Folks often ask me how I select the books and ingredients for the boxes. It's often around a style of cuisine and a more quotidien set of dishes and techniques. Honestly, this one’s personal. It’s not just about the doughnuts, or the running, or the running for doughnuts. It’s much bigger than that. For me, Montclair Bread Co is not just a bakery. It’s a community center. It’s my “third place.”
When I moved to Montclair, I remember stepping into the old location of Montclair Bread Company and thinking “ahh… good bread... good coffee... I can live in this town.” We ended up moving within a 10 minute walk of MBCo. Ha!
When my 1-year old woke up before sunrise, we’d be first in line at the bakery. Bleary eyed, sleep-deprived, and desperate for something to eat, we’d see runners meeting up, kibbitzing over steamy coffee and sprinkled doughnut holes. Six months later I was amongst their ranks. Like my mother says, there’s no zealot quite like a convert!Over the course of a couple years, I learned that Rachel and I shared many world views, chief among them an appreciation for the absolute best quality the food world has to offer, but also a deep understanding of how unjust our food system is. We share a deep compassion and desire to advocate for the people who are sidelined in our communities.
I have so many stories I could go on for hours, but the five standouts for me are:
1. The year Rachel donated proceeds from the Pride doughnuts to an organization for Black Trans Women, I stood in line behind a middle school aged kid who had saved up their allowance to buy four pride doughnuts, and whose mom came with them for support. MBCo is a place for folks to feel seen, welcome, and cared for.
2. In Spring 2020, when I watched a truck unload pallets of flour that the MBCo team was measuring out into paper bags so that people could buy flour when there was none at the grocery store (not to mention eggs, milk, butter, cheese, meat, and fresh veggies).
3. When Rachel baked for 14 hours on her day off in order to mount a bake sale for Planned Parenthood on Election Day (also her day off). We sold 93 Rice Krispie Treats, 81 cookie sandwiches, 48 boxes of “vote” doughnuts, 60 RBG doughnuts, 48 cinnamon buns, 56 apple dumplings, 56 bread puddings, 48 oatmeal fudge bars, 47 brownies, 4 chocolate mousse cakes, 22 pecan buns, 82 hot drinks, and 24 ice cream sandwiches.
4. After a passionate conversation about how food education and the food system is broken in our country generally, Rachel and I collaborated with the folks at Montclair Community farm to offer an expanded hands-on experience to high-school aged kids learning about entrepreneurship in food. We talked about creativity, sourcing, food waste, marketing, gross profit, and having a sense of urgency in the kitchen. At the end of a 6-week program, Rachel donated the ingredients and space for the students to mount a Pizza and Doughnuts night of their own design at Montclair Bread Company.
5. She has (and continues to!) use locally grown flour to bake bread for the local food pantry.
In short, Rachel has given her time, her attention, her bakery, and every resource she has to enrich the community around her. She is the spiritual home of the stress-bake. Her recipes are fun, relatively simple, heart-warming, and often use some of the best local ingredients available.
So yes, I will run for these doughnuts. I will run to raise money for the women’s shelter. I will run pizza orders out while the high school kids expedite. And I will run around packing orders at the Planned Parenthood bake sale.
I hope you'll join me in supporting her book and putting her cinnamon bun recipe to the test.
It is in this same community-minded approach to sustainable food economies that I selected the ingredients for this baking box. "Supply Chain" is a hot term these days, but the realities of the food supply chain structure have long been problematic - none more so than the spice trade. While I’ve selected these brands for their quality, freshness, and vibrant flavors, I have been truly impressed by their work directly with farmers and their focus on equity in trade practices.
Diaspora Co. Spices was founded to radically reimagine the spice trade: investing money, equity and power into the best regenerative spice farms across South Asia, and bringing wildly delicious, hella potent flavors into your home cooking. A queer, woman of color owned & led business, they champion not only gorgeous heirloom spice varieties, but are also committed to deepening what “Made in South Asia'' can mean, and how stories of freedom, struggle, and diaspora through food are told.
Burlap & Barrel is committed to ending inequality and exploitation in food systems that disenfranchise skilled farmers by: connecting smallholder farmers to high-value markets; educating consumers about the impact of product traceability on human rights; sourcing unique foods with terroir that are grown biodynamically and organically using traditional techniques; and ultimately redefining sustainability in a way that considers the people involved in growing, harvesting, transporting, processing and cooking food.
Beyond Good works with over 100 farmers across Madagascar and Uganda to simplify supply chains, work more equitably than fair trade and reshape sustainable farming practices.
Spicewalla is a chef-driven spice company based out of North Carolina that works with high quality suppliers to offer small-batch, fresh packed spices at affordable prices.
River Valley Community Grains uses a collaborative approach to grain production with the aim of encouraging farmers to use regenerative agricultural methods and to help meet the growing demand for nutrient dense grains, local flour, “real bread,” and healthy cereals in the region. Their hope is that the farmer, miller, and baker will engage in conversation on how to create healthful, delicious flours and food, while holding a shared vision of restoring the soils, waters, and health of our communities.