2012 Season Blog
What’s in a Name?
Some say Bread & Water sounds like prison food. I understand bread and water as the basics. The name came about in 2007 after purchasing the building at 1275 Main. I walked to the Stavirke Chapel on Island and wrote in the prayer book my thanksgiving for bread and water meaning the bread we are baking at the café and the water of Lake Michigan where we are paddling. When I saw the words “bread and water” on the page I said “That’s it. We are Bread & Water.” The name was born. When it came time to create an e-mail account, breadandwater was taken. I chose email@example.com . Bread upon the waters is a spiritual truth. What we give away we get back in one form or another. Cast your breaduponthewaters, for after many days, you will find it again. — Ecclesiastes 11:1
Bread & Water is open seven days a week during the busy summer season. One fall day, when traffic slowed, trees turned colors and kids were in school the cook took off her apron and picked up a life jacket and paddle. The sign of the front door read; “Gone paddling – day/weather/wind and friendship too good to miss.” Being faithful through the busy summer season seemed to be what was right to do. God’s timing is perfect. The time would come to put my boat in the water. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge God and God will make your paths straight. — Proverbs 3: 5, 6
No Lazy Days
Island resident Phil Green calls Washington Island summer season a “roller coaster” for working island residents. Some hold three and four jobs between Memorial and Labor Day. “I hardly see my wife in the summer,” one resident was overheard to say. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. — Ecclesiastes 9:10
Dish Washing Rule
“Wipe the rim of each cup before putting the cup into the Hobart dish washer. “ Rules are made and posted in the dish washing area at Bread & Water. No one wants to drink another person’s lipstick. Lip stick prints on a cup rim need to be gone. The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. – Psalm 19: 7-11
Soup Eaters Herald Fall
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons expresses change and character of season in music. At Bread & Water we know what time of year it is by what people eat. It is fall when people come in the front door looking for hot, hearty soup instead of light summer salad. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. — Ecclesiastes 3:1
Life among Boats
The boat that set a Guinness World Record, the boat that paddled 21,000 miles and the boat that circumnavigated Baja spent nearly twenty years in storage – under the porch, in the barn, tarped on trailer sitting in a farmer’s field. When the Paddling Museum on Washington Island opened in June, 2012, the boats found a home. Four hundred square feet of storage and office space at Bread & Water became the place for boats and archives from a 30,000-mile paddling life, a Safe Boating display, archives from the Washington Island Canoe & Kayak Event www.washingtonislandcanoeandkayakevent.com, kayak quilts and a concrete floor stained to look like an ocean. Come and see. They that go down to the sea in ships; they are merchants on the mighty waters. They see the works of the Lord, God’s wonderful deeds in the deep. – Psalm 107: 23-24
No Two Alike
“When I was a kid and my mother asked what kind of a birthday cake I wanted, I said “cherry pie.” My cherry pie birthday favorite is now morning ritual at Bread & Water. Cherries bubble as the big windows looking east show me the sunrise. I build pies. When I make the flour/butter crust and press dough with my thumbs into the glass plate edge, I notice my distinct print. The guest coming into Bread & Water receives a pie signed with my thumb print. You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. – Psalm 128: 2
“We were coming in from Gill’s Rock in a 19 foot boat with 150 hp motor. The weather picked up and we couldn’t get in. The waves were so big that my head was bouncing off the wind shield of the boat. We were out there five and one half hours, jumping from wave to wave and it was dusk. We were trying to reach the Coast Guard for help but I couldn’t reach him. When we made it to shore and got off the boat, we kissed the ground,” Brian said. “We called Bread & Water at midnight. There was one room available and we told the guy that we did not have a ride. Billy said “no problem. He picked us up. He is a wonderful guy,” Brian and June come into Bread & Water to find Billy Welacha and thank him again. Billy is a UW Lacrosse graduate with a degree in recreational management. He worked at Bread & Water as a kayak guide and lodging manager in 2010 while Valerie endured a bone marrow transplant at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Two years later, Brian and June returned to Bread & Water, looking for Billy and giving thanks. Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and God’s courts with praise; give thanks to God and praise God’s name. – Psalm 100:4
Esther Leming, 1911 – 2009
Come; sit at Esther Leming’s table at Bread & Water. Party of twelve or more is welcome. The table is the centerpiece of the café. You cannot miss it. I never met Esther but her daughter, Joy Richards, says that her mother had a wonderful spirit. The family table holds many happy family dinner memories for those who knew Esther. Make your own memories at Esther’s table. God prepares a table before me…. – Psalm 23 5a
Morning Prayer at Bread & Water gets us started right and holds us together through the day. One morning, I was running late to the café and arrived five minutes after the posted 7:00 a.m. Morning Prayer time. As I hurried with my key to unlock the front door I noticed that a praying mantis had arrived ahead of me and was already in a prayer position on the door casing. Pray without ceasing; give thanks in all circumstances… – I Thessalonians 5:17
When Small Talk Gets Big
“How are you?” “I’m fine,” Is not the usual banter at Bread & Water. I listen for more. One day, a guest asked me a loaded question; “Has this place been good for you?” I was not sure how to answer because I was working seven days a week. Fatigue was gaining on me. But the question kept repeating itself in my mind. “Has this place been good for you?” Yes. Bread & Water is the place where I worship God with prayer and service. Bread & Water is the nourishing place for those who are hungry, the resting place for those who are tired and the renewing place for those who are in need of refreshment. Bread & Water is the place where order is kept, where we are held accountable by state and federal regulations and encourage others by offering our gifts to welcome the traveler. Finally, sisters and brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. — Philippians 4:8
The Open-ended Question
When I clear dishes from a table and the diners remain seated following a meal at Bread & Water, I take courage. Instead of asking “How was your meal?” I offer an open-ended question; “How can we improve?” I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:14
Folks come out of the Paddling Museum, do a double take of me in apron with my hair pulled back and ask “Are you the Valerie?” Twenty years ago that was me setting the Guinness Record. I hope for resemblance. They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, they will know we are Christians by our love. — Hymn
