Monday, November 5, 2018

It's hunting season and the dogs get dressed every morning in their neon superhero capes so that if they're off in the woods they don't get shot by an enthusiastic sportsman.

I hate hunting season because I hate guns - but more than I hate guns, I hate gun culture which up here has a lot to do with twisted notions of freedom, and a very antiquated idea of manhood. As if riding around on an ATV with loaded rifles has anything to do with masculinity. I have more masculinity than that.

Nea also hates guns and quivers indoors when my neighbor down the road shoots some sort of gigantic, semi automatic rifle at target practice. We inherited two hunters with this property, who have hunted it for a long time before us, and continue to. They plow our driveway in return. Paul and Neil are very nice and respectable and share the meat with us when we're lucky. When I get angry in general at hunting culture and want to tell them NO MORE! I conjure my feelings about sharing and ownership. How do I own this land anymore than the creatures and people who live here and use it? That's the future I want, and it has to start with my own feelings about sharing. I also, very much enjoy venison.

Also, carrots. Also, Kerrygold. Also I enjoy a fermented vegetable, and up in that picture you can see the edge of a recent fermenting project aimed at saving the last of our hot peppers. No one ever died from eating a fermented vegetable says one book on the topic. But a lot of people die of guns.

We don't own a gun here, but I have shot one once just to see if I could. I'd rather have a very sharp knife and a german shepherd. I tried to buy a simple .22 once after a run in with a rabid raccoon but ironically the salesman made it seem very difficult for me or else I just didn't try that hard.

The knife is for putting a sick animal out of its misery. The german shepherd is for the type of men who sometimes drive up here and ask about hunting our land and then ask for my husband when I tell them NO.

I'm angry this morning.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Noam Chomsky

Nea, wholly uninterested in any notions of work or productive labor.

I'm reading Noam Chomsky right now; the great linguist and political thinker. His 1971 debate with Michel Foucault was an event produced and televised by the Dutch as part of a series which aimed to bring opposing philosophers together on television (imagine?).

It is uncanny to read this debate now; almost 40 years later and note the similarities. Read the following as it relates to ideas about the nature of work in capitalism, the oppression of creativity and rethinking the concept of 'the proletariat'...


"I've never seen a child who didn't want to build something out of blocks, or learn something new, or try the next task. And the only reason why adults aren't like that is, I suppose, that they have been sent to school and other oppressive institutions which have driven that out of them.
Now if that is the case, then the proletariat, or whatever you want to call it, can really be universal, that is, it can be all those human beings who are impelled by what I believe to be the fundamental human need to be yourself, which means to be creative, to be exploratory, to be inquisitive, to do useful things...

It is not true in our given society that all people are doing useful, productive work, or self-satisfying work - obviously that's very far from true -- or that, if they were to do the kind of work they're doing under conditions of freedom, it would thereby become productive and satisfying.

Rather there are a very large number of people who are involved in other kinds of work. For example, the people who are involved in the management of exploitation, or the people who are involved in the creation of artificial consumption, or the people who are involved in the creation of mechanisms of destruction and oppression, or the people who are simply not given any place in a stagnating industrial economy. Lot of people are excluded from the possibility of productive labor..."

I want to transcribe it all for you here, but instead I'm going to organize a reading group and continue to think about how to use Worlds End to create more fulfilling, creative work for people. Many of you have sent me emails and notes about your own experiences in business or specifically the wedding industry. This is exactly what I wanted to happen -- which is to say direct dialog with people I can know personally and have direct relationship with instead of pouring my energy into the gigantic sea of social media. So - thank you. Hopefully you'll consider coming to my reading group, which I think must be here at Worlds End so that we can feed you.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Bryony and a little about how we're trying to revolutionize the event industry

Bryony likes a coffee almost as much as I do, and when we started talking about creating a new version of saipua that worked better for both of us you can imagine coffee was a high priority. Also on the list was no more wedding planners (I can, and will write a post on this - it's important to me and I want to be really honest about why we're striking out in this new way and refusing to work with planners), no more large scale floral installations or anything requiring foam or rigging, and no more standard rental furniture or dinnerware.

