February 18th, 2019
Every time I connect people, I picture myself wearing a kerchief and sing “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” under my breath, consistently keeping the lights on for my inner Broadway musical. Nothing gives me more pleasure than the hunch that so-and-so and so-and-so will come together and chorus girls will sing and feet will tap and hearts will be lifted like the song before intermission.
One thing I have learned about matchmaking (apart from the fact I should never wear a kerchief again) is that matching people according to what is obviously the same about one another, like a vocation, is often a recipe for blandness. Instead of “oh, YOU’RE an interior designer and YOU’RE an interior designer, it’s more effective to matchmake according to what their values are: are they the same kind of nerdy, but about different things? Do they both treat their dogs like children? Do they both cry at flowers? Does one speak in graphic design and the other in handmade clothes but do they share an appreciation for minimal lines and a similar aesthetic? Sometimes it’s not even a logical match on paper, but an inner knowing: seat these people together and magic will happen, naturally. Those who attend our monthly Harvest Table Dinners are there because they want to be connected: matchmaking is intentionally on the menu.
The most important thing I have learned about matchmaking of any kind though, is to seek permission. It is horrible when forced: unsolicited anything is uncomfortable or awkward at best, triggering at worst. In my experience, there’s nothing worse than connecting with someone out of mutual obligation. Also, in my experience, there’s nothing better than connecting with someone out of mutual inspiration.
So when others try and matchmake me, I am always a bit wary. Is there anything more uncomfortable than an email in your inbox dripping with invisible guilt and inane pleasantries? It’s usually from a well-meaning acquaintance you ate weird canapés with at an event sometime years ago (WMAYAWCWAAESYA) and goes something like:
WMAYAWCWAAESYA: “Sonja, meet Random. YOU love food and Random loves and works in food, so you two should really meet! OMG so perfect!”
Random: “Oh HI!! OMG yes! Isn’t food the absolute BEST? Sonja, what time are you free? Let’s meet at a cafe that is nowhere near your house!”
My response, previously: “Oh HI back! OMG, right?! Sure, let me move everything around in my schedule to accommodate this weird meeting where I have to take three kinds of transit so no one feels hurt or weird and then let’s meet and stare at one another over lattes I can’t afford and find 2 hours of alternate ways to say: ‘food is cool’ because you never told me anything about yourself and I didn’t have the courage to decline.”
I have to be honest and say that sometimes that approach worked despite its initial discomfort and I met a new friend. Most of the times I responded like the above, however, I ended up face to face with well-meaning, lovely, talented people I simply wasn’t meant for. It is not their fault, or mine, for thinking that maybe THIS connection, maybe THIS person is the ‘key’ for the next successful step in our respective businesses. After all, it’s who you know, right?
And that’s why when emails come from people I do know, who truly know me because we have shared real feelings, real time and better canapés, my appetite for being matchmade is piqued.
About a year ago, my high school friend Bronwyn, with whom I have shared stage roles, crushes, deep secrets and belly laughs, suggested I meet a new friend of hers, Melanie, whom she’d met at a party. “She’s just moved here from the UK and sounds like your kind of person – I have a feeling you’d hit it off! Can I connect the two of you?”
First of all, Melanie, your introductory email to me should be framed, templated, and sold in a course for humans who wish to reach out to someone they want something from. It was respectful, warm, and provided a clear overview about who you are, what you thought we might connect on, and what you were specifically looking for. It was DELIGHTFUL to receive!
Your follow-up was equally lovely. We met at a cafe I could easily walk to; we chatted for an hour about food, but also about our lives. I was fascinated to learn about your travels – to India, which had moved you to learn the language of spices in a way that you ended up meeting more of yourself, and your time spent working at a cheese shop in Leeds, which gave you access to a culinary world you truly hungered for. I loved how I felt after our meeting – refreshed; inspired; connected, and like I’d met someone whom I knew had my back. Thank you, Bronwyn!
Thus began our courtship. I truly believe that connecting in the entrepreneurial world is akin to dating and the ingredients for success are the same: reciprocity; respect; and reading the room. You outdid yourself with all three.
In our early interactions, I discovered you are the steward of an incredible palate, with a deep appreciation for the ways in which spice can elevate and support a dish. Equally, your approach to cooking for yourself, your friends, clients, and husband is inspiring: you cook like food is worth investing time in.
You live by the truth (and our shared value) that dishes taste better when you are devoted to them. Simple things that take time, like soaking grains, or infusing oils, or crisp-frying toppings take meals from weekday-boring to evoking stories about love and place and care. In your kitchen, dinnertime becomes storytime punctuated with kernels and seeds and fragrant barks. I love the way you play with flavours like a composer: some are spice sonatas with mellow tones that arc and complement, while others are the spice equivalent of experimental jazz where the “wrong notes” are actually so, so right.
Over the course of the past year or so that you’ve called Toronto home; selling your spice blends; running cooking and spice workshops and tempting farmer’s market patrons with your marinated feta, we have seen one another in person only a handful of times. Our friendship has blossomed behind the scenes – you’re someone with whom I can be truly nerdy about flavours, and we will often comment back and forth gushing in response to one another’s Instagram stories. I’ve consistently had the thought: “If no one else gets this, Mel will,” when posting. I may have also unabashedly overused the unique emoji blend of weep-crying and heart-eyes when it comes to your posts. Do you blame me if what I’m responding to is fresh, crumbling feta attending a party in a jar with clementine and rosemary, or walnut, sage & cranberry, or spicy garlic and harissa where fruity olive oil cascades to fill every crevice to ensure they all get along?
For our fall retreat, I reached out to you to see if you’d be interested in providing some Spice & Green blends for our attendees’ Self Care Starter Kits. You moved me to tears when you created a custom blend of spices that, to you, evoked the story of Nurture – the intentional interplay of warmth and creativity and flavours that make you feel things. Our Nurture blend included interesting, unexpected elements like dried mango powder and ground toasted lentils. It’s incredible and I sprinkle mine onto and into so many things both sweet and savoury.
I also recently got a DM from you to come help myself to the bounty of your kitchen cupboards and pantry, as you are sadly moving back to Leeds. I came away with all kinds of interesting ingredients I’ve never used or heard of thanks to your generous heart. Thank you. Your passion about food and flavour knows no bounds, and here’s why I’m obsessed: you want anyone you interact with to taste more from their lives.
Like the best kind of spice blend, our relationship started subtly, with ever-increasing flavour and presence. Each interaction felt like an invite to experience another taste of what knowing you is, and I can honestly say it’s delicious. Bless you and bless Bronwyn for being our Yente. You’ll be missed! My inner musical theatre self is now playing this song.
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 Spring retreat coming up March 22-24th. Registration is now open. Learn more here!
To learn more about Mel and her delicious ways with spices:
Product Photo: @jodianne.beckford
Product Model: Nicole Kagan