Feeding the Hungry
Two women park their two-wheel, ten-speed bikes in the rack out front, walk into Bread & Water and put gloves and helmet in a chair beside the table. “We are sooooo hungry,” one woman says. “That is what we do here,” I explain as I hand menus and hear about their route across the Island. The bikers cleaned their plates and ordered desert before heading out. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fore bearers had known, to teach you that people do not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Deuteronomy 8:3
Praying for the Cook
Two guests come into Bread & Water, read the Bread & Water facts displayed on the table and offer to pray for the cook. The place is quiet in late afternoon. The cook kneels at the table. The guests lay hands on her shoulders and pray, then write a check for $100.00 and donate to L.A.U.N.C.H., Inc. “We were meant to come here,” the woman said. “We asked on the ferry where to eat and were told Danish Mill but we read the Washington Island map and saw that Bread & Water has Morning Prayer. We came here and are glad we did. Pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16
Three p.m. and we are closing up. Two Washington Island residents come in. I agree to make their lunch even though the “Open” sign is down. “Sit down, we’ll buy your lunch,” one says. “No need to buy my lunch,” the cook reports. “I eat scraps and what is left over in the kitchen at the end of the shift. My favorite is a heel of whole wheat crust with melted Swiss cheese and tomato slices.” I make their order and sit down with mine. We talk, pray and eat. Cooking after hours is no imposition. It is fun to sit down. My neighbors appear like shepherds and encourage me at the end of a long day. Before they leave, they give a $100.00 tip for L.A.U.N.C.H., Inc. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. – Matthew 5:6
Two guests arrive at the front door of Bread & Water. “We heard that you serve the best chicken salad.” Both of them order a chicken salad sandwich on whole wheat. Can we duplicate? Better? At Bread & Water, we take a chicken breast, grill, chop, season, dress and spread thick on toasted whole wheat. Served with tomato lettuce, chips and fresh made slaw, I wonder if we can measure up to the good report that brought these new guests to our door. When the plates were cleared, I asked the verdict. “We agree. It is the best we ever tasted.” For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2: 8-10
Farm fresh eggs from free range chickens at 987 Townline Road are the standard at Bread & Water. Yolks are bright, deep yellow. By August of our summer season, the 53 chickens on the farm were keeping up with café demand. It is a pleasure to work with locally grown. We thank the chickens for what each one offers day after day. But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? — Job 12: 7-9
Why Bread & Water Remains Open into Fall
There is more time to be with the guests at Bread & Water come fall. The number of guests in the dining room reduces. The demand on the kitchen is relieved. We get to talk and listen. For all the questions that come into Bread & Water about what to see and do on Washington Island, it becomes clear that we could use a full time interpreter and guide to cruise the dining room with an Island map, suggestions and directions. Guests often seek more than points of interest. One woman came in and began crying. Her visit to Washington Island was her first vacation since her husband died. She sat and spoke of him. I got to listen. Blessed are those who morn for they will be comforted. — Matthew 5:4
Marianne Fons came up with the idea. Paddle around Washington Island and join the club at the Paddling Museum. Press your thumb into a pad of blue ink. Put thumb print and signature on the ceiling in the Paddling Museum with the date of circumnavigation. Receive a drink of water and circumnavigator membership card. We are creating Bread & Water’s equivalent to Nelsen’s Hall Bitters Club. You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household. — Ephesians 2:19
Handicap Accessible Bath
With the contribution of many volunteers, craftspeople and prayer warriors, Bread & Water offers a wheel chair accessible handicap bathroom in the Heritage Room. Thank you for all who helped. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. I Peter 9, 10
Knit One Pearly Two
So, every table is full. The kitchen is working top speed. Servers are moving fast enough to nearly blur and an order goes to a table on the outside patio with regrets for the delay. Two women are knitting at the table and look up, surprised by my perception of being hectic. “No rush,” one says. “We are on vacation.” Wait on the Lord. Psalms 27:14
Weeds at Play
While I am building quiche and refreshing flowers on each table, the weeds in my orchard are taking over my raspberries. I’ll be hoeing back invaders between raspberry canes when the dishes are done at Bread & Water. Every one of us shall give account of himself to God. — Romans 14:12
People arrive at Bread & Water telling stories of dry, 105 degree temperature in Omaha. We welcomed the parched and wilted. A woman arrived from Utah and learned that the Carpe Diem Room was not air conditioned. The late afternoon ferry had already left for the mainland. There was not another room on Island open. Mann’s Mercantile had one air conditioner left. Within half an hour, the air conditioner was bought, paid for, delivered and installed. The woman cooled down. The desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. — Isaiah 35:1
An interesting fact in a book about success said that it takes repetition, sometimes more than 10,000 times before one is able to accomplish a task really well. Making breakfast at Bread & Water gets better with practice. Thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. – Isaiah 25:1
One morning, a server found ants in the table top sugar shakers at the three tables on the north side of the café where a window is open above each table. We put the sugar into compost, washed and refreshed the jar with sugar and made sure to store the jars further inland within the café. Shutting the windows at closing helps keep ants away. There is nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. — Romans 14:14
To the Rock
The distance traveled during a kayak tour is weather and people/skill level dependent. When no one is teetering in their boat, we keep paddling. Shammond, Matt, servers at Bread & Water and a group of seven guests made it to Rock Island and back during a recent tour. When we returned to the public dock at Jackson Harbor, no one wanted to leave. All helped tie boats on the trailer and enjoyed the comradely that comes at the waterline in small boats. The voice of the Lord is upon the waters. Psalm 29:3
Feeding Chickens to Feed People
Hens gobble available bugs while free-ranging at the Townline farm. Each morning, I visit the barn to scoop scratch and layer feed for the chickens and visit the egg boxes to collect for the café. Give us this day our daily bread. – The Lord’s Prayer
At Bread & Water, we witness families on vacation, gathered ‘round the table relaxing and refueling. It is our privilege to feed them.
