My parents were always into the idea of gardening and really using and preserving the literal fruits of their labor. My mom grew up on a farm and considered any unplanted plot of land a waste, and my dad was a strident do-it-yourselfer. We always had something growing, from herbs to avocado pits, there was always more than a bit of green in the house and outside. They always kept me busy picking snap peas and squash, rooting around for strawberries and fetching the rosemary for seasoning. One summer, the only thing I remember is that our tomato plants went crazy, and I ended up in our kitchen with a basket of ripe tomatoes and a food mill, steadily squeezing all the juice and pulp out of each fruit into a giant bowl.
At the time I was decidedly not interested in preservation. I thought it was more than a little weird what we were doing–after all, none of my friends were stuck in their kitchens that summer milling tomatoes or catching fennel seeds. Unfortunately, now that I’m finally understanding and enjoying the idea of creating and preserving these delicious foods, I have also come to the conclusion that I have a black thumb and not quite enough patience to really continue the family traditions.
Fortunately for people like me, Emily Marquis Vanlandingham has built a business on creating and selling delicious preserves from seasonally appropriate fruits. She learned the basics from working with her grandmother, and somehow was not turned off at an early age like I was. Instead, Emily decided to approach her life in a manner that would allow her to create her own line of jams and preserves. She went to college and then cooking school. Then, she worked as a pastry chef for several years. All these experiences contributed to the set of skills necessary to start out on her own.
Her company, originally named Feed Me Eat Pretty, grew out of a desire to take the local bounty of fruit and preserve it in delicious but unique syrups, pepper jellies, and sugar-free fruit jams. She remembers falling in love with pepper jelly when she first moved to the South, but not enjoying the overpowering vinegar flavor. So she worked on her own version that makes the fruit and peppers the flavor stars. This idea of keeping everything as simple and flavorful as possible in the basis for her whole line of products. Her unique flavors include Strawberry Lavender, Blueberry Lemon, Strawberry Jalapeno, Spicy Peach, and many more. Flavors and availability vary with the season and and depend on the produce coming from Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Emily is constantly dreaming up new combinations and new ways to use her products, from cocktails to a tasty pork chop dinner for her family.
As Emily’s business grew in New Orleans, she realized that there could be a market for these products everywhere, and not only would it be a good business, but it would be good for communities. Renamed Locally Preserved, Emily has focused her company on a mission to “sustain farmers, create honest jobs, and allow everyday people to eat local – everywhere.” When Locally Preserved expands into other communities, Emily wants to use only the local produce available in that area, so each one would have it’s own unique flavors. Just the idea makes me want to go on a road trip to pick up flavors from every state!
It seems like perfect timing that Locally Preserved took off just as the food trends of the country started to notice hyper-local products and traditional ways of cooking and preserving foods and vegetables, although Emily doesn’t see it as a trend. She thinks that this is the natural progression of the food world, a backlash of globalization and all of it’s issues, and a return to methods and flavors that re-connect us with good food. In any case, her products make it easy to incorporate local fruit and support into your meals and drinks. She’s working on a portfolio of recipes for every course, and she’s even got a mixologist on staff to create unique cocktails with her syrups.
Everything sounds so good, I almost want to call my mom and thank her for all those tedious summer days that I spent unwillingly learning the beauty of local bounty and preservation, which have made me so appreciative of the hard work that it takes to pull off a company built on that idea. Almost. Instead, I think I’ll enjoy a cocktail and thank Emily for her contributions to local food.
You can support Emily Marquis Vanlandingham and Locally Preserved at the BIG IDEA competition on March 28, 2014, part of the New Orleans Entrepreneur Week produced by Idea Village. Learn more about the competition and NOEW here – www.noew.org.
Watermelon say What???
Ian Julian – Mixologist, Locally Preserved
Yields: 1 cocktail
- ¼ cucumber – thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 oz Gin, Hendricks
- 1 oz Feed Me Eat Pretty Rose Petal Simple Syrup
- 1/2 oz lemon juice
- ¼ cucumber – thinly sliced
- club soda – to finish
- ice – to finish
In a Collins or Highball glass add cucumber slices and muddle them. Add the remainder of the ingredients and top with club soda and ice.