Alice Waters

Nanny's Stole & The Good Food Awards

As I was packing late the night prior to our flight to San Francisco for the Good Food Awards, in with the forgiving black cocktail dress and 'heritage' (harkening back to my Wall Street days) Louboutin heels that I no longer could walk in, extra concealer from my 'mama's getting the baby to sleep in the crib and doesn't sleep anymore eyes', it donned on me I didn't have a shawl to keep my shoulders warm or a jacket that didn't scream "I live on a farm now".  Rifling through my NYC wardrobe tucked away in the nursery (yes, I should pick up some Marie Kondo woo-woo and neatly fold those babies and tell 'em to take a hike but...), deep in the back was my grandmother's (affectionately known as "Nanny") real fur stole, complete with her initials 'SJM' on the inner flap.  In it went into my already too full bag.  

It crossed my mind that perhaps it wasn't fashionable, and perhaps it might even offend someone.  But the thought of wearing that piece of my own history, in a moment so important, felt just right.  And that's why, as I sat on the the stage that night at the 2016 Good Food Awards, I wore it proudly, thinking of my early days in her Albany, NY kitchen, refining my sweet tooth with homemade carrot cake, circus peanuts and Poppy's orange sticks.  

Audra wearing her grandmother's stole at the Good Food Awards

Audra wearing her grandmother's stole at the Good Food Awards

I think a lot about the many lives of things - a fur stole, a family recipe, a century old King Apple tree - my own many lives.  This is why I do what I do.  Because through food, we tell stories, of our past, our now, and even dreams of our future.  We plant a seed and watch it grow / hope for it to grow/ dream of its fruit nourishing us/our children/our friends.  That is why GOOD FOOD, is its many, many interpretations, is so very important.  Good food makers, as Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food movement, so eloquently stated that evening, were "intermediaries between Earth and humans, Earth and the sky."  Food is one of the many languages we use to communicate with one another.

Our winning preserve, the Shiro Plum with Mint, is a fine manifestation of this.  One of the first preserves I ever made (after foraging local Salmonberries), it was the product of necessity and faith.  Our first summer on the farmette, I took one look at an overgrown Shiro Plum tree, flocked by a patch of spearmint gone wild, and starting picking and cutting.  Into the pot they went.  What grows together goes together, indeed.

I am so grateful to the Good Food Awards & its outstanding team of employees, leaders, and volunteers.  I was honored to give the acceptance speech on behalf of the Preserves category - nervous indeed - but eager to share my story in food, inspired by heritage, and rooted in a craving for family.  I was stunned to learn just how many people this message resonated with.  I've noted before how challenging it can be to be vulnerable - and I mostly restrict these moments to the written word - not quite sure how speaking them might change their impact.  Speaking at the awards ceremony made my vulnerability real in an altogether new, and affirming way.   

Here's an excerpt (click here for the clip from Heritage Radio Network, or here to view the video):

Just shy of 10 years in Manhattan, I walked away from a Wall Street career and city life with a new husband and two dogs to head West. Life in a farmhouse down a one-lane road hasn’t been all primroses. I’ve watched a lot of things grow – and subsequently die back. It’s made the pain of growing and the challenges of starting a family, of which we’ve had many, more palatable. But the fruit keeps coming back, year after year. In a bad season, the trees dig deeper into the earth – they adapt – to bring us their bounty. The sweetness has brought untold joy—carried me through 3 seasons, 5 miscarriages, and launched a business.

I am deeply grateful to work in this field, with such talented, creative individuals who respect terroir and the lessons of the garden, farm, and orchard. I stood in my kitchen the other day, spoon deep in a jar of jam in the middle of winter, giving tastes to my now 1-year old son. We cheers’d with our spoons —to the seasons changing, to barren branches, to buds, to blossoms, to fruit - to the harvest I thought would never come.

Thank you to all who came up to me afterwards and greeted me with an embrace, a warm, knowing smile, or a simple 'thank you' and nod.  It meant the world to me.  And the support from afar - from our island community, in hugs, and smiles, and kind words - has been overwhelming.  I talk a lot about gratitude - perhaps because talking about it helps me to practice it better in my everyday life, which can often feel like a jumble and rush towards an unidentified end (young parents, you hear me ??!!)  But in the end, I make jam for a living.  I make it with people who are glad to make it alongside me - who also want to share their story in food, and dive deeper into it, crumbs on their fingers.  I talk story about ancient trees and heirloom fruit and the alchemy of fruit & sugar, copper pot & wooden spoon.  And then I share the fruits of our labor with hungry friends eager to break bread, spread butter, and dollop on jam, and carry on into the day about topics unbounded.  I can't imagine it any other way.  How could I not be grateful?

And Alice Waters, wise teacher who graces the prime spots in my cookbook collection and memories of simple, inspired meals (your fava bean puree, early in spring with the very first fruits of my first island garden, was the first homegrown dish I ever made!); if you're out there, thank you for buying a jar of my jam: you made my year!

Girl Meets Dirt Founder Audra Query Lawlor (far left) and the speakers and presenters of the evening - notably Alice Waters (second from right) and Carlo Petrini (not pictured)

Girl Meets Dirt Founder Audra Query Lawlor (far left) and the speakers and presenters of the evening - notably Alice Waters (second from right) and Carlo Petrini (not pictured)