What the Guests Don’t Know
Before putting on my apron to bake and open the doors for business, I was in my robe, running through my front yard chasing horses that had gotten out eating sweet grass back into pasture.
Marianne Fons is my longest time friend. She is an internationally known quilter with a house on Island. She shared what she called her “famous” chicken salad recipe with Bread & Water. We were deciding what to name it. There are menu items at lots of restaurants that use the word “famous.” Instead of saying “famous chicken salad,” why not write “Famous Marianne’s chicken salad.” I’ve seen her on television and in magazine. The chickens are backyard variety.
Setting the World Right
Making beds, cleaning lodging rooms and cooking at Bread & Water are part of my heritage. My maternal grandmother worked at Portage Point Inn in Onekama, Michigan, cooking, making pies and washing clothes for the summer people. My paternal grandmother cooked meals for the road crew on St. Martins and Detroit Islands. I am carrying on a family tradition and remembering my grandmothers when I am putting clean sheets on beds and smoothing blankets under spreads.
When do I pray for the people coming in each day? Polishing stainless, choosing fork, knife and spoon, folding napkins and rolling utensils for each place setting is my time to pray for the one to come. I stack a basket full of rolled silverware and prayers before opening at eight.
There are times when I pass by one of the restaurants in town that serve alcohol and I see a line of cars outside. I estimate that some of the restaurants in town make more in one night than Bread & Water makes in a week or more. One of the differences is that Bread & Water does not serve alcohol. Why not? We are an alcohol free zone. In the United Methodist Church communion is served with grape juice, no alcohol so as not to tempt any person with addiction to stronger drink.
One of my favorite days of summer, 2012 season included a visit from Marianne Fons who brought her surging sewing machine, pressing iron, pins and fabric. Marianne worked with Shammond to cut and surge a stack of new, double-sided cloth napkins for the café. The whirling hum of the machine and intent crafting was a comfort and accompaniment to fresh baked pies.
Name that Cook
Steve is known as the exploding floor cook. When Steve’s shift is over debris litters the floor. Valerie is known as the exploding counter cook. When her shift is over debris from the stainless work surface is scooped into the compost bucket.
Joe Ervin arrives in a busy lunch rush carrying a bouquet of fresh flowers for the tables. There is a moment when diners wait as Joe walks into the kitchen and presents his gift to the cook.
The sign reads “boat rental dawn to dusk.” When Bread & Water advertises dawn to dusk, we mean it. But throughout summer, only one guest asked for a dawn boat rental. On August 1st a guest from Chicago and his girlfriend took us up on the offer. It was thrilling to set the alarm and be ready with trailer, life jackets, boats, bilge pumps, paddle float and paper work to launch paddlers before sunup.
When a restaurant is jammed servers say “We’ve been slammed.” Twenty-four people, the total of nine families entered Bread & Water enroute to Rock Island. They planned to catch the Karfi ferry after lunch. Could we fill orders and make deadline? Yes, we can. And, had fun doing it.
A Visit to the Kitchen
Every table was occupied; a little girl about four years old, blond hair and sun dress appeared at the kitchen doorway holding a cloth napkin in both hands. “I love your pickles,” she said. “And, I love your napkins. Look at the one I got,” she said as she held up the colorful cotton imprinted with aproned dolls.
When Kids are Away
“Grandma has the kids,” a man reported as he stood at the Bread & Water counter. “We have the afternoon to go kayaking.” Weather conditions and family support in perfect alignment make for paddling.
Reading between the Waves
“Learning to read the water and become aware of how weather works on water is as important a kayak lesson as the basic strokes,” a Bread & Water guide said.
Pie by Heart
Before the pie case is empty or the pie plates are missing most of the slices, it is time to make pie. Pies on every rack in the Snorkel oven. The aroma of pies baking greets every guest.
Some people dream of tomatoes ripening and look forward to harvest. My season peaks when the sun flowers are ready to dress tables and fill every vase.
