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The Business of Baking Part 4

The Business of Baking Part 4

Making biscuits in 1943, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Making biscuits in 1943, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Here’s the last of our culinary entrepreneur series on baking. This is part of our short story collection on Martha's Vineyard foodways based on oral histories found in the Martha’s Vineyard Museum archive located Edgartown, Massachusetts. We turn now to the business of baking on the Island from the reflections of Rosalie Splende. She was born in August of 1904 to a family of 10 children including her. At the time of her oral history she was 79 years old. She recalls that when she was growing up the family had no motorized means of transportation. So her mother would hitch up the horses twice a week to go and purchase groceries at S M Mayhews a store located in West Tisbury several miles away from the family home. She recalls her mom would purchase a bottle of the Bre’r Rabbit blackstrap molasses and ingredients to bake bread.  Her mother operated a cottage business making and selling bread to people all over Chillmark. “Big loaves of bread she made and sold to people up there.” Her mother also made a big pan of hot biscuits for the family which we ate with quince preserves “and boy were they good. My mother made good hot biscuits,” she says. This story reminds me of one about Maya Angelou’s grandmother who lived in Stamps, Arkansas. She set up a stand selling breakfast items such as biscuits stuffed with delicious meats like sausage as well as eggs and sold them to laborers at a nearby sawmill. What’s most interesting is that she set up her food stand equal distance between two similar businesses that employed large numbers of workers and in the process saved enough money to eventually build a brick-and-mortar even more profitable food store.

Here is today’s take away: an inexpensive product like baked bread why even like more so what you can do in many different ways with a great biscuit should not be overlooked. I call biscuits the utility retail food that can be sold at breakfast lunch and dinner. There’s so inexpensive the make and they can be mass-produced if done well. As we’ve said this entire week on the series on baking and making butter, the key is starting small, expanding slowly, and finding the right strategy for marketing your product and get not in retail spaces and/or directly to customers. I like the ideal of renting space at farmer’s markets and or subletting a table at a farmers market which can be even less expensive. Perhaps you split a four hour shift with another business or collaborate with an artist and who makes great sausage. You sell your biscuits and or bread they sell their meets and you all provide samples to would be customers who pass in front your table. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know too many people who don’t like free food! Sounds like a winner to me.

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