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Rappahannock is my home. It’s given me a meaningful foundation that I am proud to stand on. My efforts the past three years have been focused on offering my skills back to the community, working as the baker and chocolatier of Wholehearted Health Foods. This experience has fulfilled my longtime dream of “making my own food” and hinted at where I need to grow next.
I started cooking during college in order to feed myself, and it just clicked for me. The practical value was obvious and I appreciated the infinity of choice and combination it presented. This new interest developed into an absorbing passion when I returned home after getting my degree. In the decade since, I’ve expanded my theoretical understanding through cookbooks and practiced the craft in professional environments.
The intersection between cooking and health has been present in my mind since I first discovered it in the context of Eastern spirituality traditions. The idea that our health is directly impacted by our choices around food is old news today, but the concept fascinated me when I first encountered it. From then on I’ve experimented with a variety of approaches to experience this truth for myself.
I began Wholehearted Health Foods to satisfy my need for creative expression, to develop specific skills, and to give back to my community as best I could. These three aspects of my work are representative of what motivates me as I explore living well.
Learning a skill requires trial, error, focus, and repetition. Beginning to sell bread put me in position to become a more skilled bread baker. I had been baking sourdough bread at home already for three years and reached a limit many home bakers know — I was making more bread than my family could eat, and I wanted to make even more bread.
Three years later, I’m making as much bread as the limits of my time, energy, and kitchen allow. Considering those same constraints, I’ve come to know that I can do more with chocolate. As a one-man-show, I’m choosing now to bring the chocolates into the spotlight.
When I initially decided to make “only” three products (bread, granola, and dark chocolate), I thought that was an example of focus. Since then I’ve realized that each of those categories can be a business in itself, and that I was spreading my energy too thin to give each their due respect. By removing bread from the equation after this year’s market season wraps up, I can deliberately redistribute that energy.
Another aspect of focus that my business taught me is that errors scale along with output. Consistency and presence are two measures that can prevent increasingly costly mistakes.
During my first year I was always trying to bring forward new products. Developing new recipes across three categories every week, while also producing foods for sale, was unsustainable. In years two and three I’ve focused on bringing my core recipes to a level of consistency that I can rely on and be proud of (while also getting more sleep).
Managing energy is a crucial component of sustained performance over time. Foundational elements here include nutrition, exercise, and rest. We can only neglect them temporarily before they lay us low. Less obvious but similarly important are our relationships with others, with ourselves, and with our environments.
The importance of time management becomes clear in this dynamic. Maintaining and expanding our wellness requires that we attend to all these elements of our lives on a regular, ongoing basis. We each have to balance these needs with an expansive load of additional responsibilities in the world.
When we try to wing it, inevitably something will fall by the wayside that we’ll need to circle back to later. Any form of organizing our activity within this conceptual framework can be helpful as a means of keeping up.
Managing our time well doesn’t have to involve any sort of rigorous structure though. It just asks that we periodically touch base with ourselves, to take stock of what we’re giving our energy to and what we’re getting our energy from. Being well is simply finding the sweet spot in that flow.
Humans have a tendency to accumulate things. We love our many tools and can always justify adding on, as if growth was only found in more. Efficiency begins with choice. Being efficient with our limited time and energy means choosing to do the right things, and being able to figure the difference between enough and too much.
Over time, it’s a self-correcting system. Try to do too much for too long and the deficit will emerge. When the container is full, something must come out before something new enters. In selectively choosing from our many options, we respect the fact of our present limitations. Our selections then become our priorities, and our priorities determine our path forward.
Yes, I am planning to become better at making chocolates, but I’m also trying to bring a new priority into my life and work. I’m opening space. My intention is to fill that space with culinary and wellness education, both for myself and others.
In preparing foods for others, I’ve found that the impact I can have on someone’s health is not as significant as I had initially hoped. Don’t get me wrong — it is gratifying to put bread on someone’s table. It is gratifying to know that someone can benefit from the convenience of granola. And it is gratifying to know that the delight of dark chocolate can feature in an individual’s rituals of self-love. All these elements of gratitude can be further extended as gifts, to demonstrate appreciation and care for another.
I know, also, what a gift it is to be able to make my own food. You’ve heard the saying- “Give me a fish and I eat for a day. Teach me to fish and I’ll eat for a lifetime.” That speaks most easily to the reason I feel called to shift my offering. Rather than play a limited, occasional role in someone’s eating experience, I want to provide the tools so they can play that role themselves and fully experience the joy of cooking.
Food is a beautiful, integral part of wellness but there is far more to explore. I’ve been extending my personal interests outside of the kitchen in recent years and I’m beginning to understand more about how good life works. I’d like to carry on with my lessons and share the experience with others who find value in them.
I have one more proverb: “By learning you will teach, by teaching you will learn.” There is a powerful reciprocal dynamic involved in education. I want to get closer to it.
My work is living work. A wholehearted life requires engagement with the present as well as periodic self-reflection. As an evolving expression of self, it calls for honoring change as it comes and trusting in the process of growth.
Thank you so much for taking the time to consider my story.
If you’d like to buy some bread, granola, and/or chocolates, you can find me every other weekend at the Rappahannock Farmer’s Market. You can also find my chocolates in Sperryville at the Corner Store. I’m currently looking for more retail partnerships and I’m open to suggestions and invitations to that end.
My personal education is ongoing. My educational content is yet to come. As time and energy allow, I will be bringing that forth. Feel free to email me email@example.com.
The writer lives in Washington.
Editor’s note: A news story that appeared in the July 28 edition of the Rappahannock News headlined “Rappahannock baker celebrates breaking bread with the community” included quotes attributed to Keenan Sherwood by the reporter that were inaccurate, a review of the interview recording found. The story also misstated the nature of his business relationship with the Corner Store, and it took out of context other comments made by Sherwood.
The story has since been updated online (rappnews.link/xke) to accurately reflect what Sherwood said.