The Cook’s Lunch
Sliced cheese extra from the grilled cheese order, a left over half of banana needing a home, a dab of bar-b-que pork spilling out from a dining room destined overflowing sandwich, heels of bread — a little of this, a bit of that and the cook makes lunch at the end of the shift.
One woman came in and ordered a BLT with extra bacon and scrambled eggs between the toast slices.
Whenever I polish silverware, I think of my dad. He used to go into restaurants and make an opinion of the place based on the table ware gleam or smudge.
“Holden” our pot belly pig eats table scraps from Bread & Water. Plates are scraped and bucketed, carried to Holden at the end of each day. We have one happy pig. “Look who eats what you don’t.”
When I work by myself I work faster because I want to be ready for the next ones walking in. No margin for back-log. When no orders are coming in, I do not sit down. Fold napkins, put away dishes, prep. Do it now because in the next moment someone hungry may come in the door.
A Diner’s Bonus Question
“What makes you different here from everywhere else on island?”
“Give an example of your capacity to hustle” “Describe your ability to anticipate and how you might apply your ability to anticipate while working in the café.”
Common items left behind; a collection of baby hats, baby teething rings, bib, Sippy cups. The item left behind most often: sunglasses. Follow the bread crumbs.
Father Francis is the near life-size, wooden bird feeder in monk garb that stands in front of Bread & Water. When I come to work, I stop and fill the tray Father Francis holds with black oil sun flower seeds and cracked corn. How can a guest believe there is good food in the building if we starve birds?
We call it her secret because Samantha was with us more than a month before she confessed her favorite breakfast food; tortilla, peanut butter, Nutella, banana and granola spread, sprinkled, rolled and grilled. Samantha’s Secret made the menu.
A diner sent back a breakfast burrito and asked to have the melted cheese taken off the top. I thought it was generous to put extra cheese on top of the breakfast item. There was cheese inside the burrito, what gives? Without knowing why, I followed the instructions of the guest and re-wrapped the filling in a fresh tortilla. When the diner paid she spoke to the server and explained that her son has Aspersion disease. “A burrito with cheese on top would have set him off,” she explained. “Just that little thing would be enough to ruin his day.” She thanked God and Bread & Water staff for understanding.
Betsy Ward’s Prayer
Keep us ever mindful of the needs and rights of others.
Joe brings the white pick-up truck to Bread & Water. Bags of garbage, cardboard, cans, bottles for recycling are heaved into the truck bed. Joe takes it all and delivers to the Island Exchange (the dump).
Swab the Decks
Before leaving, no matter how tired the crew, dishes are washed, counters sanitized and floor swept. Tomorrow is another day.
Mr. Waldron, a Washington Island School teacher telephoned and said that Shammond’s math skills improved over the summer. Shammond practiced making change and totaling receipts at the café counter.
Pancakes and grilled cheese are favorite.
A woman left her purse at Bread & Water. I called the Washington Island Ferry dock. “A couple just left Bread & Water. The woman left her purse. So, you’ll soon see a couple coming to the ferry. The man is wearing a Fedora hat and suit coat. They have a small dog. You can’t miss them.” Within about fifteen minutes the women returned for her purse. Moral of the story: The best place to leave your purse is Washington Island. It helps to distinguish yourself.
The morning started with a man picking up a pie to take home saying “Bread & Water has the best food on the Island” and ended with a woman who did not like the whites showing in her scrambled eggs and left her toast uneaten.
A dog parked on the patio gets a water bowl with ice. The diner ordered a glass of water no ice for himself.
2011 Season Blog
Saturday morning our first breakfast guests of the day are dropped off at the front door by the Washington Island airport van. Two middle age men accompany a stooped and slow moving elderly woman. They make their way to a booth by the window and I approach to serve. Come to find out, the trio have flown into Washington Island in a small, private plane. The woman is 93 years old the day before and the plane flight on Island is her birthday gift from two adoring sons. We sing Happy Birthday and light a candle stuck in the top of a cherry/buttermilk muffin. We sing loud because the woman is hard of hearing. Her head is bent over the plate but I can see she is beaming as she nibbles. When breakfast is over, they hike back to the grass strip airport. Before leaving, I hug one of the grown boys and tell him that my mother is locked in an institution because her guardian believes the institutional setting to be safe. I tell him that I admire him and what he is doing. The man starts to cry and says “We want to keep her going as long as we can.” And, off they go, into the wild blue yonder.
“He’s sooo hot!” she whispered. I needed the lunch order hung in a neat line under the ticket clips over the stove but she waved the white printed answer to “what would you like to eat,” as if it were a clothes lined petticoat withstanding gale. “I’m going to marry him and live in England,” she carried on aglow. Her plan did sound more exciting than rolling silverware. “It’s his voice,” she explained. “His English accent is sooo exotic.” She smoothed her apron and confided; “I’m in love.” I raised my eye brows and gave her the one finger against my lips sign for hush up. If she would let go of the order and if I could fill it fast enough she would have a reason to return to the table besides loitering to top off water glasses that were already full. As I buttered bread and layered cheese to melt on slices of spiral, honey ham, I considered my delirious connections with people walking in the door at Bread & Water. Exuberance can be expressed with a plate of wholesome food.
