Love Letters to Creative Kindreds #8 – Hannah Browne & Sarah Vardy

Dear Hannah & Sarah,

My meet-cute with you, the ladies of Feels Zine, is an indie rom com film, set in Toronto, lit by dappled sun and the late summer angled glow that happens to hit the graffiti of Ossington alleyways ‘just so.’

It is a love letter to the city: our first meeting, shoes off, toes digging into the lawn of Trinity Bellwoods. We pull self-consciously at the grass and adjust our sunglasses and our limbs as we discover our companies and our souls have a lot in common and that we are mutually exactly as cool and refreshingly not at all as cool as our Instagram profiles indicate. Like any good first date, it turns into drinks and then dinner, and we unabashedly order poutine and burgers at The Lakeview diner. Can you see the montage now? Giggles as we clink pints and drip gravy, sentences overlapping, laughter and eye twinkles as all of us (myself, my cousin Judith who happened to be visiting from Germany, Hannah and Sarah) gather and plan the first ever Nurture Harvest Table Dinner.

It’s an idea I’ve been stewing on the back burner of my mind for a while: gathering people from different creative backgrounds over dinner to celebrate the spirit of a creative company through food. The Feels Zine girls are into it, ideas overlapping as we talk about flavours and how to match that with the launch of their latest issue: Body Love.

Cue next scene: we’re all wearing something cute, sitting in the back patio at The Walton, which, if you’ve never been, is where you take someone on a second date. It’s…romantic. Strings of lights, cocktails with clever names, beautiful people, light bites with a heavy pricetag.

Hannah and Sarah tell me more about how Feels started – mainly it’s a magazine about feelings in a world they both feel is not paying enough attention to how feelings play into life as a whole. Hannah, an accomplished graphic designer working full-time for a boutique agency, devotes countless outside hours to bring a gorgeous aesthetic to Sarah’s compelling editorial curation of content that explores a theme each zine: Fear, Anger, Anxiety, Body Love, Calm, Wanderlust, Pleasure. Feelings around these themes are explored through poems, stories, drawings and photographs submitted or commissioned by local creative souls and, like feelings themselves, not always in the way you might think.

What I love the most about connecting with other creative people is imagining how the flavours of our creativity might mingle. Literally: what does your brand of creativity taste like?

The work of Feels infuses the menu for our dinner, as I explore the concept of small bites being short stories, like the kind their zine features. I get excited, creating dishes that feel like an ode to their theme through butter (I love my body – my body loves butter) and sets the stage for the kinds of flavour combinations that feel like dialogue:

Old Cheddar: Thyme – we meet again.

Thyme: Hello, old friend. Didn’t expect to see you in a shortbread, but at least we’re long on flavour.

Old Cheddar: True! And being dipped in a smoky roasted tomato soup with basil butter isn’t the worst way to go.

Thyme: I am looking forward to that – I live for being dunked.

Old Cheddar: You really do know no bounds…

Cue montage #2, this time in high speed: setting up our local pop-up restaurant space, The Depanneur, for our event. The menu, in turn, inspires Hannah and Sarah to infuse the dining space with their signature aesthetic and adds an extra layer of tactile, edible, meaning to the message of their “Body Love’ issue.

Then: pop!

Back into real time: a close up of candles flickering and creating doily pattern shadows thanks to sprigs of baby’s breath and the gleam of silverware. Warm mingling like a Gatsby party without the dropped waists – strangers are smiling and connecting and Sarah, Hannah, my right-hand gal Steph and I exchange meaningful glances: this is really happening. People are dipping shortbread and there’s not a phone in sight! If this is our movie, you can tell we’re going to kiss.

There is the theme in many a rom com where the protagonist realizes that being herself and following her desires is the path to her happiness, and that is usually represented by a hottie with a pronounced bang swoop. In my case, with the ladies of Feels by my side, I realize that if I want to start a supper club where the food tells stories about the people who inspire me, all I need to do is give myself permission to begin and the people meant for me will find me. I love what I do, and these women and their creative minds help me immeasurably.

Our rom com has a very happy ending: these incredible ladies give me not only an outlet to accomplish a personal dream (to see my words in print in their zine) but the inspiration and collaborative spirit to begin a signature event series that continues to feed and connect many.

The Harvest Table Dinners continue to tell stories and create community and keep the stockists of the organic butter section of my local No Frills busy. Sarah and Hannah – with the kind of heart swell usually reserved for The Notebook when Noah builds the house – thank you.

P.S. In the manner of vintage rom coms based on a true story, please read the following as if it were slowly scrolling to a pop ballad by Linda Ronstadt.

“Nurture Harvest Dinners became a successful offering and they continue to feature and connect inspiring creative talent through food and community”

“Sarah & Hannah went on to release several more issues of Feels. Their launch events for each issue are full to capacity and their magazine provides a voice to both feelings, stories and individuals who might otherwise go unacknowledged.”

“Sonja went on to contribute to two separate Feels issues, and unsurprisingly wrote about food for both. The feeling of seeing her words in print for the first time is in direct competition with the feeling of eating the salted butter ice cream served at the Feels dinner. Both felt like heaven to the heart.”

End Linda Ronstadt song. Begin orchestral version of soundtrack that is also inevitably looped for the future straight-to-DVD menu.

Cue ‘secret hidden credit montage’ of the time I stepped in as a hand model for their latest “Pleasure” issue and interacted with cakes, ice cream, noodles and a burger in a way that had us alternatingly blushing and peeing our pants laughing.

Insert both our logos.

Filmed in Toronto.

No animals were harmed in the making of this film (the meals are all vegetarian).

Maybe a roaring lion head floating in clouds.

Much love,

Sonja

P.S. There is nothing I enjoy so much as being witness to others following their calling and creating delicious spaces for you to connect and be inspired. You’ll find a series of love letters to creative kindreds I’ve discovered whose passion, talent and depth of spirit are palpable on the blog, and who generously donated their products to the women attending our retreat. Does this describe you or someone you know? Feel free to learn more about our partnership model here for our upcoming retreats. Want to attend a retreat in person? We have our Fall retreat coming up November 15th -17th. Email connect@nurtureretreats.com to be added to the waitlist for first access to registration!

To learn more about Sarah and Hannah and their beautiful Feels Zine:

Website: https://feelszine.com/

Instagram: @feelszine

Photo: A shot of the table setting for our Nurture x Feels Zine Harvest Table Dinner by Amber Ellis @creatinglight.studio