Heirloom- a special possession or piece of personal property passed down from generation to generation; a horticultural varietal that has survived for several generations due largely to the efforts of private individuals.
Heirloom’s Mission: Creating Community, Celebrating Local Farmers, and Telling a Story Through Food.
My family always celebrated with a meal, often a great big meal that left us rolling away from the table. I grew up sitting at picnic tables in my grandparents’ carport, the warm breeze blowing the smoky fumes from the grill throughout the neighborhood. Banished to the kids table, where we were told to behave, my cousins and I poked and prodded one another, suppressing giggles and guffaws as we waited patiently for Grandma to bring out her famous lemon ice box pie and Aunt Genie to distribute her ultra rich and chewy butterscotch blondies. As soon as dessert was finished we would scurry off to Grandma and Grandpa’s room, pulling out all of Grandma’s costume jewelry and nightgowns to regale the adults with a fashion show.
In the cooler months, we would all squeeze into my grandparents’ dining room, tight with mid-century furniture overrun with family photos. Green Jello salad laced with horseradish and nuts were ever-present as were scalloped potatoes and sweet potato soufflé. I caught my first glimpses of what it was like to be an adult at these meals, listening to long and often heated discussions on politics, religion, literature and music, until I couldn’t take it anymore and I would beg Grandpa to let me curl up in his lap in his old recliner and I would fall asleep with the adult voices softly fading.
When I grew a little older, we moved into a house with a huge empty raised bed in the back. The people who lived there before had raised rare varieties of daylilies to sell to nurseries and they took all of their flowers with them when they moved away. This left the perfect canvas for my green-thumbed mother to create a huge gorgeous vegetable garden, almost as big as some of the micro-farms that have recently sprouted up around here. We ate from this garden all summer long. She would put a pot of water on and take me out into the garden to help her gather our dinner. If we wanted corn, she would snap one down from above her head, peel the husks back and rip off the bottoms, throwing the husks down in the rows to be turned in the ground at the next tilling. We would gather huge baskets full of tomatoes and yellow squash. My hands would turn blackish purple from the blackberries. I would always pop a few in my mouth when I was picking them, and my juice-spattered face would betray me when I came back in the house. Any leftovers from the garden that our family couldn’t eat, and there were always leftovers, we would distribute to our neighbors and friends. There was always so much that we would even leave bags of produce in neighbors’ car seats and on their front stoops when they stopped answering their door for fear of not knowing what to do with one more bag of tomatoes.
I didn’t know it at the time, but these meals and this garden were setting me up to become who I am today. They instilled a love of food and company that I can’t seem to shake, and who would want to. I consider this passion an heirloom possession. It was given to me by my grandparents and my parents, and their parents before them. As soon as I got out on my own, I began experimenting with cooking, but I always went back to the dishes that I grew up on, the food that allowed the ingredients to shine, and kept my memories flowing. I discovered that the greatest part of cooking is the happiness the food can bring to others and the community that it creates.
Heirloom Café & Fresh Market strives to create that passion, community and joy for others. The Boulevard Neighborhood is a special place, full of historic homes of many different styles and full of many different people, but they all value their community. This neighborhood is in and of itself an heirloom, protected dearly by the Historic Preservation Committee and its residents, young and old.
The food that Heirloom Café & Fresh Market serves is also something special. We source as many of our ingredients as possible from local producers, farmers, and artisans. We bring you produce that was sewn, tended and harvested with care by people in your community. We pick our producers very carefully, making sure that they provide a product that could be considered an heirloom, that is highest quality and artisan made. Many of our farmers are working land that has been carefully farmed for generations. Look for their stories on the Our Producers page.