I’ve upgraded this website to incorporate https security stuff – encryption and all that, so as to maximize the SEO (apparently Google penalizes sites without it) and to put anybody’s mind at ease who may interpret the previous lack of the padlock icon beside the web address, to say nothing of the “not secure” moniker as indicating something untoward or unreliable regarding their information on behalf of this site. I don’t collect any information from anyone visiting here – no email list, no post replies and of course I’m not conducting commerce – so there wasn’t any threat and nothing at all to have been nervous about but I get the concern for the uninitiated. So, the padlock is there, the site is encrypted, we’re all secure!
DOP1 (2010-11) VINTAGE POST: It’s all I’ve got for today, I’m sleep deprived with the new job, so be it, I’ll get back on my game. The headcheese story, meanwhile, is crazily mirroring my efforts, my struggles, with the novel; namely, the energies are powerful and the stakes high. Such are worthy adventures.
Pacing the Cage
Thursday October 20, 2011. I was scheduled to start USDA production tomorrow morning. I’m anxious and nervous and just plain fucking pacing the cage…my spices, scheduled for delivery today (the black pepper is the only critical item) did not show up and I had to let Mike (my USDA inspector) know that I likely won’t be in production tomorrow which FUCKING SUCKS!!!!!!!!!
I was amped to get going and start with the new dimension of HH. Today (and yesterday) was rainy as hell and none of us carters have been open for two days and I’m sort of fucking climbing the walls as well as pacing the cage – I’m ready to sell hh headcheese worldwide and for some reason the world doesn’t seem quite ready to accept this awesome reality!! Hell and blood! AND, what’s really got me knotted up is the lack of response from ZCoB – fuck , Ari said he’d email M and R the day I got my USDA Grant and I trust him like nobody else but no word after a week of patient waiting, so I fucking looked up R’s email address (co-managing-partner of the z-deli) and copied him on the email to M (who’s got a reputation apparently of not really being very zingy from folks who should know) and I also copied Ari because I don’t trust the fact that these deli-folks actually have their shit together given the big build-out going on and I don’t want to assume and attribute intention so I won’t but I just need to fucking know, very simply, whether they’d like to include me in the next deli tasting that I’m told happens at the end of every month for potential new zcob products. What the hell is so hard about emailing me fucking back? M never did get back so now I’ve got him in my sights and there was even a diversionary occurrence whereby Ji Hye told me to avoid M and go to S at ZCoB to get a better and more reliable (and viable) and I heard from S when I emailed him in the summer, but then I emailed him when I got the grant, before I emailed Ari, and I never fucking heard back from him (has he moved on?). What the fuck? I’m not asking for a free ride into the deli. I’m just asking how the hell to get a sample to somebody who is fucking worthy so it doesn’t get the short-shrift in the globally-long line that must exist to get noticed by the awesome ZCoB. I know I’m in with big fucking dogs and authentic players but my shit rocks and is worthy. Knowing that a great product doesn’t guarantee entrance into that truly holy ground of zcob product, I just want to get the “yes” or “no” so I can get busy working on other options. I don’t want to try to commit to other potential vendors before zcob says “no” because zcob will be all I need to start with – their sales volume is certainly enough to start with and who knows how much headcheese they could move for me?
Anyway, given my commitment to providing zcob with an honest “first-right-of-refusal” because of all that Ari has done for me and that I think zcob is the fucking perfect fit for my stuff, I have attempted to contact Morgan & York (which used to be Big Ten on Packard) and is now a decent little wine/cheese/charcuterie joint and Plum Market. I emailed them. I like email. It makes me feel confident because I get to write what I want to say, instead of just walking in and asking about these folks selling my shit. But I WILL do that of course – I’ll pound the GLOBAL fucking pavement to get a great customer but I need to get accepted or rejected by zcob first. Or is that just a bullshit cowardly cop-out? Probably. But I honestly see zcob as the first and best choice for what I’m trying to do and committing to even one additional wholesale customer while trying to supply zcob would mean trouble and I want to shoot straight with folks and not by saying “well, I can’t do biz with you guys anymore because zcob is a better customer….” I don’t want to start out hh wholesale in that manner. So I fucking won’t. I’m going to practice un-attachment right now. The pain of attachment to my dreams is again intense – when will I learn? The gates of hh global production will not swing open and invite me to jump headlong into success, riches, acceptance, glory, achievement. It will, of course, be another battle. But I’m learning how to battle more effectively and efficiently and I’m going to hold on loosely here at this point because it’s a damn site easier than pacing the cage waiting for USDA approval to come through. So I’m telling myself this is easier and better than where I was a week ago.
