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Humbling and Unglamorous

I’ve spent three weeks baking in my commercial kitchen for Marge. I’m still running around doing what feels like hundreds of errands each week, but things are starting to become a bit more streamlined. I’ve done two farmer’s markets and a few great local events. I’m meeting lots of new folks who live nearby, making friends with other vendors, and oftentimes selling out before the market even ends.  For me Saturday mornings are like a big ol’ bake sale and I couldn’t imagine anything else I’d rather be doing. Friday nights, however, are a much different story.

The night before the farmer’s market always brings about many hours of baking, packaging, usually burning myself  once or twice, occasionally getting aluminum foil caught in the convection oven (lesson learned: no aluminum foil in the convection oven!), witnessing occasional drug deals out back, listening to old classic rock on the radio,  talking to myself, pacing. And more pacing. For the past few weeks, there’s been very little sleep, lots of anxiety, and questioning if this is really how I want to spend every Friday night into eternity.

When you come to an event or a farmer’s market booth, it all  looks so lovely. I have a sweet blue tablecloth, antique fixtures, lots of pies all wrapped in baker’s twine ready to take home. I have postcards and samples and genuinely want to talk to you about vintage recipes. But the behind the scenes is a little more gritty — there’s strewn flour everywhere, ovens that don’t always work, a broken freezer, another freezer that’s filled with pot (I’ve somehow ended up in the kitchen with all the pot bakers), ingredient emergencies (out of cinnamon at midnight? How can that be?!). It’s humbling. It’s challenging. It’s completely unglamorous. And it’s where I find myself.

And so it makes sense that, coupled with all the baking I’ve been doing in the kitchen, the last thing I want to do is spend time on elaborate (or, really, any) meals. So this week, I’ve fallen for lentil soup. And fittingly, too, seeing that it may be one of the more humble, basic, and unglamorous meals you will come across. Throw some onions and carrots together along with lentils, water, and your choice of spices and an hour or so later you’ve got lunch. Or dinner. Or a snack at 2:00 a.m. It doesn’t make any bold or flashy statements. It doesn’t promise greatness or wealth or prosperity. It just gets the job done in a simple and satisfying way. Kind of like my Friday nights as of late.

I hope your week is going well. Sit back and take a moment for yourself. Make some soup. Do something humbling and slightly unglamorous. It builds character, no?

And a moment of minor self promotion: if you haven’t seen the Marge website yet, it’s finished! And it might be one of my favorite websites ever. Go take a peek. Sign up for our newsletter under the “Contact” page and follow us on twitter and facebook if you’re not already.

Curried Lentil Soup
Slightly Adapted from: Bon Appetit via Molly Wizenburg
French green lentils are really your best bet for this soup. They’re smaller and darker than your standard run-or-the mill lentil and they hold their shape really nicely so you don’t end up with a mushy pot of what was once lentils.

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 cup french lentils
4 1/2 cups water, divided (or more)
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter (1/4 stick)
salt and pepper, for seasoning

Directions:
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and carrot and season with salt and pepper. Stir occasionally and cook about five minutes until onion is translucent. Add half of the chopped garlic; stir until vegetables are soft but not brown, about 4 minutes longer.

Add curry powder and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add lentils and 4 cups water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Increase heat and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until lentils are tender, about 30-40 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, puree chickpeas, lemon juice, 1/4 cup water, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and remaining garlic in processor. Add chickpea puree and butter to soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add water by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency.
Soup can be made up to one day ahead.
  1. Posted January 19, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Marge is my homegirl. Love your behind the scenes stories. :)

    Lentil soup may not be glamorous, but it sounds damn tasty.

    And you know what IS glamorous? Birthdays. Happy Birthday, my friend!

  2. Posted January 19, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Hi Megan,

    I can’t believe it took me so long to find your blog, but I’m so glad I did! It’s beautiful – OK, I’ll admit it, I’ve been feeling a little emotional lately and I honestly teared up while reading your About page. No joke :)

    Love lentil soup for easy comfort food. To spice it up a little, I keep some chicken breakfast sausage in the freezer (great for soups, pastas, breakfasts, really anything). Then I’ll thaw it, decase a link or two to cook first in the pan to get some juicy flavor going, and proceed from there.

    Look forward to many more discoveries on your site!

    Happy eating,
    Katie

  3. Posted January 19, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    I’ve been meaning to try this soup. I hope you are enjoying the process of getting everything going for Marge. I am sure it is so much work but it looks so amazing!

  4. Posted January 19, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    How exciting! And utterly exhausting. Congratulations on the Marge website. It looks great!

  5. Posted January 19, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    It’s so exciting to read about what you’re doing! I’d love to visit your stall at the market and chat vintage recipes but yes, can only imagine the stress and hard work that goes into it. It sounds like you’re winning the battle though!

  6. Posted January 19, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Things always seem more glamorous from the outside looking in. I bet even attending the Golden Globe awards feels unglamorous to those who go!

    I like the vision of your kitchen…broken appliances, pot in the freezer…it will make a very good story some day when Marge goes big time. (And do they give you any of that pot?)

  7. Posted January 19, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Behind the scenes is never glamorous, but boy you sure know how to make it look easy when you’re fresh-faced and chipped at the farmer’s markets :) Lentil soup is one of my favorite lunches…Happy birthday lady!

