It’s been a long time since I’ve written a piece for this space. It’s one thing to be vulnerable when your project is viewed by the eyes of those you already know; when there is some sense of safety, security, and acceptance built in. It is a wholly other thing to open yourself up once the gaze widens, taken in by strange faces and strange names you don’t actually know, and who know nothing of you. Humbly offering the one thing you have in pocket, the one thing that gives as much as it takes. Often times we are told what does and does not fit within the coveted box of Professionalism. Professionalism does not curate spaces for tenderness, does not allow you the experience of cracking into the reserves that fuel the very passion you are sharing; shown off in the raw, unfinished, grime filled way that most often spurs someone into forward motion.
Curating a business has been one of the strangest games to play as an individual yet. The push and pull of what is too much, not enough, and just right, for pulling people in. Every day finding yourself in a mental head space of a cutting room, looking at all the parts of yourself that make up your art, and deciding what are the most appealing for mass consumption, then slicing through the rest. Finding the blandest parts that will suit any palate. At the end of the day, it’s about the money.
Isn’t it about the money?
Sure, of course it is. Money is how we make it happen, but it isn’t what it’s about. If it were, this whole thing would have been in the trash literally years ago. In Whites has always lived in a limbo land of one-part personal catharsis, one part trendy food business. The past year has proven that we can make it as the business part, in ways never imagined before. We’ve adapted and changed, the story-telling dinners have had to take a rest for the time being, but we’ve opened ourselves to such a wider audience through our new offerings. Building a base of people who are truly excited by the food we make, who want more, and support us in ways I’ve only ever hoped for.
There-in lies a deep splintering point for me: how does one coincide what used to be, the deeply personal, and if we’re honest, selfish, motives of intensely creative, imaginative, story-telling food verse, with something that’s just downright approachable damn it?
Because I want us to be approachable. I want people to recognize that food is so much more than just sustenance for the body. It ties all of your senses together in a way that I struggle to relate to anything else in life. It is memories, moments, culture, aspirations, comfort, and more, all of it consumable. Isn’t that in and of itself incredible? All of these overwhelmingly connective ties that you can physically consume and pull into yourself. It’s more than magic, because it’s visceral, and real.
So many times this past year we have been told that people are grateful for the food we put out because they miss it from here, there, and elsewhere. It takes them back to cities they miss and love, moments they’re missing, people they can’t sit at a table with right now but they CAN eat the same food and remember. That’s what it is about. It’s about that damn table, with never ending chairs to add. There are always more to seats to add, more conversations to have, more ties to bind, and more hands to pass the food between. That is what this whole project is about, and the never-ending search to do it better.
Recently, we had the opportunity to try and convey even a portion of what we are about through a branding photoshoot with local photographer Emily Kane. To be frank, when first approached about the idea, I had little to no idea what a branding shoot should involve. How do I show what I desperately want people to associate with us in just a few photos? Then the answer slid into place instantly – show the people who have made it happen. Friends, now family, who have been there since the beginning, or joined along the way, who have spurred this whole thing forward simply by saying “yeah, I’ll be there, I’ll do whatever you need”. Cooking, serving, washing dishes, working insane hours for scraps of food and pizza, entertaining insane dinner production ideas, photographing, hyping up, sharing, pushing, and motivating. They are the energy and the spirit behind In Whites – family, connection, creation, and support.
That’s the goal behind everything we do, create, and push out into our community. To create a sense of inclusiveness, love, and comfort. If nothing else, when you eat the food, I hope you feel the heart behind it; the hours spent desperately trying to get it right, trying to do something new and different for the area not just for the sake of that excitement, but because for someone out there, that’s the food they grew up with. That’s the food they are craving, that will make them feel satiated in more ways than one for even just a moment.
I hope you’ll enjoy this peak into the heart of what we are, as much as we did creating it all. Never ending thanks and gratitude to Emily Kane for not only capturing it all, but understanding the story and purpose behind it all. For being able to translate things that I can’t say into beautiful images. Special thanks to Clearstory Space for letting us take over for a day and basically just play with friends.
Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you to every last one of you that support us. I promise that every day we are searching for ways to do more, and give more.
//Colleen Masteller [Owner/Founder of IN WHITES]