That sometimes more than one thing is required to fall into place before you can move forward can be frustrating – I get caught up and focused on a single thing, event, person, decision, outcome, etc. that I see as blocking my progress and that I can’t move on until it’s resolved. If I’m more unattached, then I can see that my forward movement is my own responsibility – I just can’t envision just a single outcome and accept no other forward movement – I need to see good progress that may come to pass outside of my own visioning. I impose and the world disposes and if I get beat up by every little thing, including the actions of other people, which I cannot control then I’m destined to be frustrated and fucked and my impatience will block me – I’ll be blocking myself. What then, has this sticky zcob thing been trying to tell me? I know: that zcob isn’t the only answer to my hh headcheese (or my life for that matter) progress. I need to breathe, hold fast, dodge and perry, and use all my senses and skills, including patience, to get the gear teeth meshed and then rocket forward with power instead of with trepidation. It doesn’t feel right to do anything beyond what I’ve done this week with making contacts and checking in with Ari. I’m going to go to the kitchen tomorrow and scrub some biophycomythological floors (again) and have a decent sales day at the cart and go from there.
Friday October 21, 2011. Spices arrived!
Saturday October 22, 2011. $203 today at the cart – a warm and sunny fall day – and to get to $200 is unusual anymore, so it’s good. Lots of headcheese sold again. We can pay for the recent shipment of spices that we need for USDA production. Ive got the USDA-approved labels coming in – more money for that, and we need $300 next month for the last freezer payment to EAT. Here’s our first label, sort of a rush job, but it’s refrigeration and freezer proof and I need something to be in USDA production so what the hell, we can fix it up nice later.
Inspector Mike was in yesterday, which was supposed to be my first USDA production day, but I hadn’t received my spices yet, so I had to postpone, but Mike had to do some paperwork at the kitchen anyway – those guys are looking for places like me to keep them in biz to so to say, so they want to see me succeed – Mike seems like a really good guy so I’ll be glad to be working with him.
Even though we missed a couple of cart days this week because of shitty weather our revenue was respectable. Even better was yesterday, sort of, because I jammed an hh baby headcheese into the October Zingerman’s Deli tasting that I’ve been trying like hell to get into. I’ve been emailing the supposed buyer and one of the co-managing partners, neither of whom responded – rude fuckers – even with Ari copied – assholes. I was in the kitchen sort of bitching to Ji H. about getting into this months tasting and not getting any response and she said she still gets deli tasting emails (even though she doesn’t officially work there anymore), ‘checked her phone and damn if there wasn’t a tasting scheduled for THAT FUCKING MORNING at 10AM, which gave me fucking half an hour to stop cooking for lunch, grab a baby headcheese, stuff a biz card in it (no labels at the kitchen), and huff it over on foot to the deli to see if they’d get it on the fucking table for a look see. Hell and blood, if it wasn’t for Ji H. telling me about it, I’d have been totally fucked until maybe next year, because zcob gets so busy at the holidays that I’m sure they wouldn’t be bothering with tastings in Nov or Dec. Angie shot Ari an email letting him know we what we were doing and Ari was cool – on it with a quick return email “got it, thanks!” and then he emailed back to say:
the head cheese made the tasting and was well received! thank you! more details to follow! you’re the best! thanks for running it over!! Ari”
This makes me feel great and if nothing else happens, then I gave it my best shot with Ari’s help and that he took the time in the midst of his busy day to stay on this with a helping hand, knowing it was important to hh is very cool. He’s a great guy to be on point like that; I know he’s busy, but it seems like he really did his best to grease the wheels with something he knew meant a lot to me – otherwise I’d be just another bozo trying to get his shit into the deli. ZCoB from what I gather isn’t structured such that he can just walk something through – he’s got the co-managing partners to deal with and they do almost everything by committee which can, as he said, cause things to take a lot longer than elsewhere. Anyway, now I’ve accomplished that and my vog for it may indeed come to pass and if not, then something even better will come up for hh to continue to make the finest headcheese in the world. Here’s the vog I’d written up for it, not knowing if we’d get hooked up for a tasting this month:
Humble Hogs Vision-of-Greatness: End of October 2011 – The ZCoB Headcheese Tasting!
HH cart revenue has exceeded $21K as of October 17, 2011!
HH obtained our USDA-FSIS Conditional Grant of Inspection – Est. 989 is live!!
