The aspect of food writing which first really grabbed me by the throat was of course the food. To write by describing something I care about so much was like playing on the swings then jumping off them, delightful. I’d write porn about how each dish looked, tasted, felt. It oozed decadence. I ventured onward, writing about its creation, the simple miracle of how flour can become tasty bread, or how biscuit dough feels between your fingers, like crumbly butter. I read more, and learned of others whose passion equaled my own. My focus traveled outward from the food itself to the people writing about it and creating it.
I read books chefs had written, essays food writers had created about their experiences. These folks pushed me to keep going. To have The Fates move us to Charlottesville, a town chock full of food people, was a real coup. I’m glad to have met many of them, and even broken bread with a few.
Kath Younger is one of those inspirational people because what she does, she does her way, with confidence, happiness, enthusiasm, and care for her product. Since 2007 she has documented every meal at her blog Kath Eats, and with her husband Matt, opened Great Harvest Charlottesville last year.
I was fortunate enough to have lunch with Kath several weeks ago at the bakery. We talked about blogging, beer, bread, our upcoming podcast, and what kind of discipline it takes to keep up an internationally-famous blog persona while running a bakery. We also compared notes on how to field the requests, suggestions, and complaints that often come our way.
It was so interesting to me as an up and comer, someone who’s really finding her way in the blogging world, to pick the brain of a blogger who’s been there, who has navigated the writing spectrum successfully and come out the other side a confident, mature businesswoman. I left feeling much better about my decision to change the direction of my blog, as well as further expanding my writing focus. Kath’s input was invaluable, and I’m grateful for her insight.
And the bakery? Great Harvest’s Cville Crunch is my new favorite bread. Every nook and cranny is filled with whole grains, along with a fantastic chew ending in crunchy notes of flax and seeds. Perfect for morning Honey Butter Toast, or any kind of sandwich. I’ll admit it did my heart good to see Alice Waters chowing down on a Cville Crunch Egg Salad a few weeks ago. I wanted to shout, “Do you know that’s local? I know the lovely couple who made that! Probably this morning!” More on that adventure in a later post.
Not only is the bread made on premises, the flour is ground right in the store. I know because Kath showed me the enormous grain mill filling the entire back room. Lucky me got to take home a sack of said flour for my own baking adventures. More on THAT in a later post as well.
Great Harvest Charlottesville is full of housemade goodies besides bread. Brownie cookies, Savannah bars, turtle cookies, or pumpkin chocolate chip muffins anyone? My personal favorite, the Great Harvest Blondie, is only made on Wednesday. There was QUITE a mutiny at home when The Hubby finished off the last blondie, believe me. Heads rolled. Crispety-crunchy on the outside before your teeth sink into a chewy sweet butterscotchy goodness that took me back to grandma’s kitchen. Damn I love blondies. You never see them in bakeries anymore. It’s made me love Hump Day even more than I already do ;)
My pimento cheese sandwich on Cville Crunch was heavenly, a cheesy, delicious Southern salad light on the mayo with a nice acid tang helped by the bakery’s own plum chutney, which they bottle and sell. Guess who bought some to take home? I’m imagining this elixir on many future sandwiches, and the sweet tangy spiciness will be a great marinade, adding a lovely caramelization to grilled meats this summer.
I got to meet Matt’s Mom, and Kath introduced me to Matt and his staff who were busy bagging the house-made granola for shipping. Got to take some of that home too. Generous bakers those Youngers! The granola? Amazing on Greek yogurt.
Great Harvest Charlottesville is a welcome addition to our foodie ville. I love buying Hippie Bread (as I call it) not from Whole Foods, but from someone I know who grinds the grain here, kneads the dough here, and bakes it here. You’ll never get me away from my beloved ABC baguettes God knows, but Cville Crunch? It’s my daily morning pleasure. And the Youngers? Why, they’re nice as pie. Mmmmmmm. . . pie! Crap, now I’m craving a Savannah bar. . .
I’m inspired by Kath because in my dream life, that second life we all think about late at night when insomnia hits, I own a diner. Or a bakery. A place I call my own. It’s all mine. My joy, my store, my very own ball and chain. But at other times it’s like that neighborhood bar where everyone knows your name. Regulars come in, get coffee, grab some bread, shoot the shit, maybe sit a spell and hang out. You’re back there kneading away, or slinging hash, or pouring coffee. I know in the real world it’s way more work than that. Bone-breaking, back-breaking, heart-breaking work. But still, I look at Kath and Matt and dream. And wish. What they’re doing is so cool. If I had it all to live over? In other words if I was twenty years younger and could handle the hassle as well as the joy? I’d totally do it.
The zeal and care Kath and Matt showed assures the future of Great Harvest Charlottesville is in good hands. Sure, they’re just two of the many hundreds of food folks producing edibles in our town each year. But they’re doing it in such a genuine, enthusiastic way you really hope for their future success. Anyone who makes blondies and yummy bread regularly and so well gets major check marks in my book. Thanks for lunch Kath, let’s do it again soon. On a Wednesday ;)