One server called in sick. Two more reported an urgent off-Island trip for school supplies. Saturday, the first week in August, I was alone at the café. “Just lock the doors and call it closed,” Micala advised. But, the morning devotion called for perseverance. Routine is a good hiding place. It seemed scarier to lock the door and walk out than stand the ground where I made my way day after day. Grinding coffee beans made a comforting smell. I watched steaming water drip and transform into brew. A regular, walked in the door. When he heard my story he said; “I’d like to help but I’m headed off island.” He helped by walking in the door and proving we were open. I positioned the open flag, turned on the grill, chopped cabbage for cole slaw and grated cheese. How could this work? Maybe traffic will be slow and steady I mused. Within twenty minutes every table in the dining room was full. I tried to keep my secret of being alone but as people kept coming, I was found out. From the kitchen doorway, I made a brief announcement ending with “If I don’t panic, I think we’ll be o.k…” One person got up and took orders. Another stood to pour coffee. One asked where to find the silverware. A youngster laid down napkins. No one walked out. One woman began to tell about a tornado she lived through and how neighbor helped neighbor. Empty tables were soon covered in board games as guests got cozy. The dining room was embedded with angels. Stirring a batch of pancakes with my left hand, I used my right fingers to palm my cell phone and dial Sue. She does so much for me, I hesitated to call but today I asked for more. Sue arrived in minutes, put on an apron and came alongside. When the orders were filled and the dining room cleared, she washed dishes until the front door opened and another wave of the holy took their seats.
Peek-a-boo flesh between t-shirt hem and blue jean low riders sets me on a body part rant. An inch of butt crack showing beneath an apron bow is more than I can endure in the dining room. When the server pulls up the neckline of a skimpy shirt, cleavage is not cured. The next cup of coffee poured or plate delivered to a table requiring a server to bend at the waist offers a view. I believe God became flesh and lives among us. And I believe each server at Bread & Water is a temple of holy but for the diversity of God’s children working at Bread & Water and the grace bestowed upon us, midriff, backside and breasts have to be covered.
Reason to Rise
The sign in front of Bread & Water said “Morning Prayer, 7:30 a.m.” The café opened at 8:00 a.m. but there was an amazing half hour before open when prayer happened. Sometimes no one else showed but me. After reading the daily devotion from the Celtic Book of Prayer, I followed the scripture references. If others were present, I invited others to read. Sun came in the window most mornings. Rain beat down when it was time for rain. A young girl and her grandmother arrived and sat at table with me to start each day of their week-long vacation. A woman came to cry with her burden of care giving. A couple arrived, reached out to hold my hands and said “let’s ohm, shall we?” Employees gathered. Family and friends came to sit a while. This summer season of morning prayer was the most consistent, seven-day-a-week devotion I had ever engaged. I awoke each morning with one certainty; I am going to prayer.
Corroded beyond repair, the compressor on the ice machine was shot. Mac, the fix everything man from Brother’s Two knelt, looked, poked and listened. “It’s finished,” he said. I walked across the street to Mann’s grocery, bought and carried bags of ice to our freezer to scoop for beverages. The Washington Island Ferry had recently closed their Northport restaurant. I queried and bought their ice machine sight unseen. The ferry crew delivered. Mac installed. There is a saying on Washington Island: “If you can’t find it on island, you don’t need it.”
The cash register had no change. I could not leave the kitchen unattended to go to the bank. A guest at a front table overheard the server’s concern and volunteered. I handed him a twenty dollar bill and gave directions to the bank on Main Road. “I’ll be back,” he promised. I watched him walk out the door thinking “What are the chances of handing money to a stranger and believing in return?” True to his word, he came back in less than ten minutes with nickels, pennies, dimes, quarters, singles and money of his own to tip the server.
A server is standing in the kitchen, waiting for the order. There is no need to signal for her attention but I ring the bell anyway. Tapping the bell and hearing the “ping” is me telling diners that the wait is not interminable, and my satisfaction for one more plate ready and on its way to feed hungry travelers.
I am watching out the big picture window from the dining room at Bread & Water. Two bike riders dressed in stretch pants, tight fitting jerseys with reflective striping, helmets outfitted with nifty rear-view mirrors, cleats, and knee highs with fanny packs around their waists are nesting their ultra trim touring bikes into the bike rack a few feet from the front door. I walk into the kitchen and return five minutes later. The riders are still outside twisting cables and locks to secure their bikes to the rack. Once inside, they station themselves with a view to their bikes. These visitors are as close as we get to extra-terrestrials. On Washington Island we don’t lock cars or houses. Bikes don’t walk away.
“We’re United Methodist too!” the woman said excitedly. She had read the table top literature that proclaimed the endorsement of Bread & Water as extension ministry of the United Methodist Church in a specialized site. She smiled like a person walking in on treasure. The United Methodist connectional system promises that she can claim her belonging on a 35 square mile island surrounded by Lake Michigan where she never imagined she could come face-to-face with familiar.
