Everyone has moments of craziness in their lives-- when you go off the rails a bit and pursue something that sounds like a good idea at the time. In my case, that would be Grand Finales, a little business I started in the years when I was still home raising three kids and did not have a paying job. I had always loved to cook and bake. Gourmet Magazine was my bible and I learned to make quiches and elaborate desserts without ever taking a class. One day, on a whim, I showed up at one of the stands in our nearby upscale farmer's market with a tray of desserts and asked the owner whether she would be interested in buying them on a regular basis. She bought them on the spot and put in an order for the following week.
Before I knew it, I was producing all kinds of small, medium and large quiches, beautiful (and labor intensive) fruit tarts. The market was open on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, so on alternate days, I was shopping or baking. I would make dozens of recipes of pate brisee for quiches and pate sucre for tarts in my food processor, gallons of pastry cream and lemon curd. On market days, I was up early to assemble the tarts--pastry cream and beautifully arranged fruit with an apricot glaze. Sometimes, I made pastry-covered pears or cakes. Holidays nearly doubled the output. At Christmas, I got permission from our parish church to use their commercial kitchen. Occasionally, I would pay off my friends in pastry so that I had an extra pair of hands.
There were disasters along the way, of course, like the time several unbaked quiches slipped off the pan and into the seam of the oven. Yuk. I had to clean up the mess and start all over in the wee hours. Or the time Andy was on his way to the market with the order and ran out of gas. After a year of working my tail off, I was exhausted. I either had to get a place that wasn't my home kitchen and a partner or quit entirely. I chose the latter.
So why did I do it? It certainly wasn't for the money. I guess I liked the moment when I came in through the back door of the market at 7 AM and people oohed and aahed as I passed them with the trays of pastries. I was flattered by comparisons to the French bakery stand a few stalls down. Am I sorry I tried it? No way. I found out how far I could stretch without breaking and when to hang up my apron. Interestingly enough, when I interviewed for jobs, Grand Finales was often what most interested the interviewer.
P. S. I still love to bake, but these days it's mostly scones, muffins and quick breads. Occasionally I make something special for a birthday or holiday and enjoy remembering this crazy time in my life.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.