Keith has received great support from Ari regarding the Est. 989 – Ari has contacted the ZCoB deli on our behalf to be involved in the next tasting.
HH food is getting better and better.
HH was the Michigan Daily’s “winner” in the Le Creuset Cook-Off at Mark’s Carts.
3409 is leased and bringing in cash.
We’ve continued to refine and focus our phycomythologies.
We’ve maintained mindful healthfulness.
We’re using our guides.
I’m shaking hands with Ari, Paul S., Rick, Marshall and the other tasters at ZCoB – we’re all very happy and excited over the results of October’s new product tasting: HH headcheese has earned a new place within Zingerman’s Deli!!!! Quadruple WOW! What a DAY!! It feels like a combination of a blast off and a homecoming for me and Angie and even Ari, because I know he feels good about this new part of our relationship and about how far his help and his writing have gotten us. We all feel like it’s a good fit and that it’s so effing fun to be doing this with each other – ZCoB + HH!!
We’ve of course discussed pricing and we’re happy all around on the structure of our “agreement” – the ZCoB folks are just as warm-hearted and considerate and fair as they always have been. HH and ZCoB have a square and fair deal that will be sustainable for each of our businesses. Ari and the Deli co-managing partners and staff seem really amped to sell the terrine and also to put the locally famous Headcheese Hoagie on the sandwich board so HH can kick-ass right through this fall and winter and into next year keeping HH fans happy and acquiring thousands of new headcheese fans.
Angie and me walk out into the Deli courtyard and just breath in the fresh fall air and stand in the sun amongst all the happy noshing folks enjoying Zingerman’s food, and we just feel amazingly energized, joyous, thankful, legitimized, fulfilled, complete and at home with our food now a part of the ZCoB family. Some of our customers even recognize us in the courtyard and the deli and say “hello” and ask what’s going on, and we get to tell them that they’ll soon be able to get an HH Headcheese hoagie here at the Deli, because Zingerman’s has just agreed to sell our wonderful product. Our small little group of fans and appreciators seem as happy as we are! The connection I have to the pigs can continue on in this way – I don’t have to depend on the cart to sell headcheese – I have what feels like a real full-time year-round business in HH now. What joy and expansiveness we feel – I text the big news to my brothers and Angie calls her sister and her mom and Nikki and then I call my Dad and Mom – they all rejoice in their own way with us and we arrange to celebrate at the RH on the weekend for dinner. My brother Kev feels empowered and great because he contributed so much and has seen the action from the beginning – it makes him feel like good things are coming his way too.
Meanwhile, me and Angie grab some Zing’s bread, cheese and salami, then walk to Casey’s for beers – we’re so excited but we feel embarrassed just standing around the ZCoB and we want to celebrate on our own just a little – what’s happened is just so damn amazingly great! We’re now scared shitless in all the best jazzy ways possible – boy have we got work to do NOW!! AWESOME, JUST COMPLETELY AWESOME – Ann Arbor has indeed been so good to us!!
It’s at least a little crazy that I just about fucking missed the tasting. But there you have an example of how the universe conspires to help you attain your desires and how the help doesn’t necessarily take the form or forms you expect – here I was walking over to the deli with only minutes to spare and no guarantee that anything would come of it and the real possibility of a disappointment and frustration had I not got my chance because I’d been blown off by the folks at zcob who could’ve helped me. But that extra bit of effort on my part paid off with tuning up the piano wires of destiny and a little victory was the result. Of course “well received” doesn’t mean “we want to sell your headcheese.” But I’ve put my faith in Ari all this time and I know that whatever he says is genuine – he’s not just damning me with faint praise. So that’s what I’m taking with me and I’m holding fast to the vog with a belief that this or something better is going to transpire.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011. I’m trying to use all my tools – guides, vocations, meditation, yoga, scrubbing floors to achieve at least some unattachment to my desire to obtain a wholesale headcheese customer. Never got a response from Morgan & York or Plum through email and I don’t seem to have the confidence, or desperation yet, to approach them in person and play that sales game. I need to get organized with some form of simple promotional “pack” that I can go in front of somebody with – somebody with decision-making power – and just start methodically going at this. I’m allowing myself to be held up by the “results” of the z-deli tasting, as if hh can’t move forward until I get into the deli or don’t. I know that I can’t wait for anything to happen – it never does me any good to wait around for a result especially with only one “egg” in my “basket.” I know enough about “sales” (which this part of the development of hh now involves), to realize that zcob may not be getting back with me for quite some time, maybe even after the holidays, which has probably already got most of their attention because most retailers almost live and die by holiday sales. There’s also the deli build-out adding complexity to the zcob world this year. So if new potential new products come up, it’s quite possible that they get shelved until the staff isn’t as strained.