During my one year, long term follow-up at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, May, 2011, I was given the all clear. A bone marrow biopsy showed no sign of reoccurrence of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. One in the series of week-long tests included the instruction for me to walk as fast and far as I could in circles around a long clinic corridor. I whooped and hollered with joy as I speed walked past office doors. Clinicians in white coats opened doors and poked their heads out from their offices to see what was happening. Before I tired, my nurse told me I could slow to an amble and quit. For the first time since cancer, I heard and heeded instructions to move with gusto instead of repose. When I returned to Washington Island, I kept a green light mentality. Bread & Water opened June 15. Seven days a week, seven hours a day during business hours and more hours of baking, washing dishes, ordering product, and completing pay roll, I kept going. Every night I passed out upon my bed. Leg cramps hounded me in the middle of the night and set me pacing until the muscles eased. Every new day, I bowed my head to accept the apron bib, knelt to double knot my tennis shoes and by God’s grace ran the race set before me.
The lodging guest confessed. “I took my pillow into the room and when I left, I took your pillow home by mistake,” he wrote via e-mail. “The cases were both beige so I didn’t know until I got home that I had taken yours. With what it is going to cost in postage, shall we just call it even?” he questioned. I inspected the Noah room. There is was: his mismatched, similar pillow on the double bed. “The pillows at Bread & Water are a matched set and so are the cases. We’ll have to swap,” I wrote back. He returned the Bread & Water pillow promptly. I laundered the pillow protector and case and set the room right. His pillow sat on a shelf beside my desk for days. Pillow resolution did not seem a priority. Another e-mail popped into my inbox with “pillow” as subject. “Where’s my pillow?” his plaintive e-mail questioned. Better late than never, I stuffed the pillow into a garbage bag, taped liberally and permanent marked the address to ship across Wisconsin. I never mailed a pillow before. “Pillow enroute,” I advised via e-mail and pushed send.
There is a moment of inn keeping pleasure at Bread & Water when every room is full, nightlights glowing, guests snug in beds with clean sheets and towels, and abundant hot water guaranteed with the new water heater on demand installed. A sense of peace comes upon me and makes all the loads of laundry, vacuuming, washing sinks, toilets and tubs, kneeling on floor tiles tracking down and wiping out pubic hair worth it.
A wooden statue of Father Francis stands outside the front door at Bread & Water. The monk holds out a tray for bird seed. Every morning, I make sure the tray is filled with cracked corn, black oiled sun flower seeds and thistle. How could any would-be diner enter with confidence if the birds are neglected?
One of my favorite parts of the day is foraging. I explore the garden, roadside or Butterfly House acre in search of flowers. Smith Hawkins’s clippers work best but I use a scissors or pocket knife to cut stems and gather bunches. Sweet peas, black-eyed Susan’s, Zinnias, sun flowers, lilac, tree branches, pine fingers and weeds become table bouquets for Bread & Water. Before the floor is swept and mopped, each table is checked for the drooped and bedraggled. Vase water refreshed and a nosegay of color offered as centerpiece on fresh linen.
Moment of Truth
A server, chef and flex prep cook/waiter stood in my office awaiting pay checks two weeks after Bread & Water’s June 15th opening. I reviewed with the employees that I was only obligated by law to pay minimum (opportunity wage) of $5.90 per hour for the first ninety days of teen employment and a server could be paid a “server’s wage”; $2.23 per hour with tips counted to reach the $5.90 per hour minimum or the employer making up the difference if tips and $2.23 did not equal $5.90 for each hour worked. The employees talked among themselves. “We’re all working in this together,” the chef said. “Pay us equally. We will equally share tips.” Peace and justice happened in that moment. I followed their lead and bumped the servers to $5.90 an hour to make it right.
Location, Location, Location
We try to be discrete. But I experience glee. When a guest orders a hamburger and we are out of meat, one of us will walk across the street in apron, grab a package, charge ground beef and return to Bread & Water with the needed ingredient. Whether it is avocado, spinach, or juice, time is of the essence. Some servers chose to re-enter through the back door and hand off to the kitchen without diner notice. Sometimes the cook makes the run. However the maneuver is achieved the guest receives fresh and never a “sorry we’re out.”
At 350 degrees, chocolate chip cookies do it. Pork loin does it. Bacon too. Breathe deep. Cherry pie when it is baking is near the top of the olfactory list. Bubbling, stock pot soup can do it. What’s cooking makes a big difference. Before a word is spoken, smells welcome.
Hungry in any Language
A passionate initiative of Lake Adventures Uniting Nature and Children with Hospitality, (L.A.U.N.C.H.), Inc., the not for profit that shares office space with Bread & Water is the Butterfly House located at 1349 Main Road. I enjoy visiting the Butterfly House and sitting on the expansive, oak church pew in the living room watching caterpillars chomping fresh leaves. One day, while I was cooking at Bread & Water, I looked out my portal to the dining room and saw diners munching. I wondered if they know that caterpillars are munching too.
Have you ever walked in on someone and felt you were intruding? Well, it is not like that when I approach a table and notice a diner in prayer. Proximity includes me. Acknowledgement arrests me. Obedience levels me as I stand holding a plate or pot of coffee in pause. The greatest gift a diner makes is more than showing up, telling friends, a whopping tip, or favorable review posted on Yelp. Spoken or unspoken, the diner’s blessing appears to change the world.
Postings at Bread & Water
Every day and every moment be about your work as if the health inspector is at the door. Not because we are afraid but because the inspector is supporting and holding us accountable to the appropriate standard for being and doing safe, clean and well.
Empty compost and garbage every day. Cover and date all food in frig. Practice safe food temperature, handling, and storage. Wipe and sanitize all food preparation surfaces and utensils. Wash hands frequently.