That basically excludes all of the events that have been our bread and butter for the last few years. Which financially is terrifying, but the only way forward if we want to revolutionize the event industry; a world that profits off of gratuitous waste, the exploitation of labor, and mediocre food and flowers.

I'm thinking about Bryony a lot this week because she's getting married Friday. I just adore her, and I feel really lucky that I get to work with her. I'm not sure I've ever met anyone who can maintain poise, strength and emotional intelligence like Bryony. Her bravery is contagious and her attention to detail and pursuit of excellence unmatched. I look for three things in collaborators: the ability to be serious about outlandish dreams, endless energy and enthusiasm and never an ounce of self pity or complaining. Bryony defines this ideal. As do the other women I've recently partnered with...

Enter Genevieve. No stranger to the event industry and the unique alchemy of Saipua, Genevieve now runs an alternative production company called ET VERNAL where she uses her loving prowess to connect people with good visions in order to make good work. This includes everything from overhauling the cafe at the Brooklyn Children's Museum to allow for healthier snack options for kids (why should there be soda on offer at a museum for children?) to helping a couple plan their nuptials. Which is to say wedding planning. But Genevieve - after working in weddings for years with us at Saipua - is no stranger to the downsides of the industry and was shy to think about her new company working in the wedding planning realm. We decided if we were going to stay in events we only wanted to work with each other so that we could trust in the integrity of the process as well as the result.

Enter Nahvae. She owns and cooks daily in her commissary kitchen and cafe called Eleven36 in Brooklyn. Genevieve introduced us a few years ago. Nahvae makes the food I want to eat everyday of my life. She has been working for the last 5 years in her neighborhood (Crown Heights) to teach people of all different socioeconomic groups how to taste new things and think differently (or just to think more) about vegetables and grain. Nahvae has been catering small and large events for years but often is uncomfortable with various parts of the industry - and like me with flowers - she want's clients to trust her implicitly with sourcing and cooking the best seasonal ingredients. Because it is always better that way. If you have to explain exactly what something is going to be in food (as with flowers) then you have to source your ingredients from large corporate entities like Cisco, which sources asparagus 365 days a year. Many caterers add foam to this vegetable travesty and bill it as luxury. That is the luxury we aim to debunk in our new combination of forces.

Because I think real luxury would be to come visit our new space (next door at 1134 President St. Brooklyn) and have a coffee with us and talk about how to plan a great party with the best food and flowers that are all grown at Worlds End. Construction has started and we're looking for an espresso machine. See you there in the new year.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Eggplant, Act I

A few years ago I started growing 'fairytale' eggplants at Worlds End to use in flower arrangements; I'd cut the stems with the little danglers attached and then slip them into arrangements to make jazz. The leaves would wilt epically and almost immediately -- using them in flowers proved to be a novelty without staying power.

So this year we ate all the eggplants - nightly for weeks on end - and I became indignant at the dinner table. Even when paraded with the finest of homemade condiments - chimichurri! aioli! chili oil! --  any and all combinations eventually became routine feeling. Arguably a disproportionate amount of energy at Saipua has always gone into staff meals which leads to a certain amount of dissatisfaction in the face of anything routine or ordinary.

That said, my affinity for the finer things in life is accompanied by utter disdain and intolerance for waste, and so the eggplants - the buckets of them brought in from the field daily - stood as my new great challenge. Planning my socialist revolution could wait! Put the new website on hold! The script (a made for TV rock-opera) for the Saipua floral empire exposé is on hiatus!

Slutty-ness is a word I adore for describing all sorts of delicious monsters that emerge from our test kitchens here, in truth behind the drama its merely an indicator of fat content. Around here, we never separate the fat from the stock. In practice and also I'm afraid, metaphorically.

