I almost made the world's best campfire apple pie, it was glorious, it was heaven sent. The pie crust was malleable and the perfect texture, rolled out like a dream, the filling made from fresh granny smith apples, spiced and cooked to perfection, the lattice was nicely done, and then, just like that, I burned the hell out of it. I've made hundreds of apple pies. I built a career out of making the perfect apple pie. I could do it in my sleep, and not in a braggy kind of way, I had practiced it and worked on it and learned from it for years. But I have recently in the last few years become infatuated with campfire baking. There is a therapy about building a fire, nursing it, babying it until it's hot enough, tending to it while it bakes your treats and then enjoying your efforts. I've had plenty of successes - making soup can cakes and 100 layer Baumkuchen and peach & goat cheese brownies, grilled cinnamon rolls, and so much more. But this pie, destined for greatness, ended up being a big giant failure.
I look back now, I should have covered the top, I should have pulled it 15 minutes sooner, I should have left the lid off. All things I know now will result in a better outcome, but I didn't do those things. So here we are, in an age where we use social media as our highlight reel and I can't show you my perfect campfire apple pie, but rather this lesson. My life isn't perfect, I like learning from my mistakes. I also like sharing those learning lessons with others because that's a part of human nature.
As a small business owner, I am always scared of the way I am perceived. They way my partner is perceived, and they way we share our learning lessons. It isn't just our art, as much as I want it to be, it's also our bills, our groceries, our livelihood. So every "lesson" is also anxiety inducing. Owning your own business is really hard. It's the hardest job I have ever had. I have had a handful of awesome jobs - videographer, a one-on-one aide for kids with autism, a middle school teacher, Traditional Hopi moccasin maker, pastry chef - but this job, it's the hardest. Everything is on the line, and when you mess up, it's on display. People can and will shout it from the rooftops (aka social media) if you are or aren't 100%. I wake up multiple times throughout the night to write myself reminders, check emails, respond to DMs or wake Doug up to talk about work. Here's the real kicker. I think I've always been pretty good at whatever I do. I try REALLY hard to be the best, it's the Leo in me. And if I'm not good, I let it go, or I learn and get better. But for some reason the learning curve with this has been harder for me.
But here we are, our 5th holiday season as a small business. Every year has been different, but also similar in the way we do things - we work long hours, late into the night, every piece stil made by us. The biggest difference is that this is our first year not taking made-to-order orders. And it's terrifying. But oh-so necessary. But it's hard to not feel like I have a big burnt pie on my hands. I should have done x-y-z. I wish that my computer wouldn't have blown up on me, I wish that we would have made this transition last spring, I wish our truck wouldn't have broke down, can only do so much but can I do more, will I feel better today, will I get it all done? It's all the thoughts swirling around in my brain and I just keep thinking, one big burnt apple pie. What does the future hold?
As Doug and I stood at the kitchen island, our real-life and not metaphorical burnt pie on the wood block, he took a fork, peeled back the burnt crust, and underneath was the best gosh dang apple pie filling we've ever had. It was smokey, flakes of oak ash on the surface, rich and perfectly cooked. We had apple pie filling for supper and got back to work and I guess that's the lesson. All the pieces of the puzzle could be in place, and everything goes great and then life happens and mistakes get made and on the surface, everything seems a little bit in despair. But peel back the burnt crust and enjoy the thing you worked so hard to build. Be vulnerable, look for the good, and everything will become a little more clear. It will get better. So, maybe our shop will be a little more empty than usual this holiday season. But we won't be still filling orders on Dec 23rd, sending out regretful emails about late gifts. Our expectations match our reality, and that's the best gift we could give our customers and ourselves.