He made a three-day reservation in the Heritage suite for his wedding anniversary. I remember his telephone calls of careful preparation as he questioned amenities of the accommodation and confided the occasion. We discussed the logistics of shipping flowers to the room on Island and timing. He was concerned to hear that his carefully selected anniversary flowers would be transported across Death’s Door as freight on the ferry deck rather than ushered in a FTD carriage. But, he was willing to commit. She arrived ill. I carried tea trays to the room, hot water instead of ice. On day two, after a visit to the Washington Island Clinic, the couple decided to seek additional medical treatment and home. “Our anniversary didn’t turn out as we expected,” the man explained. He canceled their length of stay and carried suitcases to the car. He helped his wife to the car and waved. They left a bowl of rose petals in the room. Yellow, pink and salmon succulent curls nestled in a stone blue earthenware bowl. I carried the love gift into the dining room, set love made visible on the buffet and will not discard.
Cook’s Fun/Diner’s Dismay
My dad always said “no good comes from fooling,” so I don’t joke often. But one day while filling a buttermilk pancake order, I saw a golden brown drop of batter, perfectly toasted, less than the size of a dime on the grill. I positioned the more than tiny pancake in the center of a warmed plate and delivered it to the diner. Without explaining, I left him with the plate, hurried back to the kitchen and returned immediately with the rightful heaping stack of more than he could eat with baked apple and powdered sugar on top. When he paid his bill, I thanked him for giving me some fun. “You picked a hungry customer to play with,” he laughed. “I’ve been camping on Rock Island for five days and this is my first hot meal. Servers begged me not to try this again.
Have you ever had a farm fresh egg laid by a free range chicken? Come to Bread & Water for a taste. Radiant yellow yolks distinguish farm eggs. Egg salad isn’t pale. Pancake batter is intense butter cup hue. Shells resist breaking. I dropped an egg (not hard boiled) on the floor at Bread & Water and it did not break!
When I was a kid, my mother would ask what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday. “Cherry pie,” is always my answer. Cherry pie is a Bread & Water hallmark. Not gooped out of a can cherry pie but fresh Door County cherries thickened by velvet corn starch, laced with a hint of real almond extract and ladled into a handmade crust shaped from butter and flour with a chilled, stainless, ball bearing rolling pin. Cut a wedge, one sixth of a pie and enjoy. Ice cream al a mode is possible. If it is your Birthday, a candle comes too.
Bread heels, day old scones, grapes apart from stems, cookies a midge too brown to serve, abundant chicken noodle soup when beef barley is scheduled for tomorrow, become family food. Employees and family share.
Joe climbed three rungs up while I held the ladder outside Bread & Water. He balanced a sign that read “Lodging and Café.” “Is it straight?” he queried. I had to let go of the ladder to stand back far enough to see. Larry Quick walked across the street from where he was shopping at Mann’s Store. “Are you guys going to open again?!” he asked with excitement. “We really missed you last year. I heard you were ill.” Joe took the hammer from his pocket, the nail from his teeth and started pounding. “It’s like climbing a mountain to re-open after cancer cancer but we are going to try,” I said. Larry opened his wallet and handed me a twenty dollar bill. I let go of the ladder long enough to grab the bill. “Hope this helps,” he said. “I’m looking forward to coming in again. You’ve got great food.” His encouragement: priceless. In the height of summer season, Larry returned with guitar, speakers and amp and set on a stool in corner of the dining room. Refusing payment and insisting on paying for his lunch, he serenaded while I cooked.
High noon. Tables full. A bliss of white tickets strung under clips above the stove for the line cook. Trays full of tinkling ice and beverage in tall glasses. Servers scooting. Coffee is out, make more. Hamburger no onions. Cheeseburger the works. Door County spinach salad with dressing on the side. Blackened salmon, soup of the day…. I liken the lunch rush to a day in the life of racing the 2,348-mile Mississippi. Focus and all out effort required.
A good prep cook is like the little piggy who built his house out of bricks. Mounds of grated cheese, sliced tomato, shredded cabbage, diced onion and layers of spiral ham chilled and ready move an order from start to finish and make the line cook look good.
There is one part of Bread & Water that no one body likes; hoards of dirty dishes piled into bus tubs threatening avalanche. Attack mode is simple but labor intensive. Scraping meat scraps into garbage, and vegetable matter to compost bucket before stacking dishes in sinks. Scrub with hot water and suds. Load but do not over crowd the dishwasher to sanitize. Press button for vigorous cycle. While waiting for the cycle to complete, scrub more dishes. Stand back as the steam escapes from the dishwasher when opened. Lift washer trays; find counter space to set and air dry. When cooled, put dishes away. Pot and pan duty is hand to hand combat that repels the most dedicated employees, even those who read the job description. Woe to us who tire at the end of a shift and choose to leave today’s dishes for tomorrow. Energy gained from a night’s sleep can be difficult to maintain when faced with left over mess and the demands of a new day. Sometimes, with sudsy hands and wet apron, steam fogging the lens of my glasses, I imagine meeting God and asking; “who will wash the last dish?”
