the personal is professional

To all the trans women out marching amidst signs that center feminism around having a vagina, I see you, you matter, thank you. – Zaddy Zomme

I continue to digest the messages that I saw at the march. I want to hold onto the power and magic we saw in numbers of individuals showing joint leadership on an international scale. I want to listen and consume the messages that I neglected to consider. I want to continue to unlearn my socialized, oppressive tendencies.

My friend Sandy shared a message on Facebook in response to this image:

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I was very heartened and inspired to see so many people picking up signs; I hope the energy continues!

I was disheartened to see people shutting down critiques of the march in the name of “unity” or “coming together” or “love.” If “coming together” means people of color and trans people have to set aside their concerns in order to fit with a pre-determined plan, we are re-creating the dynamics we intend to challenge.

My hope for myself and other white, straight, cis-gendered women is that we apply the same enthusiasm to our education as we do to marching, and when we discover our mistakes we don’t get defensive but rather are willing to repair them and learn from them. When we do that, we create a culture in which other people can learn, too, instead of continuing the problematic attitude that people are either “good” or “bad.” As this sign says, we are socialized to be oppressive, and all of us are on a journey of un-learning”                                                                                                                                 -Sandy Robson

On Friday January 20th, I hosted a dinner for friends and family that were marching. I put energy into creating a meal that would bring friends and family together. The menu was designed around playful puns that overlapped food with different representations of femininity and female leadership. However, my definition of what is female to me, is not a definition that can be shared across the diverse platform of women and those marching. The use and symbol of the cundt cake emphasizes that femininity and female are reliant on having a vagina. My interest in representing a vagina in my food was to challenge the discomfort that folks display in hearing the word or seeing images of vagina’s. While it was fun to decorate a cake with wavy frosted labia, I wanted to comment that the representation of a vagina as the symbol of female, was not inclusive, or my intention. It was a fraction of the diverse perspective of femininity.

I’ve been thinking a lot about messages to the public about the public. I think generalized messages tend to be innately incorrect or exclusive in some way. I find fault in my messages too, and am learning to correct my missteps.  

There are continually growing nuances in self expression making it hard to generalize an account of what is going on in America right now. In my experience as a privileged white, straight, cis-gendered, able-bodied woman, it is still extremely difficult to start a business. My interest in food business largely stems from the intersections food has with race, gender and class. While I love cooking and growing food, I am far more interested in using it as a focal point in bringing people together.

If along my journey to starting my business you notice that it is exclusive or inaccessible to you, please reach out to me. I will be doing work to make the space around my food truck an inclusive one through partnerships with communities and individuals that use it as a platform for their own self expression. The personal is professional. My fight against oppression is baked into my work and I’m looking to uplift together.

New Year, New Self… New Business?

I was really grateful to be asked to write a blog post for Start-up Soirée. When you’re starting a business a little goes a long way and the request to let me get some air time on the Start-up Soirée blog meant a lot. If you’re interested in keeping a pulse on local business in Baltimore you should tap into Start-up Soirée‘s resources. And if you’re interested in hearing my musings on how I’m juggling self care and business care as I head into a new year you should read my blog post!

What Can You Do in a Food Truck?

The freshly tuned up Little Debbie Truck has so much potential, a blank page, waiting to be filled in with kitchen equipment. But before embarking on the complete transition I wanted to see how others could think to use the space. I decided the best way to introduce Little Deb to Baltimore was to have a handful of my talented friends come out and show off what they could do in an empty truck. This video, What Can You Do in a Food Truck?, is the collaborative creation. It warms my heart to see people I love playing around in the future food truck, and I’m excited to continue to think of creative ways I can highlight Baltimore’s talented people and share the platform the truck provides.

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What Can You Do in a Food Truck?

Please continue to follow the journey of Little Debbie gone Wilde Thyme, to see what’s created!

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But Food is Sexy

Who’s rooting for vegetables?