Conversely (and this is how I would do it, and that’s what has always got me into trouble – expecting folks to behave like me) somebody within zcob could be totally on top of it and jazzed by the idea of adding a new and exciting local product to the “shelves” right before the holiday rush – what better timing for everyone involved – producers and retailers, right? Right. Like I said, that’s the way I think, but in my experience, these types of win-wins never seem to be as important and time-critical to others, especially in leadership or decision-making roles. Maybe they have a better handle on unattachment. Or maybe, like I’ve always “assumed” (key word there) they just don’t give a shit about anything. All they want is to collect their paycheck and go home with as little shake up to their day as possible. ZCoB, per Ari’s writing and my own experience, is generally not like that – a big part of their success is the fact that they’re on top of things.
Unfortunately, I think I may have found a hole in the on-top-of-it part of their biz – the intro of new product. I try to imagine myself in the co-managing partner shoes – tons of inquiries about getting some “fantastic new product” into the zcob – “you gotta taste this, it’s the best ever, it’s artisanal, our family has been in the business for a thousand years, blah, blah, fucking blah.” But hey, I’m going through the channels and working the angles, which to me is the best way to do it. Don’t piss people off and create resistance because you try to do end-arounds – use the tools and systems that folks have gone to the trouble to set up. BUT (and this is a huge “but” that I’ve learned the hard way) DO NOT RELY ON THESE SYTEMS – DO NOT RELY ON “PLAYING BY THE RULES.” Show respect for the rules, but then find a way to put a fluorescent bike flag so to say on your bike. Otherwise, your fantastic product may indeed get lost in the pack – there’s a zillion great songs, albums, foods, movies, books, paintings, sculptures, products, PEOPLE for cripe’s sake, whatever, that just don’t get noticed in this world in a timely way that could really help make the world a better place faster.
So what to do? I worked my Ari angle as best I could, respectfully and even a little dramatically – drama can do wonders in situations like this – it not only adds the fluorescent bike flag, but it waves it like crazy and also blasts a horn. I got the headcheese sample in at the last minute, in a rush, with an Ari “heads-up.” Also, the simple fact that more than several folks at the deli know about the food carts and HH in particular, adds a little something too. That’s better than just standing in line for weeks or months, getting dusty and then trying to revitalize the concept on the spot. Surprise folks and they’ll pay at least a little more attention to it because it’s already set itself apart. It just better be good. Or call it smoke and flames, whatever – you need to get that little thing that changes the context from “completely unknown” (and the inherent skepticism and resistance that come with that), to “notable.” Folks struggle with the new unless it’s that lucky “its-time-has-come type of product or idea. (I’m not talking about such exceptions). The “hey this one’s already got something going, I’m routing for this one before I even listen, taste, watch or otherwise experience it” advantage. It can make all the difference.
O.k., I’ve bloviated enough about my focus on zcob. Yes, it is my vog, it is something I want; my best-case-scenario. I’m not wasting time pounding the streets “selling” my headcheese to potential vendors with which I have no “in” or any connection whatsoever. Headcheese requires “context” and without it, it’s a much harder sell. But I shouldn’t wait for zcob to get back with me – that might never happen, especially now that I see that their process involves at least a little chaos. I’ll have to wait a week, then tactfully check in with them. Then, wait anolther week and tactfully check in with them again. I have to do the work and then let it go. Take a step forward. Make a phone call. Go talk to somebody at Plum, which my gut tells me is my second choice. I have fairly big dreams – I’m not like Paul who focuses on the small and local – I want to go as national as I can – global in fact. This goes back to my wanting to make a legitimate career out of this that makes a buck so I can continue to live my dreams. Maybe that attitude will change over time, as I work on getting more unattached. After all, why such ambitions? Where will they get me? Here’s how it works, though: you can’t skip steps in you myth – you have to live it out minute-by-minute and take action and succeed or fail and follow your heart and guides and see what the fuck happens. There’s always the time and opportunity to compromise my dreams, to go for the good instead of the great; I need to hold to the thing that really jazzes me until it reaches a vanishing point, until there’s nothing left to hold onto. Do what feels good and right and energizes your life. That’s what I’m doing. AND I’m going to step-by-step get other h-cheese sales options going because that’s ultimately the most jazzy thing to me – keeping the headcheese biz going. I’m not questioning the hell out of this dream and thereby yanking the life out of it. It will happen. HH will indeed be a sustainable business crafting the finest headcheese in the world.