  8. Posted January 19, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Love your behind the scenes stories. You make it look easy, but I know there’s some serious work involved in all this. Congratulations on the launch of the site. It’s absolutely gorgeous and inviting. I’ll have to get in touch with you again about my order…now Valentine’s LOL.

    OH, and HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I do hope you’re having some quiet time, even though you love being busy in the kitchen. :)

  9. Posted January 19, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Congratulations! The website looks so lovely.

  10. Posted January 19, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    YUYM! I want to see photos of your commercial kitchen! This soup looks beautiful.
    :)
    Valerie

  11. Posted January 19, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    Oooh, I so wish I could visit! I love your stories and so glad that it’s going so well. This soup looks perfect. Happy birthday!!

  12. Mary
    Posted January 20, 2011 at 9:26 am

    This is such a beautiful piece in so many ways. Love the behind the scenes peak at Marge. You have such a gift for capturing the details of life – details that may not seem like much on their own, but strung together really matter and make life worth living. Congrats, Megan – you’ve had a banner year and January is not even over!

  13. Posted January 20, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I love hearing the real world updates about what this process is like. It’s really fascinating. You’re absolutely right, what you see in the retail space is not what goes on behind the scenes. Hope you share more about the behind the scenes of starting a bakery. Sounds like you’re doing great. I only wish I lived closer so I could stop by and get some pie!

  14. megang
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Katie: I’m so glad you found the blog, too. Geesh, I’ll have to go back and re-read that About Page :)

    And Katie #2: I haven’t had any offers come my way yet…

    Thanks Brit, Joy, Anna, Jeanette, Angharad, Kasey, and Val!

    Mary and El: my two most loyal readers and supporters. xox.

  15. Posted January 22, 2011 at 6:07 am

    I saw this soup in Bon Appetit, and thought it looked fabulous! I love lentil soup, especially right now that it’s so cold!

    Glad to hear that things are going well for you… Thanks for keeping us updated!

  16. Posted January 23, 2011 at 4:11 am

    Congratulations on getting things up and running! I am so proud of you following your dream, even though a large part of it is not glamourous. Wish I could be there to sample some of Marge’s goodies!

  17. Posted January 23, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    I have been thinking about you lots my dear and am glad to hear that you are having success and also sorry to hear how hard it all is. I wish I could assist you on those late Friday nights. Good for you for being real and telling it like it really is. I think the notion of starting a business like yours sound impossibly romantic and I admire you for being truthful about the hard stuff. Hang in there! Miss you!

  18. Posted January 24, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Megan,
    You continue to amaze me with your posts and photos. I passed on a Stylish Blog Award to you via mine. I love following you and seeing what you are going to do next.

  19. megang
    Posted January 25, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    Thanks, Dana! Miss you, too! I’m glad to hear you’re having success with your classes—sounds like you’re a pretty darn busy lady yourself these days. xoxo. Hope to get up to Seattle sometime spring/summer!

  20. Posted January 31, 2011 at 8:21 am

    Wow. Sounds like quite an exciting weekend! Isn’t there always a whole lot of chaos behind all apparent perfections…the way of life I guess. Your soup looks delicious!

  21. Posted January 31, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    i’m always happy when i come back here and you’ve got a new story to tell. my life is full of anxiety too. lab related, but still, i feel you. and i love lentil soup. at least once a week (yes, every week) i make red lentil soup with some other grain. i’ve been loving the combo with barley. the red lentils almost melt, the barley stays more chewy and hard and the texture combo is perfect. with some curry paste? perfect dinner. i’m glad to see things are going well with marge! if you start selling online i wanna be the first to buy!

  22. Posted January 31, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    wait! you do sell online! i need to get cookies from you, ASAP!

  23. megang
    Posted February 1, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Adriana. You’re awesome. I’m shipping granola right now. The oreos are a little tough to ship, but we’re going to gear up to ship our other cookies starting in March (we’re moving kitchens now and it’s utter chaos). Thanks for your sweet comments!

  24. Posted February 6, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Congrats on Marge and I wish you great success, your baked goods look awesome. To me nothing is more glamorous than a simple home cooked meal especially when chaos reigns all around you. Fabulous soup

  25. Posted September 10, 2011 at 10:24 am

    I love reading your blog. I just had a couple questions. How long have you been a vendor at your farmers market? How did you acquire a commercial kitchen to use?
    I would love to be a vendor at my farmers market in my area,BUT, and this is a big BUT, I struggle to find a commercial kitchens to use to prepare my product. I have not given up the search.
    Thank you for always posting to your blog, I do look forward to reading it each time you post and enjoy looking through your recipes and blog archives. You are an awesome blogger and you create with food so naturally, I admire your creativity and thank you for motivating me and inspiring me!

  26. megang
    Posted September 10, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Hi Amy!
    Thank you for the sweet comment. I’ve been doing the farmers markets since February and I acquired a kitchen simply by googling, asking around, and touring all of the ones in my area to find which I liked the best and made sense financially. It’ll be an up-front investment when you’re first starting, which is tough, but if you believe in your product, it’ll pay off in the end. Good luck!

  27. Lisa
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 7:11 am

    Great recipe. I made it a couple of nights ago using homemade chicken broth instead of water, and no butter. It was wonderful! Just the thing to warm us up when it’s so cold outside!

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  1. By Marge Bakery | Beyond [the Plate] on April 21, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    [...] given the tediousness of it all, what keeps her [...]

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