Last week Happy Earth Farm finally received the government’s blessing to sell my Jalapeno Honey Mustard. I don’t think many people understand just how laborious a task it is to get approved.
In the eyes of the government Happy Earth Farm is no different than Nabisco. We fill out the same paperwork…..reams and reams of paperwork that require a grad school education in bureaucratic bulls*#t to comprehend how to complete yet another piece of paper. Steve was diligent and managed to jump through six months of hoops without raising his blood pressure too much, although he greatly expanded his foul mouth vocabulary.
Along with the mountains of documentation, we also had to send off samples of our product to be tested. After weeks of waiting for the results, we received the good news that our Jalapeno Honey Mustard was not going to jeopardize anyone’s life so we could proceed to step number 534 of the approval process.
Next, we had to find an inspected commercial kitchen to do the cooking. Thankfully there is a wonderful deli in downtown Aiken that is owned by a great woman who graciously said she would open up her kitchen to us. Another box checked.
After months of work, and hundreds of phone calls and meetings and writer’s cramp, and frustration and confusion, we finally made it to the last step of the process……the cooking demonstration.
I showed up at Stoplight Deli feeling extremely nervous. I have never cooked in front of strangers and certainly have never been graded on my cooking. I found out quickly that government types do not necessarily enjoy my sarcastic humor as a deflection to hide my nerves. The woman from the Department of Agriculture just gave a little “hmm” and looked back at her clipboard, pencil poised. I could tell that the dude from the Department of Health and Environmental Control wanted to laugh but I think there are rules against it in their handbook or something.
So with several sets of eyes upon me, I began. I started measuring and mixing and almost started to relax. I was doing it! I was cooking for the powers that be and handling myself like a pro. I think I even broke a smile.
Newsflash: it is never a good idea to get overly confident.
I was on the final step of adding ingredients; the stuff that adds the punch…..the jalapeno’s. I grabbed two big handfuls of the chopped up goodness and plopped it in with everything else. I turned to the sink to rinse off the remains (naturally with several eyes on me). Damn overconfidence! I forgot to turn my face away. The fumes from the peppers hit me in an instant, completely closing my throat. I gasped for air……nothing. My eyes were burning and I had yet gotten an ounce of air. That is when the coughing began. Yes, a full ten minutes of gut-wrenching hacking. I became a contortionist; I was determined to cough anywhere but at the pot on the stove. There were no smiles, no light-hearted banter or sympathy from the group, just poised pencils.
One day I will tell the grandchildren this story and it will start with, “I was a champion that day…….”. Maybe I didn’t receive a gold medal or a plaque or praise, and maybe it wasn’t pretty, but I got the damn piece of paper that says I can sell my mustard.