Tomorrow I make my first USDA-inspected and labeled headcheese, if I ever get the fucking labels. Per the USDA, my assigned production hours are 6am to 2pm. Inspector Mike is not required to be there, but I have to be following all my HACCP protocols in case he shows. He said I can start production anytime after 6am whether he’s there or not. I’m going to try to enjoy this process. I don’t like getting up at 4am to get prepped to start cooking at 6am, but this will be part of what I need to do to get what I want out of life. You can compromise when it’s for a worthy cause. I just wish it was for a wholesale customer. My food costs on headcheese appear to be an astronomical $16/pound. But I’m not changing anything. I’m selling the finest headcheese in the world or nothing.
I’m working through some personal shit – habitual negative thinking patterns. Anger and frustration. The book Angie bought “The Anger Trap” by some PhD says frustration is a form of anger. It’s main point is that given the legitimacy of anger in many situations, it’s (as usual) taking responsibility for the choice you have in how to handle or otherwise express it. The book suggests “assertiveness.” I can see how this may help me. It’s challenging in a similar way to unattachment in that it is not natural to me. My ambition is a strength but it carries negatives with it, like everything does. You just have to prefer the positive and emphasize it. Like with the headcheese production – I want that to be my vocation – I’m not questioning it (at least not yet) because I’m getting better at following my heart and my guides and this feels right and good. That I need to get off my ass and out of my comfort zone and go sell it to somebody besides Zingerman’s is obvious – it is not productive to hang on a certain outcome; to accept victory or success in only a certain form or manifestation – to “frame” my success and thereby limit it. The vision of greatness remains: to wholesale my headcheese because I like to make it and sell it. Will the world agree? Will it recognize my boon that I’ve brought back from my hero’s journey, from living out my personal myth and legend? I think I have a hook – I’ve sold a couple hundred pounds and thousands of dollars of headcheese and it’s received great feedback and acceptance from the public at the food cart.
Monday, October 31, 2011. A good 16.3 mile walk with Angie to Ypsilanti and back. We had beers and some food at Corner Brewery, a quirky but friendly big open space with good beer and a charming beer garden. Low-key Ypsi. It’s like Ann Arbor used to be before all the wealth and beautiful people arrived. My brother met us there in a happy happenstance as he was working at The Gallery Project in A2 that day and needed lunch (and it seemed like a break too). All of us struggling to make our lives what we want. I’m sort of off my game today – I thought the long walk would restore me, but some allergy issues have slowed me down and they may have been aggravated by the walk. Me and Angie seem to have weathered a storm between us and our walk was good medicine for the stresses we’re enduring.
Angie, if you ever read through all this crap, these lyrics from “When it Don’t Come Easy” by Patty Griffin seem to say what I never can. Like most lyrics, they need the music to convey the rest of the story:
Red lights are flashing on the highway
I wonder if we’re gonna ever get home
I wonder if we’re gonna ever get home tonight
Everywhere the waters are getting rough
Your best intentions may not be enough
I wonder if we’re gonna ever get home tonight
I don’t know nothing except change will come
Year after year what we do is undone
Time keeps moving from a crawl to a run
I wonder if we’re gonna ever get home
You’re out there walking down a highway
And all of the signs got blown away
Sometimes you wonder if you’re walking in the wrong direction
So many things that I had before
That don’t matter to me now…
If you break down
I’ll drive out and find you
If you forget my love
I’ll try to remind you
And stay by you when it don’t come easy
I prefer the live version of this song. I’m not trying to be sentimental and maybe I’ll yank this at some point but for now I’m leaving it in here. Angie calls me “Keith Loveless” sometimes and perhaps that’s accurate – I’m no different than any other asshole guy that is shitty at expressing feelings. I’m tough to live with. Ugh, enough already.
Tuesday, November 01, 2011. ‘Still pacing the cage. Now I’m battling a cold or allergies. I’m scrubbing biophycomythological floors so to speak in an effort to avoid getting mentally bogged down while I wait for 1) the cart season to end and 2) a wholesale/retail deal for headcheese. Waiting just chews me up and makes me think I’m sabotaging my potential for success. I feel like I have to be doing my five things each day at least to keep destiny on my side – to keep the good energy flowing and the piano wires from going slack. The universe won’t conspire to help me it if I’m back on my heels waiting for shit to happen. It’s just like baseball – when you’re back on your heels, not leaning into the game, that’s when the ball gets by you, at bat or in the field. When you’re moving towards the ball, advancing even slightly, and thinking in advance about what you’ll do, then you’re on it and can make it happen.
