny…because that’s great for your stock price.  But, my question, where is the reporting about whether these restaurant corporations met customers’ expectations?   You might say that financial results are a proxy for how well a chain is meeting customer expectations.   If people go there, the company makes money…..good financial results.  But what if there are very few food choices where you live….so you dine at these places because, frankly, that’s what is available.  Then, financial results may not be a good measure of how a company is meeting people’s expectations.

We’ve lived in Shoreview for decades. Shoreview had very few dining options during our early years here.   Over time, more places opened…mostly corporate, chain places.  One exception was the Golden Quince….great coffee and tasty treats.   Another was Cajun Potluck….serving etouffe and gumbo from a pretty limited kitchen.  Both had great runs for a while. Kozlak’s had finer dining….but as a parent, who has time for that on a school day?

Over these years, we tried all of the places.   When your children are in school and they’re on traveling soccer and in Future Problem Solving and all of the other activities, and you work full time & more, you pick up food in a hurry because that’s all you have time to do.  Maybe not always the best choices…When you have time to stop and think about it, you wonder why there couldn’t be better choices—tasty, fresh, healthy (or healthier), quick, and not at premium prices.  A veggie drive-thru?

Was it possible to make great tasting, healthier food options at affordable prices that you could pick up or quickly eat in?  Could we do it?

Anne spent 11 or 12 years making quick food.   I’m glad much of that was at Wendy’s, where fresh vegetables were prepared every day (we won’t talk about the deep fryer, filtering the grease, etc).  Her stints at Chipotle and Baja Sol gave her different spins on the food world.  There was never any doubt that Anne could make things fast.  We just had to see if we could make them healthier, fresher, tastier, with local ingredients or interesting spicing or with a view of a flavor palette from places other than hamburger and fries’ land.  What kinds of foods would be fun and flavorful and full of variety?  That’s where the idea of Marianne’s Kitchen was hatched.

 My Aunt Marian made great food…from theg arden in the backyard, from her Polish heritage, from her days as a waitress at Coleman’s, from memories of her childhood in Hibbing gathering wild blueberries.  Some of it was simple, some complex…all delicious.   She packed lunches for my uncle to take to work on the railroad—full of fresh ingredients from his garden, kept cool by a Mason jar filled with ice.   Gee, coincidence that Marianne’s is in a building that looks like a depot on a railroad track?

From being in Marian’s kitchen, I learned to love interesting food; to try things I’d never eaten before, to take fresh ingredients and eat them fresh or eat them prepared or eat them later in jars when winter was very cold and the red delicious apples were the only selection at the grocery store. Marian canned tomatoes and made freezer jam and homemade root beer and dandelion wine (oh boy,you couldn’t drink too much of that).  She made food from the world around her.   She raised her child, worked in others’ houses, welcomed everyone into her kitchen (even the ‘odd’ ones…..fill that in with your own mental family picture), re-created furniture from old furniture because who could afford new furniture…..but created interesting meals every day.   One day she said ‘you know, it’s hard to think of something new to make every day….but who wants to eat the same thing all the time?”   I agree.

So every day at Marianne’s, we try to make something new or different.  We don’t have tomato basil soup every Tuesday and we don’t have a pita every Thursday.  Yes, we have a basic menu for those who want to count on finding a choice they like when they come in.   But every day we try to come up with something with a new spin, with a grain you’ve never tried (sometimes never heard of), with an option for soup or fruit & yogurt, or some kind of salad (pasta, potato, quinoa, couscous…….), with a flavor from another culture or place or family recipe.

And we needed a pantry.  Marian’s pantry offered great variety (and an occasional exploding bottle of root beer)…a veritable toy store for the eyes and tastebuds.   How many of you have never eaten a mustard pickle?   We offered jars for $5 each for our anniversary—thanks to those who gave ‘em a try.

Marian is smiling.   How about tomato jam, chow chow, screaming hot pickled peppers, wild huckleberry jam, blue corn waffles, or tomatillo salsa?   Marian would have made them or tried them and shared them so that you could taste them, too.

It’s hard to come up with something new to make every day.   Yup, it is.   But I don’t want to eat the same thing every day.   If you agree, come on in, try a new food or recipe for a food you know, share a

laugh (John will make that happen), and hopefully, spend a minute in ‘Marian’s kitchen’---the place where I was welcomed and could try something new and share a laugh (sometimes with the ‘odd’ ones)—always a place of conversation and joy and love.  …and yes, Marian is here every day.