In 2014 I lived in Nashville, TN. I was working for a company called Good Food for Good People. The mission of the business was to improve access to good food throughout Nashville. We would set up local food markets in YMCA’s, churches, schools and hospitals; heavily trafficked community spaces. I tried my first kohlrabi on the job, fell in love with salad turnips that we would leave out as samples, and learned that you could eat raw sweet corn. Much of the market experience was spent talking to people about new vegetables and how to eat them. My boss had often said, “we have to make food sexy!” And I’ve felt strongly ever sense that he is right. Who’s rooting for vegetables to be big? With all the financial backing of sugar filled products, it’s hard to imagine anyone taking the time to advertise a salad turnip.

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I think part of the way to make real food more approachable is by making it sexier. So how can we make food sexy? I think one way is to wear it. We make a choice everyday in what we wear and how we represent ourselves. For me, I want to talk about food. I want to talk about where is comes from, who is responsible for making it, where we can find it and why, what we like to eat, or what we’ve never tried before. I love the way that Laura Miller (@imlauramiller) photographs herself with food as her fashion statement. Here are a few examples:

She also has an instagram dedicated to Froobs (Fruit Boobs), that makes fruit comical and approachable in an entirely different way.

I started doing the #froobs thing on my instagram a few years ago as a funny little way to incorporate some fruit into a photo. But then I started doing some lopsided fruit. Some extra big, some extra small, some bruised and not-so-pretty ones. And then I started using the hashtag #allfroobsarebeautiful. I got such great comments and responses from women in a “yep I feel you girl” kind of way. Look, I’m not saying it was some big impactful movement, but it a nice little way of poking fun at the body insecurities that many of us deal with every day.” -Laura Miller

Here are some highlights from that:

You can also buy Froob shirts here!

For me, I try to pick up food accessories when and where I can. I have a dress covered in pickle jars, a necklace with an egg over easy, and orange slice earrings. All things I love to eat, all things I think are cool, and all things I want to advertise and talk about. If big companies aren’t going to advertise fruits and vegetables… why can’t we, in small ways, do it ourselves? Last spring, recognizing the lack of available food accessories, I started making hats with root vegetables on them. I’ve started to sell them to cover the cost of some of the donated events I’m doing to promote my business. 

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Me with the original hat, spring 2016, harvesting radishes.

If you’re interested in some food accessories, or want to support a local baltimore business, let me know and I can make you one!

Cause you’re sexy, and beets are sexy, and together we can make food sexy.

Some cute friends right here:

Image 1: Rebecca with her crooked/cute pup!; Image 2: I made a special native species hat for Gaby, who plants butterfly gardens in Curtis bay as part of her job as a community outreach coordinator for the Baltimore National Aquarium. She got some butterfly friendly milkweed and a black eyed Susan (native flowers are sexy too!

Image 3: Gwen, who works for the Baltimore Orchard Project, got a special custom pawpaw and apple hat. ; Image 4: The pawpaw and the apple up close! ; Image 5: Some local Baltimore advertisement for fruit!

Some cute hats right here:

 

All of the Ingredients are Here

You don’t often hear people talking about how lonely starting a business can be. My business is still at such a small scale, that it is mostly me, day in and day out, hustlin’. That copious amount of me time has got me thinking, what resources are out there for people, like myself, starting a business? Currently, my Little Debbie food truck is being worked on, so there is some lag time while I wait for it to be turn-key ready. This lag time has been filled with me searching for entrepreneur communities and resources to learn how this process of starting a business is going for others in Baltimore. Through some light social media “networking” (aka stalking) I came across the Startup Soiree.

Startup Soiree is a monthly meetup focused on creating meaningful conversations among entrepreneurs and leaders within the local startup community.”