Conversely, one has to balance this “readiness” with unattachment, otherwise you can strangle the fucking process too – you can’t go charging the batter like he’s gonna bunt before he turns because if you guess wrong he’ll blast it down your throat. So how much readiness and how much unattachment? All I can do is trust my guts; trust my heart.
I’m correcting and updating my HACCP system documentation per request of Tom and Mike at USDA-FSIS – it’s a binder full of shit that you need to constantly massage because it can always be better – more concise, more explanatory, better organized, etc. It’s time consuming – adjusting, adding, deleting, printing, re-printing blah, blah. But when Mike or anybody else from USDA is in there and asking me questions and looking through my docs, they have to be solid.
Yesterday I bought provisions for the braised whole chicken with pears recipe (from Molly’s braising book), dropped off our rent check, and ate lunch with Kev (who’s working on The Gallery Project “Food for Thought” show that opens tomorrow. He’s got a cool piece in it:
Here it is in the gallery:
The show is sort of a cluster according to Kev – he’s been losing jazziness for it because of the lack of guts and vision that the gallery owners have displayed regarding the potential for this show to really say something, but with all the frustration and falling short, which is part of so many projects involving committees or groups of folks, at least he gets more work shown and is credited with curating the show. Anyway, he’s working through his myth too – scrubbing his own floors and taking steps through the forest.
I’d given up on getting a response anytime soon from anybody and, as it so often happens, the one I’d sort of given up on at least for awhile – morgan & york – emailed me to say they’d “love to try my products” and to let them know what I wanted them to sample. Of course I’d already said it was the headcheese in the email I sent, so that means T didn’t read the whole thing, which made me feel like they weren’t really paying attention already. But these things work in funky ways – they can start out good or bad and end up the opposite, so I decided to run a baby terrine over them yesterday. I dropped it off with J at the Deli counter and he said he was super excited to try it and that yes, the USDA thing was the key to any progress. I had to give him a photocopy of my fucking label because Kopco still hasn’t delivered them – arrgh. But waiting for that technicality is bullshit too and not helping anything and why would that stop me from delivering a sample to a potential customer? Right. So I needed to get off my cowardly ass, which was probably subconsciously AFRAID of getting a “no” You can see how my fucked up brain works. “No” means something just as great or fucking BETTER will come along so don’t delay the outcome and the action by waiting. In the meantime, this is what my finished product looks like:
Wednesday morning, November 02, 2011. Another day battling this cold or allergy thing – I haven’t been ill since I don’t know when and this is fucking pissing me off. These last two days have been good weather for the cart and here I am stuck trying to get off the fucking floor so to say. I could use the $200 I’ve likely lost by not being out there. Unattachment. It’s difficult to practice it when you feel like you’re missing out and wasting time. No feedback from zcob or morgan & york, and when I’m not on my game and engaged, I know I won’t get any positive vibes or progress. Good things never seem to happen when you’re just waiting, even when it’s waiting to recover from illness. Hell and blood, I’m frustrated and trying to kundalini my way through this. The pressure in my head and sinuses is increasing instead of subsiding and I know from experience that it’s just a waiting game – my body has to get the upper hand on this and it can take a day or two so that’s the way it is. If I rush it, then it’ll set me back and it’ll be ANOTHER day or two to get normal. Who cares? Why do I write this shit? Because it keeps me from going nuts. This really seems crazy sometimes, this wacked-out adventure trying to create a vocation from nothing. $500K per year seems a fuck of a long way off at this point. That amount is still arbitrary but still represents the number that sets me free financially to not “worry” about money. Whatever that means. I need to be happy TODAY. So why do I just pace the cage and nash my teeth and chew glass?
Thursday, November 03, 2011. My h-cheese labels finally arrived yesterday and though they were sized for the 4-lb. terrine, I figured they’d work for the baby terrines too. Perfect fit:
You can see the USDA “legend” or “bug” as it’s called, in the bottom right corner. Everything on this label had to be reviewed by USDA and approved before I could finalize my print order and get these in my hands. So now there’s nothing holding me back from packaging and delivering some awesome terrines anywhere in the U.S.! As small as the label thing is, it does represent an achievement of some magnitude – from just a hh “vision” on October 19th 2010, to USDA-inspected production and packaging of hh headcheese just over a year later.
