How it Began
I started Marge in 2010 in the San Francisco Bay Area. At the time, I’d been laid off from my job teaching high school English and began working in the catering department at a local restaurant. I’d bake in my free time, and I somehow managed to convince the baking team at work to let me train with them on the weekends. Soon I decided I wanted to go at it alone, so I rented commercial kitchen space in the evenings and prepped pies, cookies and brownies that I sold at our local farmers markets on the weekends.
How it Grew
One lucky day in 2012, The Wall Street Journal called and said they needed me to overnight them granola; one of their writers had the chance to try it at the farmers market and fell in love. They wanted to cover it in the paper. When the piece came out, our online store exploded and orders streamed in from all across the country. My husband Sam helped make spreadsheets and fill orders and we tried not to panic. Around the same time, I’d started bringing samples of granola to all my favorite stores, trying to convince them to carry it on their shelves. It often worked. Today, I no longer sell pies and cookies; granola is our main focus. I relocated the business to Seattle, WA and today we have our own kitchen and produce granola for local farmers markets, large grocery chains, smaller retail shops, and our own online store.
Why More Granola?
If you’re anything like me, you marvel at the choices of muesli and granola when you walk down the cereal aisle. It’s endless. So how is our granola different? When I started Marge, I was making a granola that I often ate at home with far less sugar than most store bought brands – one that was truly loaded with nuts, seeds and dried fruit and that was, obviously, freshly baked. This is the granola people want: a blend with immense personality, color, and bold flavor without all the sugar and preservatives. So that’s what we do. We specialize in small-batch granolas and cereals using organic grains, lots of good nuts and seeds, olive oil, organic Vermont maple syrup, and our signature blend of warm spices. We bake each batch slowly at a low temperature to give it that characteristic toastiness. And yes, I still eat it each week.
These days, Marge Granola is more of a team effort rather than a one-woman show. We have an operations manager and a small baking and farmers market team. And while I’m not in front of the ovens as much as I’d like to be, I’m so proud that we’re making a consistent product that people really love – that families bring us into their kitchens each week for breakfast. That feels like a really big deal to me, and I’m so grateful that we’ve earned their trust and it’s allowed us to keep doing what we love to do: feed you in the morning.
For a peek at our flavor offerings, new recipes, and ordering information, visit our website for more information.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
We walked to the library last week and I had a strange realization standing in line watching Sam check out his usual massive stack of books: Will I ever have the time to read stacks of books again? I used to be much more of a reader than I am today -- a fact I'm not at all proud of. But when evening rolls around and the more formal workday ends, I find emails and other odds and ends creep in. Walking home from the library, I began obsessing over free time for reading, asking Sam if we'd ever be those two old people who study bird manuals and can recognize birds on walks. I want to have the time to read bird manuals someday. For now though, we're young and we're working a lot. We did sneak away on that one-night camping trip I told you about, and cooked some interesting, haphazard meals which I hope to share with you soon. For now though, for summer: a strawberry dessert recipe.
Much like friends, types of Sunday mornings, or books -- there are many different kinds of desserts. Sometimes you may be in the mood for a light French cake piled high with summer fruit. Other days, a thick slice of fragrant pound cake will do. And then there are those days when you crave a rich chocolate mousse that you share after a night of good conversation and a little too much wine. But let's be honest. When it comes right down to it, the most basic and unassuming dessert of all is sometimes the only one that will do. A good and simple affair. Vanilla ice cream. So I want to talk about that today--about a dessert that withstands the test of time, that will always be there for you. A dessert that is far from trendy, that doesn't play favorites or trick you into thinking it's something that it's not. It's a good foundation. A solid beginning.
[ Pie. if you've been around here much in the last few months, you know that I make pie. A lot of pie. And I'm particularly excited to share this pie with you today because it helped me break out of a rut. A pie rut. A baking rut. A Marge inspiration rut.