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I grew up in D.C. and moved to Baltimore a year ago after trying on other cities for size. I was attracted to the city for its diversity and size and because, whether people liked it or not, the city was needing to talk about race. As someone who grew up in Baltimore’s twin city and chose to move to Baltimore when I moved back home, I was subject to a lot of scrutiny from locals and outsiders. Plenty of people questioned my decision to (excitedly) move into a city that has been labeled as failing for so long, assuming that my doe eyed affection of this underdog city was just founded in my naivety. To add to it, it baffled people further that I was choosing to move to Baltimore with the intention of starting a business. But as I’ve sat in my rookie status for over a year now, delving deeper and deeper into the entrepreneurial network, I am absolutely blown away by how many people are investing in Baltimore. And my vision of investment isn’t Under Armour moving into south Baltimore- it’s businesses like DoveCote Cafe in Reservoir hill, Black Sauce in Remington, Impact Hub on North Ave, and Keeper’s Vintage with Knit, Soy, and Metal in Mt. Vernon, to name a few. It’s small businesses investing in their community. All of these incredible businesses happen to be interviewed for Startup Soiree’s podcast, something I was excited to discover because it’s one of my favorite ways to absorb news and information.

Upon discovering the podcast, I chose to listen to episode 087 where Patrick interviews the CEO of Brioxy, B. Cole. It blew my mind as it brought together everything I have been looking for over the last few months. A space where entrepreneurs are talking about their experience specific to Baltimore. I’m going to just pull some quotes from the interview as highlights, but encourage you to listen to it yourself:

“Baltimore has the largest community of black innovators in the country, that are here already, I think so much of what happens in a city like this is that people just get so, so much of the conversation is about how do we attract in what we need that you forget that you actually have everything you need right here”

“All of the ingredients are here”

“This is a black city. White people are so uncomfortable to talk about race in this country, still, in this day in age, it is so uncomfortable, but ultimately what that means then is that white people in Baltimore are sitting here praying for more white people to come, so that they can be proud of their city, because they have been taught over their life that anything related to blackness is inferior and negative, and so black people have felt the brunt of that, right, and been isolated and have experienced a series of some of the most racist policies that were created in the entire country, originated in Baltimore… Ultimately we’ve created this really deep unbalance”

“Talking about how much of a sacrifice you make in terms of being a leader, being visible, being out there, it comes at a cost and I am grateful for the really incredible folks I’ve been able to touch and be part of their journey and their lives, and I feel humbled to be able to feel like I was like a small piece of that but it definitely some days is really really hard and you ask yourself what am I doing? Am I going in the right direction? Am I really having an impact? I feel really grateful”

“Baltimore is going to win”

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-B. Cole

People have built resources in Baltimore, people have started businesses in Baltimore, and while I’ve never thought I was an innovator in the sense that starting a business in Baltimore is new, I definitely know that I won’t be the last. And so, I am keeping track of all the folks that are doing such an amazing job of dissolving the isolation behind starting up a business for a community you love. Again, “all of the ingredients are here”.

Introducing Little Debbie

Today is a new chapter for Wilde Thyme, I bought a Little Debbie truck.

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Wilde Thyme’s mission is to address food access in Baltimore through a business approach. I want to address the complexities of how race and gender and class intersect with a changing food industry. I want to put topics like gentrification and exploitation at the center of how we,  we being a large societal we, ethically run a food business. I want to be a part of a movement that creates job opportunities. I want to work on a model that makes food affordable and approachable.

I want to begin this process with a Food Truck. I have been a part of a wide range of our food system. I have farmed food, I have sold food at markets, I have cooked food, and I have nommed on food. I don’t believe that food businesses should be a monopoly. I don’t believe that businesses should be owned and held by the few, the privileged. I want to make the process of how I start a food truck business transparent. I want to expose every stage of the process, from its inevitable challenges as well as its successes. I don’t think there’s a benefit to hiding my blood, sweat and tears. I don’t think it is in everyone’s best interest to share their secrets and process, and by no means am I calling on people to expose their soft power and personal knowledge or experience. I also don’t believe that I am laying out the way to start a food truck, just simply a way. I know I will make mistakes, even big ones, but I’d rather expose those mistakes if there is an opportunity to encourage others along this same journey.

In my naive first chapter I want to believe that being a business owner is like being an artist. Everyone in truth is an artist, it just happens that some have been repeatedly told they are artists and they make art, while others have been told they can’t draw, or they make crafts. In a world that is rapidly changing from a place where the privileged could live in a self defined postracial bubble, to a world where we are talking about the shit that’s going down; I want to encourage people to take up their crafts, I want to recognize them as artists and humans, to encourage people to create, and I want to share my process.