Windows on Main
Two big windows like eyes that never blink create a look out from the dining room on the east side of Bread & Water facing Main Road. I like sitting at a front table in the rising sun of early morning, feeling warmth through glass. Shoppers enter Mann’s Store without knowing that I’m watching. From my window seat, I see greetings and conversation as people walk in and out. I saw Darlene fall as she carried groceries to her car. I watched a car back into the lamp post. Traffic intensifies through July. I never sit very long because I begin to wonder if there is anything I can do to be more ready. I’ve never seen a person pause on the steps of Mann’s Store, look our way and walk across the street to our door because I’m busy preparing for arrivals.
Making the bed with fresh linen in the Heritage Room is sacramental for me. As I unfurl the sheets, I remember Great Aunt Mary Niele who worked at Portage Point Inn in Onekama as wait staff and maid. As I smooth the clean blanket and fold back the leading edge, I remember Great Grandma Jensen who took in laundry to wash for summer visitors to Michigan’s shore. Tucking corners at the end of the bed, I can almost hear my grandma Hannah teaching me the steps of what she called “hospital corners.” Great grandma Dena welcomed travelers and locals as the proprietor of the Silver Slipper. Joe’s grandmother Grace Munger had a bakery. I never dreamed of becoming owner of a restaurant and inn keeper. I was called before I was born.
You can buy a deli sandwich across the street at Mann’s Store. Cold beer is on tap at Karleys next door. KK Fiske serves French fries. Why would anyone come into Bread & Water? Whatever your reason, by chance or led, thank you.
What is In a Name?
Some say that the name Bread & Water sounds like we are serving prison food. The name happened in prayer. Before ownership of the building was complete, I walked to the Stavkirke Chapel. Chuck Sully was coming from Sister Bay to bake bread. Lake Michigan is the paddling site for kayak tours and rental. I made a written entry in the large paged ledger on the altar; “Thank you for bread and water.” The words seemed to leap from the page. “That’s it! We are Bread & Water.” We feed the hungry and set captives free.
In decades past, perhaps a hitching post would have stood as sentry by the front door. Now we have pups, pugs, shagginess and all manner of dogs tied to the base of the patio furniture in front. Pets receive free drinks on the house. The server totes a pet bowl full of water to set on the sidewalk for a thirsty guest. Shared food and table scraps are the owner’s discretion.
When the café umbrellas are open at the sidewalk tables, Bread & Water looks to be under full sail. At night, the umbrellas are closed. One night, a bat took refuge in the nested bundle. When the umbrella was opened for the new day, the bat darted for darker cover.
Thirteen-year-old Autumn sat at Morning Prayer. When we adjourned, she left the table and came back with a hand full of jelly cups to fill the bowl for incoming guests. An honor-roll student, Autumn gives attention to details and initiates abundance.
Twelve-year-old Shammond is choosy about the work he wants to do. But, I want to hear from his point of view because one day a family arrived with four African American children. Shammond was the only server in the house who knew to sit with the boys and offer Candy Land, chess and checkers.
Sixteen-year-old Steve hates doing dishes but he is good at it. He can dispatch a sink of dirty china and glass in record time maybe that comes from the season he spent as dishwasher at the Shipyard Marina. At Bread & Water, Steven graduated to cook. He is a generous cook with no concept of scrimp or make due. Order a BLT and you get three thick strips of apple wood smoked bacon when Steve is cooking. Steven will discard an egg order or sandwich that didn’t come out right or call it family food before trying to mask it and sending second rate to a customer. He puts the best on the plate. You see the art before you taste it and conversation stops when you dig in.
Thirteen-year-old Micala is a runner who finished first in class during the Peninsula Park half marathon. In the dining room, Micala never appears to be rushed because she is elegant. She takes care of herself and extends her care to others. She notices the people eating at Bread & Water and rejoices in who they are. “Do you see the elderly couple by the window,” she reports. “They are holding hands. That’s so cute.”
Miyam said that the best part of her thirteenth birthday was that she qualified for a work permit and employment at Bread & Water. She started as a dish washer two hours a day and progressed to server from eleven to two. While I was cooking, Miyam routinely came by my station and asked if I would like a tall glass of water. She took good care of me and our guests. In addition to offering me refreshment, she asked “what do you want me to do now?” Miyam kept busy.
Fifteen-year-old Nate came from Michigan packing a pet rat. He spent part of the summer living with us and working at Bread & Water. He is calm and steady, preferring to work in the kitchen rather than front of the house, He is a champion for talking through a problem instead of ignoring a powder keg. Nate keeps his bible well-read and handy.
Sixteen year old Emily delights in creating raspberry cheese cake and other extravagant deserts in her spare time. She is a peace maker whose poise and spirit is evident in the dining room and honored by a varsity’s vote for Emily as drum major with the Mason, Michigan, high school band.
Sixteen year old Brittany arrived at Bread & Water with a plastic bag of tube frosting and cake mix from Mann’s store with intention to make cup cakes. “Take it back,” I instructed. “If you are going to bake here, we are mixing from scratch.” She followed my direction and accomplished her first ever baking effort outside the box. There were no cupcakes to sell. We were all so excited for her we ate every cupcake while celebrating.
Nine-year-old Kayla is too young to work at Bread & Water but she puts on an apron anyway and visits with diners at Bread & Water to tell her suggestions for ordering and Washington Island sights to see. When Bob comes in, she brings a chess board or Monopoly game to the table.