If you attended FinCon 2017, chances are, you heard a story about bread. It was the tale of a woman—certainly not a digital native—who had a knack for making sourdough bread. With the assistance of another individual, she was able to launch a series of lucrative online courses about bread-making. She hustled, she cultivated her talent, and she is now rolling in dough.
It is an outstanding story.
As I sat in the audience, rapt by the energy, the enthusiasm, the utter devotion to self-made side hustle success story after success story that was being shared, I couldn’t take notes fast enough. Then, when I let my eyes linger on the image on the screen for long enough, my mind did what it always does—it wandered to food. First, it was the realization that I have never tasted homemade sourdough bread. Then, it was a one-two punch to the gut as I realized it had been almost four years since I had tasted homemade bread of any sort, even longer for pane di Pasqua. Even though we have her recipe, none of us have dared to attempt baking bread like my grandmother used to make.
As I listened to the bread narrative unfold, I couldn’t help but bask in the similarities of the two women. Surely, both were and are fiercely devoted to food and family. The only thing my nana did better than bake and cook was to push her offerings onto others. One plate, two plate, dinner plate, dessert plate. Just a little more, you look too skinny. Though I never met the woman in the original bread narrative, I am certain that she also possesses drive, determination, a talent for teaching, and probably some sass. There are heartwarming similarities between the two stories.
There is also a remarkable difference.
My nana had a saying. Not the adorable sing-song one of my childhood—if you can call a song about drinking beer adorable—but one that she only uttered in my presence once I got a little older. It went like this: Shit happens, and it happened to me.
There are things that you can and do mask from children. The fact that she lived below the poverty line until she died was one of those things. Before you think her saying meant that she wallowed in self-pity or sat idly by, let me stop you. She did no such thing. Her eyes would dance as she said this as if she was daring the world to serve up another challenge.
Shortly after her husband returned home from the war, he died, leaving her to find her way with three children. Find her way she did. She took multiple buses twice a day to get to and from different factory jobs and never complained. Instead, she loved to tell stories of little pranks that the women would pull on each other and how they got to sometimes bring the castoff items home. She bought a house. She raised her children and helped raise her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even one great-great-grandchild.
But she never made headlines with her story. In fact, compared to the original, this other bread narrative didn’t rise the same way. There was no getting rich quick or slowly. There was no bakery, no restaurant, no profiting of any kind from her bread. But there were thousands of family dinners with her food as the centerpiece that drew everyone together.
Hers is still a story worth telling. It’s a story worth celebrating. Not everyone makes headlines. Not everyone needs to. Because that isn’t where life is lived anyway.