Stocking Sauce

Once in motion, we spent every spare moment immersed. I’d come home from work and ask Jeff what he’d accomplished during the day and what we were going to work that night.

One evening he replied that he’d spent the day ‘getting sauced.’ The next day he’d said, “I got more sauced!” Each time a creative answer followed. “I’m having a saucy day!” “I got saucified!” “Saucing!” 

We spent three weekends preparing, in grocery stores, on the web, on Food Network, and on the phone locating our opening stock.

In stores, because we didn’t want to duplicate easily found sauces, and it was likely we wouldn’t be able to match the big store low price.

On the web, looking for other hot sauce ventures: makers, sellers, stores, web sites. Yes, it’s true. We culled the names of the more popular brands and small start-ups.

On Food Network because BBQ challenges, and the many city specific food discovery shows featuring small business owners and local specialties.

There were a ton of tiny outfits. We learned that even if a popular brand was already stocked in mainstream or gourmet specialty stores, often the hotter-hottest of the line was not.

Jeff made friends. And, I’m talking more than acquaintances. Even over the phone, he had the gift of friendliness.

Within a few days free samples began rolling in. Some came from new makers/suppliers Jeff discovered. Two of the larger branded names couldn’t accommodate our small 2-4 or at most 6 bottle orders, but they were willing to provide the name of businesses who would.

Jeff spoke to both sources and within a day, after Jeff and I had agreed and disagreed on some items, our first order was placed.

The disagreement was about anything with the name or word ‘fart’ or ‘ass’ included. I know it’s more of a man thing than a Jeff thing, but no matter what, I just didn’t find it funny. I never understood the guffawing over the fart scene in Blazing Saddles, either. Especially after seeing it for the umpteenth time. I will admit the only time I’ve ever found a fart funny was when Peter Sellers was involved.

My vision was more gourmet, experimental, unique. Jeff didn’t think anyone would ever be interested in olive salsa or crab salsa, but his approach was, “Why not? Let’s see what happens.” 

On a Wednesday, two big boxes of serious shipment had arrived.  I only remember it was a Wednesday because we were debating the merits of waiting until we could get the shipments to the store or opening them now and just being excited.

 With enthusiasm we tore open the loot. The first thing Jeff pulled out delighted him and annoyed me…

Quotes (from friends and I) for the Week:

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Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

 

 Funny?: flatulence

What?: popcorn farts

How?: like this

Schmaltz from the Mustard Guy

Jeff & I talked about his possible conversion to Judaism, before and after our wedding.

He bought The Jewish Book of Why, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. By the end of those he knew more than I did about the history of Judaism. Which wasn’t that surprising. The Sunday school snippets I had studied 30 years prior, hadn’t stuck well, and was mostly lost due to our non-practicing dynamic.

Jeff studied The Joy of Yiddish that had come along with me in my book collection. I told him that was a mostly lost language, but he thought it would be fun to be able to throw terms at and around with my dad. He threw them at me, too. Those had stuck well, go figure.

I came home one day and found Jeff reading 1,000 Jewish Recipes… like a text book. Cover to cover. He did that with every cookbook. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone else who read cookbooks like Jeff.

I mentioned that I was surprised he’d done that. I wanted to know why he didn’t just pick a recipe and make something.  Jeff answered, “Well, you should never do something without knowing why you’re doing it. Might not come out right.” He always wanted to know why. Why do you add this after that? Why should you use this ingredient instead of that? In this case, he was looking for the history behind the recipes. So, he could learn a little more.

Let me tell you, Jeff made a mean rye bread and amazing latkes. Cooking was one of Jeff’s passion hobbies. He subscribed to cooking magazines, bought cookbooks, and visited many online recipe sites.

I definitely benefitted from that. He’d cook and I’d clean up, except when something shot up out of the food processor or mixing bowl. In that case (or those cases), Jeff was in charge of cleaning the ceiling and cabinet doors.

Years later, Jeff discovered a new vendor to help supply our store. He was tremendously excited. He emailed me and then he called me to make sure I saw the email. He couldn’t wait until I got home to tell me that he’d found us schmaltz supplier.

Schmaltz, if you are unfamiliar with the term, is gathered chicken or goose fat gathered from previous cookings. It’s a staple iin traditional Jewish cooking. Much the same as pig rendered southern lard.

We went to an Ann Arbor temple a few sporatic Friday nights. We’d stay in Ann Arbor after work, and have dinner before. We went to the Passover service and the Rosh Hashanah service. He enjoyed both, especially the shofar blowing.

The more he learned, the more aware became of similarities in our religions. He took the time to explain them to me. I knew very little about his, except for vague notions of Christmas and Easter and that their bible was very different.

We stopped going because it was getting more difficult to get there. Jeff’s work hours depended upon delivery assignments, and Friday nights were busy.

I’m still amazed that Jeff would even consider converting, so he could share Judaism with me. I never asked him to, and I never considered converting to Christianity.

But, truly, based on how things turned out, I know the reason he never got that far.

