It is so hard to believe that Katie was 3 and Lizzie was 7 when we opened Watts Grocery. So much is different and many things stay the same.
The restaurant is still standing and modestly thriving. I think I had some delusion of fame and greatness that I surely was not willing to put the work and ass kissing into making happen. And perhaps....just perhaps.... my ideas about food are just not fantastic enough to earn that kind of praise.
Somewhere along the line I decided that outside fame and travel and such, just didn’t appeal to me. Although I look on it with nostalgia, I realized that the things that were most worthwhile were found right here in town. Friendships with customers and guests. Good food made honorably and well. Trying my hardest to do good for those around me. And being a good and present parent.
As I have said before, there are real sacrifices to taking the slow road. In order to be present for my kids, I am less present for other work related things. In order to be present for work, I am less present for my kids. We are truly not rich nor will we ever, ever, be. We toggle between true middle class and the working poor, which is not stress free.
But, as I look back on the decade, I am grateful. Grateful that one of the first people to come see me after my mother passed away was my Watts Grocery landlord and friend. I am grateful that the weekend of my mother’s death, my restaurant was filled with old friends, knowing somehow that coming in was a great way to help out and connect, even if I couldn’t physically be there. And it was exactly what my mother would have wanted.
And we keep making new friends. That is one of the coolest parts of having a restaurant. At our best, we are always working to make new regulars and friends. To participate in baby showers and graduations and ladies lunches. Just to be present for our town as much as they are present and appreciative to us.
And so many wonderful people have worked at Watts Grocery. Even in a sea of strangeness that is the restaurant and service business, we have been truly blessed by a large group of kind, knowledgeable, and enjoyable coworkers.
When I started out in the restaurant business, I was shocked to find that in every kitchen I worked, I was challenged and engaged by tremendously smart and fascinating coworkers. They might not have been amazing at cooking or waiting tables, but they were always funny and smart and knew way more than i did about just about everything. Thank God, because without a sense of humor, much of restaurant work is alternately boring and thrilling and not always in the good way.
In this decade, we have seen friends get married, have babies, leave for new adventures. And we have buried some of our most beloved. My mother was so proud of Watts Grocery and what we had done. She always brought friends for lunch and dinner. She brought my girls to Saturday brunch almost every week. And her spirit lingers. One of these days, I will make a fitting memorial in our shadow box, with pictures of her. It is amazing that at 1 1/2 years, it seems way too soon to do that. Somehow I always imagined she would be around for this milestone as well as my daughters’ graduations. To have her not here makes this week of anniversary awfully bittersweet.
Mom's Roast Chicken
When I was growing up, my mom was a single parent. We lived in an apartment and mom had to work a lot. We had roast chicken all the time.
We use a small paella pan for this.
Whole chicken--try for under 3 pounds as they are more tender
1 large onion, large dice
4-5 potatoes, large dice
6 cloves of garlic peeled
2 large carrots peeled and cut into large dice
Preheat oven to 350
A little olive oil in the bottom of the pan. We like to put a whole lemon uncut inside the chicken for flavor.
Mix up the vegetables and put them in the pan with salt and pepper. Add your chicken. Lightly salt and pepper the chicken. Put in the oven.
After 10-15 min, when the veggies have gotten a little brown and the skin on your chicken has browned some, baste with a little warm stock.
Cook until the juice around the thigh/leg joint runs clear. Seriously.
Cut it up and serve it up. And think of my mom, who made it the best of all.