The first of Saipua's Slutty Eggplant Delights

{adapted with permissions to perform in kitchens nationwide.}

-Act I -

A dark stormy night in mid October. Enter stage left; a gang of hoodlum eggplants; about 2 pounds, washed and halved with their green hoods chopped off.

The eggplants get tossed in bowl with giant glugg of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and chiliflakes and then spread on a baking sheet and roasted at 400 degrees F for 30 mins. Toss them or move them around 15 minuets in.

Meanwhile put on a giant pot of water to boil.

Once it's rolling, add salt to make it taste like sea water (a good tip from my friend Samin) this will be more salt than you think -- probably around 1/8 C.

One bag or box of dried pasta. Calamarata (shaped like cut squid) is my new favorite for this, but you can also use any big boisterous thick shape. You want a big shape because the eggplants are clunky.

Cook the pasta - careful not to overcook it - and when you drain it, leave a bit of water in the pot with the pasta and immediately add half a stick of butter. Kerrygold would be best, and you want about a quarter of that gold brick. Mix that into your hot, slightly watery pasta and then toss in your eggplants and, any or most of the following promiscuous ingredients:

- so much goat cheese
- so much feta
- grated romano or other hard cheese
- giant handfuls of arugula
- two lemons squeezed over it all
- lamb sausage, cooked and crumbled
- mint and oregano chiffonade

Never met a bowl of buttered noodles that didn't charm the pants of people here at Worlds End.
And... SCENE!

Friday, October 26, 2018

dream flowers

[Chocolate cosmos, phlox, ninebark, tomato, celosia, hydrangea foliage.]

economic planning

Meg, Zoe and I sat down for lunch last week - another slutty pasta dish* involving those little 'fairytale' eggplants which were prolific in our field this year. I was, admittedly, coming close to nightshade exhaustion and angrily googled 'Are eggplants even good for you??'

Which started a deep dive into the worlds of flavonoids (there are loads in the skins of eggplant). Flavonoids are responsible for the creation of the colors in flowers which attract pollinators and also act as chemical messengers in soil, aiding in the symbiotic relations with nitrogen fixing bacteria and legumes. Why would anyone choose a career outside of the magnificent world of plants??

Satisfied, I serve lunch.

After we eat, we crunch numbers. The 2019 experiment requires us to generate $4000 a week in sales at Worlds End in order to support three full time people, two apprentices and a $500/week food budget.

The number is daunting. We split it up a few different ways. We could try to sell 2 small at $2000 a week. We could sell 1 wedding at $3K and 10 arrangements at $100 each to people willing to buy them in the city. We could offer a flower subscription? A CSA based sort of model...None of these feel quite right.

This is very different economy than what I am used to running Saipua in the city - where the numbers for weddings are inflated to accommodate full service floristry and usually begin around 15K and cap off around 100K. That sort of profit is larger and spilled out to allow us to do things like build a castle in Brooklyn. Which was nice for a while, there was a fireplace. Now those big events are fewer, we're more selective about them, and the profit pays my salary, Bryony (who works on commission) and slowly chips off at the debt we've incurred over the years - I cringe to tell you this number, but I feel the transparency is useful especially to those (most) of you reading who are florists or business owners - $160K.

It has often felt daunting to pivot the giant Saipua cruise ship to sell small weddings with our farm grown product. People are confused about what's happening to the brand**. Friends pull me aside and express their concern that I am 'burning it all down' (dropping an instagram account with 120K followers is arguably a nonsensical move). But I'm following my instincts here into new territory. I can't do the old game anymore, Saipua can't go back to that which it once was. Fortunately trudging into new territory is something I'm good at.

We've gotten exactly one (!) inquiry for a tiny wedding in August! I felt like celebrating. It's like we're back at the beginning and I'm in love with it all over again!

* I will absolutely share my eggplant game here soon including 'saipua's slutty eggplant disaster pasta'

** I started a brand rant yesterday that is equally delicious but needs a little cleaning up//will share soon.