For the past 6 years, my husband, Tylan, and I have built our business, Walden Hill, relationship by relationship. In fact, one of the greatest joys of the business has been forming and maintaining these relationships. But as I’m sure you can relate, our lives got turned upside down last month as the threat of the virus became clear. And for us that meant asking ourselves – how does a business built on relationships survive a socially distanced reality? At first, we didn’t know, but we knew we’d take it day by day and do the best we could. Yet now upon reflection after a few weeks of our “new normal”, I’m realizing it is exactly these relationships just in different forms that keep us going.
The first thing I became aware of with this experience is that our relationship with the land is as strong as ever. And that especially applies to land that is local – I imagine I’m not alone in feeling very grateful for what our immediate community can provide and would have a lot more anxiety about this entire situation if I felt overly dependent on faraway lands for my subsistence. Also, the relationships with our farmers remain strong and our number one priority at the moment is to maintain these partnerships and to help minimize the burden they feel from these challenging times. That has been a struggle for us as restaurant sales went to zero overnight, but we’re getting creative and innovating with new products and ideas to honor our commitments to our farmers and to continue to provide high quality pork to the community. We’re also trying to maintain our strong relationships with restaurant customers by supporting them through this however we can – promoting their take-out options, gifting delivery meals to loved ones, and purchasing gift cards – it’s in our best business interest to help them get through this, but for us it’s more than that. Our restaurant relationships are built on shared values, an appreciation of quality, and jovial interactions – these are exactly the types of restaurateurs we want to flourish and replicate. The world would be worse off if these independent, creative, community establishments were the ones to fold from this event especially because a sense of community feels more important than ever right now.
A silver lining in all of this is we’re making new relationships with new customers who have found us as they seek out local producers with shorter supply chains from farm to table. I was nervous about this at first as face to face interactions have always been a key way for us to tell our story and connect with customers. Would people find us and try us with our simple packaging and low regional brand recognition? I feel grateful to report that yes, it seems so. Word of mouth has always been an especially powerful tool and technology has helped us harness it from 6 feet or more away.
And of course, I’m always so thankful for the incredible relationship we have with John, Paul and the entire New Morning family. I have tried to prioritize keeping the store supplied as best I can throughout these surges in demand and changing landscape. And I know similarly John, the staff, and the customers have all shown us a lot of support in direct purchases as well as promotion to friends, family and other customers. This relationship has always been one of mutual respect and deep appreciation. Despite it inherently being a time of distance and a feeling of isolation, it’s nice to be metaphorically in this together, it gives me hope.
Easter this year is obviously going to feel very different, but I’m really excited that we have a number of products that can make even a small gathering feel special. On the one hand, you have lots of time at home, but on the other it can sometimes be hard to motivate yourself to get too fancy or creative when you’re not hosting others for the holiday. These are some ideas as to how I’m elevating dinner even though it’s just for Tylan and me! Our hams are a nice smaller size and come fully cooked, so it’s a great choice for the main course. I’m just going to warm in our oven with a simple glaze. Our kielbasa is a perfect side or appetizer with its rich smoky flavor that always tastes a bit like a holiday to me! An alternative is our hot dogs which I plan to cut into smaller bite sized pieces, wrap with puff pastry and bake for homemade pigs in a blanket. This trick always makes hot dogs feel special even though it’s so simple to do and kids (and adults) always devour them. I serve them with a spicy mustard, but ketchup is also a popular choice. Lastly, I plan to roast Brussels sprouts and while I might typically serve them as-is on an average night, I’m going to spruce them up for the holiday by drizzling some maple syrup on them and adding some cut up bacon to the dish. This sweet and salty combination will add just enough flare to make the meal feel special. And admittedly, I’ll add a dish or two without pork, but of course that’s optional :). –
By Jennifer Milikowsky
Jen’s Pigs in a Blanket
1 package of Walden Hill Smoked Frankfurters
1 package of puff pastry
Ketchup or mustard for dipping
- Cut frankfurters into thirds.
- Use a pizza cutter (knife if you don’t have one) to cut the puff pastry into strips. I like to do thinner pieces so that the hot dogs stick out the ends, but others like to fully cover the hot dogs for more thorough blankets. The choice is yours!
- Bake at 375° in the oven for 12-15 until golden brown.
- Serve with the condiments of your choice!
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