I’m poised now, and I feel like everything is lining up and cooking along, more slowly than I’d like of course, but absolutely everything has fallen into line so far to allow this headcheese biz to happen. Except of course, the customers. Or customer for that matter. I have to allow this part of the adventure and vision to play out while I work to maximize the odds of success. I need to be prepared to become a real salesperson for my product because it may be that zcob or morgan & york tell me “no” and then I have to believe it’s not over for hh. I must keep chugging. Is it too easy or lucky to get an account or two right off the bat? No, fucking HELL no, not after all the literal blood, sweat and tears Angie, my brother and I have gone through to get this far. I think it’ll be fun to get this part of the biz going even though it’s fucking nerve-wracking to have those samples out there in the hands of zcob and m&y and to hear nothing back.
I don’t have much to say regarding Morgan & York – it may be that they’ll turn out to be cool customers but so far, they are painfully slow to respond and to me, that doesn’t bode well. I don’t shop there and don’t see a reason to, so it’s not a big deal to me if I don’t get in there – I don’t have a vibe for the place. With zcob, I know they aggressively pursue stuff they want to sell – they have “call back logs” that are apparently sometimes very long when they are working to get a product into the deli and I know there’s no fucking “call back log” for hh – cripes, I had to walk/run a sample into the tasting because after all that email and effort on my part, zcob blew me the fuck off when it came down to brass tacks and game-time. I’m not going to take that as a bad sign; the competition is stiff and I need to have faith in Ari; nobody else at zcob gives a shit nor should they but if Ari wants it in the deli, then after he committees it, then we’ll see. I just have to wait.
Mike at USDA told me I still need to address allergens in my hazard analysis even though I don’t need any such info on my label. So I tweaked that already and I think my HACCP system docs are looking better and better. In the meantime today, I’ll get my ass into the kitchen, take inventory, get to the store for some provisions, then cook up some stock and soup for this weekend and next week. Headcheese production is next Monday because I’m hoping I’ll move some h-cheese this Friday and Saturday at the cart.
Ari said his new book is at the designer, and it’ll be out for xmas sales. Very cool and he did well to get things done before their big holiday season – big sales for him and zcob I hope. I have to see my own success as real and in more than one way. I get so fucking locked into a particular version of my success – like getting my h-cheese into the z-deli – that I can fail to allow other even better things to develop. I’m impatient as hell sometimes, but I’m trying to learn to be better as this process unfolds. I’m anxious, as I said before, to legitimize my efforts and have something to “show” for this work. Otherwise, I feel like there’s nothing else I can do except look for a shitty job. THAT has to change too – I must look at money-making as something that can be great whether it’s associated with hh or not. I’ll cook today, that’ll help my heartmind, and I’ll sell tomorrow, and then I’ll do the same next week until November 12th, Saturday when the cart season ends and then keep chugging from there with updated plans and visions. Meanwhile, I’ll try to enjoy obscurity while it lasts….
Saturday, November 05, 2011. Apples and pears in a nice tart. The recipe is from Dean & DeLuca: The Food and Wine Cookbook and I made it for the first time this morning; it came out very well. We sold all of it – Allen from ZCoB Coffee Co. bought the last two pieces – he has a sweet tooth like me I think. Instead of the butter crust the book called for, I substituted, like I always do, the lard & butter pastry crust recipe I learned from the Zingerman’s Bakehouse pie class Angie and I took many years ago – I think it’s the fucking best pie crust ever. I made a good one and it turned out very tasty and held its crunchiness all day; it’s not as sensitive to moisture as an all-butter or heaven forbid shortening crust. The last slices, even after having sat out all afternoon, didn’t droop – they remained light, crisp and I think tasty, even though we didn’t get to try a piece; I only got a morsel of crust with some fruit scraps.
I’ll do another one next week – I like recipes like this because they fit right in with my “heritage bistro” aesthetic which, though it’s not like we promote it, has actually been the menu theme for the cart all year, as published on the mark’s carts and hh websites at least. Food that might come from your own home kitchen, but that discerning folks looking for authentic flavor will appreciate in a retail or restaurant setting. I hate even thinking of referring to hh as a restaurant, because I generally don’t like restaurants, but hell, we’ve been a tiny outdoor bistro all season, and this dessert helps make my culinary point and makes me feel good.