Quote for the Week:

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Bonus: still makes me giggle…

 

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Tree First

After that news arrived, I began calling friends to see if someone could take me to the hospital. Jeff told me not to go to the hospital but go straight to Nannee’s because she was going to need me there. So, that’s what I did.

Shortly after I arrived at the house on Union Street, the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find a clergyman on the doorstep, and invited him in, offering him a seat on the couch. I was about to step away to give them privacy, when he turned to me and said, “You look familiar…” “Oh, no.” Nannee shook her head. “You wouldn’t know Jodi… she’s Jewish.”

It was then quite obvious where he knew me from, as he was the pastor who declined to marry Jeff and I.

Many hours had gone by when the decision to remove Sally from life support was made. The hospital was kind and let us wait for one of Jeff’s step-brothers to return to Michigan, so all her kids could all be together in one place. To say goodbye.

I don’t remember Christmas that year. We must have gathered at Nannee’s.

I do remember the next Christmas. We’d lucked-out at Meijer, finding an artificial tree in the markdown/discontinued section and having a $20 off coupon we could use, too. We bought indoor and outdoor lights, garland and a few bulbs to supplement our Bronner’s collection.

Jeff was sitting on the floor of our new home in Adrian, piecing together the tree first. As he secured one artificial limb, another would fall off. In frustration, the man almost incapable of  temper, viciously wadded up the instructions and threw them aside.

“Let me help,” I offered. “You can’t help me,” he sniffed, as a tear ran down his cheek.

“This isn’t fair” he stated bleakly. “She should be here. My mom should be here to see this.” Jeff was struggling to not only keep the tree together, but himself, as well.

I sat down on the floor with him, leaned in and held him close. We shared our tears for a while, then stepped away for a lunch break.

With his sandwich in between the plate and his mouth, Jeff suddenly stopped and looked up at me. “I’m sorry,” he said. “You don’t have to be sorry,” I immediately answered.

“I’m sorry for what I said… that I thought you’d be over it… after your Dad died.”

“You just didn’t know,” I replied. “And I’m sorry you do, now.”

Jeff’s mouth lifted in a small smile. “You’re the best wife. I don’t know how I got so lucky.”

“You didn’t get lucky,” I reminded him with a grin. “I had to use a rolling pin…”

It took all four hands, some wrangling and a bit of good-natured bickering, but we did get the tree up and decorated, and it was beautiful.

We hosted two Christmases that year, both of which meant a great deal to Jeff and I.  We welcomed families and friends, shared wonderful meals, laughed a lot and soaked up christening love; all gathered around our first tree.

Quote for the Week:

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Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Christmas:  why trees and tinsel?

Holidays: and grief

Grinch Song: just because

Between the Two

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas isn’t easy.

Thanksgiving was my father’s favorite holiday. My Dad passed in July 2002. He didn’t made it to our first anniversary.

Christmas was my mother-in-law’s favorite holiday. Sally passed in December 2002. She didn’t make it to our first married Christmas.

I got to speak to my dad two days before he passed. He expressed regret that he’d never seen the Grand Canyon. Jeff told him we were heading up to Traverse City for the Cherry Festival. Dad said he guessed he’d never get to see that, either.  I got to speak at my dad, the day before he died. I described the festival as best I could through impending tears. He couldn’t talk to me or answer, but my mother told me he smiled widely when he heard our voices.

When Thanksgiving came around, I was sad, mopey and weepy. Jeff didn’t understand. He’d lost grandparents and he’d say, “They were old. They had a good life.” To me, he said, “I thought you’d be over this by now.” I burst into tears and cried, “You don’t understand!” He didn’t, but he did hold me until I’d cried myself out.

I didn’t get to speak to Sally. I know not everyone is as lucky as I was to have a friend in their mother-in-law. She truly was a gentle guide, although I didn’t realize that, at the time.

In August of 2002, Jeff and I were trying to find ways to make extra income. We’d heard about an indoor holiday market at the Adrian Mall, and decided to take a booth. Jeff began making painted ornaments using a technique he had seen in magazine. I had been given a booklet of Mason jar cookie recipes ideal for gift giving, so I decided to sell those, as well.

A few evenings before the show, Sally called with her usual enthusiasm and invited us to her house. I told Jeff, “We can’t go. I’m not done with the jars and we’re not ready for this show.” Jeff relayed my message and then relayed her message back to me. “She said to bring the jars and she’ll help.” Then told me aside, that she was so excited because her stepsons were visiting and she felt she could have all of her children in one place.

“How about we go tomorrow night, after the show?” I asked. “They might not be there, then.” He replied. But, I shook my head and said, “I really don’t think we should.”

We sold a few things on the quiet first half-day. Two ornaments, two cookie jars, 1 sunflower garden stake. The second day, we were setting up to open, when Jeff received a call saying he had to get home to Tecumseh. His mom had been taken to Herrick Hospital.

The serious condition turned out to be a diabetic coma she never woke up from.

Quote for the Week:

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(Yes, these are some of the ornaments Jeff made. 🙂

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Ornamental:  DIY – Marbled Paint Ornaments

Cookie Jars: DIY – Cookies in a Jar

Healing Power: Story Telling