As I approach my last scheduled cooking class of the calendar year I am thinking about how I will shift gears in December and early 2015. Part of my plan is to catch up on industry trends, marketing, recipe development, and reading.
Last Friday I managed to fit some continuing education into my schedule. For some time now I’d been wanting to take an art or writing class at Shake Rag Alley, a center for arts and crafts in the gorgeous Driftless Area of southwestern Wisconsin in Mineral Point. We have become quite fond of this area of the state as my husband has gathered annually for close to 15 years with his closest friends to camp and canoe along the Wisconsin River and we have stayed at friends’ farms, camped, attended weddings, and taken scenic drives through its beautiful rolling hills that conjure travels through Europe. This region is quickly growing on us. So back in May when I saw that Shake Rag was offering a food writing and photography class called “The Language of Food” by Patricia Lehnhardt of the Great Galena Peddlery, I jumped at the opportunity.
I had an chance to connect with many seasoned women from the Chicago, Galena, and Madison areas to talk about food writing inspiration and avenues, our challenges thus far, and ideas for breaking into the market in the near future. The afternoon was spent styling either sweet or savory plates for a photo shoot with assistance from our talented instructor.
It was the perfect way to spend a bright, shiny fall day and an excellent start to a weekend of rejuvenation for myself. Did I mention that I got to stay above a candy store? Let’s just say it was all I could do to keep myself from indulging in the decor.
I also had an opportunity to meet and interact with some very welcoming, progressive-minded local folks and transplants–many who are artists, musicians, and writers; enjoy a few local restaurants; my favorite coffee shop, galleries and book stores; and the incredible geology of this historic mining town as I wandered and hung out for a couple of days.
Through this solitary time–when I found myself hours into the day without having yet spoken to a soul–I had a good chance to practice mindfulness (especially mindful eating). Whether I was sitting on the candy store porch enjoying a dish of ice cream (in 40-degree weather!), dining by myself at a local restaurant, or having breakfast at a cafe in a neighboring town, I was able to pause between bites, think, consider, taste. Sort of an earth-shattering idea in this crazy world of hand-held devices where you never have to be “alone.” I’ve never minded hanging out by myself. It can be challenging, but always well worth the effort.
It wasn’t easy to get back to reality after this respite, but knowing that I’m in the home stretch for class and client work for this year I will do my best to hang in there. I encourage you to check out what classes are planned for 2015, but in the meantime–especially during this “calm before the [holiday] storm”–take a few moments, hours, whatever you can manage to pause, breathe, reflect, and proceed with care and presence.