However, as much as I enjoy cooking and baking different shit, I don’t get the same charge out of selling any of my stuff as much as headcheese. I can’t fully explain it, and I don’t want to try – it doesn’t matter – it’s just something that really feels special and important to me. It has a lot to do with the pigs – you can’t make headcheese without being transported right back to the sounders in the fields (Kev told me that a group of pigs is called a “sounder”) – a neat word. Will I ever get tired of making headcheese? You can get tired of anything, but if it’s right for you, what you ought to be doing, a vocation that allows you to be who you are, then I’m hopeful that I can just keep going as long as I need to. The other stuff I make I’d just rather make and eat at home. I can’t explain that either – it shows that I’m not one for owning let alone operating a restaurant. It’s just too MUCH of everything – too much rushing around, scrambling, back and forth, set up, break down, and clean up, clean up, clean up. The more different shit you make, the more dishes you have to wash up.
Anyway, it was a good two days in the food court – the weather was perfectly sunny and warm – as good as Fall gets in Michigan before the big freeze. So I missed a few days with the allergy/cold bullshit, but bounced back with good sales: $180 on Friday and today (Saturday), we did $195. It’s crazy (and sad) that $200 seems like a fucking windfall nowadays but hell, we’ll get past our $22K for the season and go from there. I got quoted in an annarbor.com article along with Jay and Phyllis (of course she always seems to make sure to get herself into anything to do with “marketing”). A reporter asked what we all were going to do in the “off-season.” I mentioned the headcheese plan of course, so now it’s in print so to say for all to see. Not that anybody reads that shit. Too bad I can’t point to an actual bloody retail customer yet.
Next week is the last one for our food cart adventure. Folks ask if I’m coming back next year and I can’t say yet – it depends on the h-cheese progress. I could be a flop. It just doesn’t feel like it’s gonna go that way though. It seems like the thing I should be doing. I just need to hold the line, hold on, keep chugging, do the work, spend the time, do my five things each day and get better at selling the idea to local retailers and then nationwide. The price is going to really limit my possible vendors, but fuck I’m not compromising anything about the h-cheese. It is what it is and if nobody wants to sell it besides me, then that’s what I’ll have to think about before telling mark h. I’m not coming back to the food court. I just cannot imagine another grinding cart season, competing with the likes of sans street, who’s hitting their zcob stride and doing at least double (sometimes triple) everyone else’s biz in the court. It just goes to show that time-tested street food, Asian or not, is what folks want in quantity. I have nothing against it, I’m just not interested in Asian cuisine very much. It’s all fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar and sticky, gelatinous, gooey stuff, even the “buns” are sticky. ZCoB doesn’t go into anything half-ass and I can imagine that next year, their cart will REALLY kick ass. There will also be a grilled cheese cart with zcob backing next year, so the competition will just keep getting rougher and tougher and I think it will continue to slide towards more traditional street food, all the way back down to hot dogs and pizza. It’s because nothing else has a profit margin that makes the cart biz feasible.
I’m not interested in schlepping tacos, burritos, asian buns, wraps, chili, and other finger food-type eats. My one nod to the street is my headcheese hoagie and it’s not a hoagie and it’s not cheap – next year I’d have to charge $10/sandwich at least to make it financially sustainable and something tells me that might really put folks off the concept. Making braises and using Niman meat and trying to stay away from pulled pork hell and chili dogs is going to be an issue next year I think as folks try to really cash in on the food cart concept. I’d like to keep “rotating” my menu in one “tray” like I did this year – experimenting with what I want to cook or bake and seeing if folks like it, but I’m not sure that’s smart, sustainable biz. Sans St. proves the zcob way of a well-defined menu, tweaked to perfection, with cheap help and lower food costs than I’m willing to lower myself into. In the food court, the rewards-commensurate-with-my-efforts equation isn’t working out – I don’t want to have to try to feel good about doing $150/day, and honestly, I wouldn’t be happy with even $500/day again. I just sort of feel like “who the fuck cares about a food cart?” Like I said in my biz plan – I don’t like most restaurants and I don’t eat at food carts. It just doesn’t jazz me. I guess I’m just a home cook. Except for the h-cheese, which jazzes me to produce as a multi-million-dollar juggernaut of global entrepreneurial success. Man, I really, really wish I’d get the awesome zcob call-back saying it’s a “go” for hh headcheese. The waiting, as T. Petty sang, “is the hardest part.”
 It’s 8.22.2013, (almost two years after I originally made this entry), and I’m leaving this entry as originally written, with the sliver of optimism and the good things to say about ZCoB, despite having discovered, after subsequently working there for eight months and going to my share of tastings, with or without Ari present, that they’ve got their share of workplace authenticity issues. I’ll leave it at that.
 Patty Griffin, Live from the Artists Den, “When it Don’t Come Easy,” Artists Den Records: 2008.