If you want to follow the Little Debbie gone Wilde Thyme journey I will be sharing it on Facebook and Instagram (@wildethymebaltimore), as well as here on my website.

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Racist Sandwich

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Today I want to give a specific shout out to the Portland, Oregon based podcast Racist Sandwich. Portland, OR, was dubbed the whitest city in America, and Soleil Ho, Zahir Janmohamed, and Alan Montecillo, are tackling issues around how that has an impact on the growing restaurant scene in the city.

What is Racist Sandwich about? In short: FOOD X RACE X CLASS X GENDER

They alternate guests on the show that talk about their relationship to food and the food industry as it relates to race, class and gender. They have some incredible guests on their show, and I’m tempted to list everyone they interview as someone who I admire.

Racist Sandwich is filling a gap that exists in food media. They’re highlighting people of color in the industry that are being ignored by bigger food magazines like Bon Appétit and other well known food media coverage. They are helping amplify voices that deserve to be heard for the incredible work that they are doing

Something that I am particularly in love with on their website is “THE PDX POC-OWNED FOOD DIRECTORY” that they have created. It’s an active record of all the restaurants and grocery stores that are owned by people of color in Portland, Oregon.  It’s a similar idea to Natasha Bowen’s The Color of Food Map that is an active directory of all the people of color owned farms in the U.S. It’s a map I’ve used both to add farms to, as well as find farms to work for, in the area. Specifically, it connected me to an amazing farmer, Zachary, who started and runs Good Sense Farm and Apiary, a mushroom and honey farm in D.C., whose tagline is “rewilding D.C.”, which promotes alternative urban farming methods. I would be interested in putting together a similar directory for Baltimore that promotes POC-owned food businesses throughout the city.

If you are already someone who fits podcasts into their daily commute or routine, mix it up and plug into Racist Sandwich. It’s a great resource that can connect you to other businesses and sources of information.

From Lagos

today, it is no longer enough to speak about what’s on the plate all the while ignoring the socio-political moments leading up to the first bite. we deserve restaurants that talk about more than just food. -Tunde Wey

We admire Tunde Wey. He is redefining the future of food by talking about the bigger picture of food. Touring the U.S. with his pop-up dinners that are discussing Blackness in America, he’s going beyond the plate, pushing the food industry to no longer just value the transparency of farm-to-table, but calling on an even greater unveil, the acknowledgment of food’s complex intersectionality with oppressed groups and unrecognized histories.

Over the last few decades we have seen the farm-to-table movement take off. It has highlighted the american food system for it’s flaws in unsustainable agricultural food practices. We saw key figures like Alice Waters challenge the restaurant industry by developing her menu around what was grown locally and seasonally. Michael Pollan’s book Omnivore’s Dilemma and popular documentaries like Food Inc. and Fed Up have highlighted the way that big business has poisoned our land, food, and bellies. People are more aware of where their food is coming from and key words like “local”, “sustainable”, “fresh”, “organic”, and “farm-to-table” all are used as trigger words to entice people into being interested in a new branding of food.

The farm-to-table movement has left out a major component of the food industry; how the soft power and influence of oppressed groups has been abused in order to lift up and strengthen the american food system. Tunde Wey’s call to action is inspirational. It is not enough to just unveil the secrets behind where our food is coming from, and what is going into it. We need to look at who is growing our food. We need to think about the appropriation of cultures when a white person sells a Korean fusion taco. We need to look at who is working in our kitchens- who’s cleaning dishes, who’s prepping food, and then who’s getting credit? We need to think about where people are starting restaurants, and address issues of gentrification and exploitation as “farm-to-table” businesses open off of the back of oppressed communities. Tunde Wey shows strength and courage. I hope he comes through Baltimore with one of his pop-ups, because the conversations getting started!

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I’m just going to wait for the world to move towards me.  If I’m going to fail I want to fail spectacularly, crash and burn in style. -Tunde Wey

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