It smelled like breakfast. Like the orange tinge of sunrise. Like warmth and cinnamon and happy. The gust of air that had splashed my senses as the door swung open invited me in, but escaped me in only one word, “whoa”. “Sometimes we get nose blind,” Lauren said, watching my expression. “We smell it all the time, so we have to go outside and then come back inside to smell it again!”
Several months ago I was working a night shift at the hospital. That night, around 2am I went down to the café for “lunch” and I came across a package with beautiful artwork. The lines and the flow and the colors of her hair led my eyes to read “Michele’s Granola”. It was light and sweet, crunchy and delicate. It tasted clean. And it was made in Timonium?
The instructions Lauren gave me were precise, and as I came to the door she met me with a bright smile. As I signed in, Michele herself strode across the floor into her office. Radiant, confident. She stopped to greet me. “Nice to see you again.” Just a few weeks before I braved the weather and met Michele at the Waverly Market, standing behind the huge bulk bins of her own creation. Her eyes lit up as I introduced myself. She told me her story between her customers. Her regulars. They were all glad to see her. Thankful and grateful for her. She looked like a college student. But here there was an air of business. Of mastery. She looked like an actress.
The bakery was abuzz with energy, and granola was spread out to be smoothed and patted and prepared for baking. The staff all turned and greeted me. Smiling and welcoming but moving quickly, constantly. I walked amongst hugs rolling carts stacked with pans of granola. I still get nervous with these kinds of photo ops. It’s a huge difference from sitting in a diner booth, taking my time just a few inches away from my meal. This is here, in the moment. In the action. Lauren is the Business & Marketing Manager for Michele’s Granola and was the one to set up my visit and take me around. She is also a fan, geeking out just as much as I was to watch the activity and raving about her favorite flavors.
Between the ovens and freshly baked trays, describing the art of breaking and forming the granola itself and showing me how the bags are individually labeled by hand, she recounted the story Michele told me herself not too long ago. How Michele fell in love with a kind of granola up North, and decided to try it herself. How she started making it at home, selling it at farmers’ markets, and now on Earth Day they also celebrate their 10 year anniversary month. I marveled at my memory of Michele behind a table under a rainy tent, watching a staff move huge amounts in and out of massive ovens and walking past huge boxes about to ship out to stores and customers around the world.
Michele’s Granola started in farmers’ markets and continues on to this day. In fact, it is sold in bulk only at farmers’ markets often with seasonal flavors or offerings exclusive to them. It is sold locally in stores, carried at Wegman’s and Whole Foods up and down the East Coast, but not quite up to New York and not as far as California, Lauren explained. Michele’s Granola is sold online too. When I asked about the huge bags in the packing area, Lauren told me how the company is a green company. They care about the environment as much as they care about health and the community. That even the peanuts used for packing are dissolvable in water, even in your mouth. In fact, the company is constantly trying to reduce waste and evolves regularly in their selection of products and packaging.
I started the Baltimore Food Chronicle for food, for people like this. Showcasing to the world, but more importantly to ourselves here at home the amazing and delicious food we can find right here. In our own stores, in our own markets, on our own tables.