I realized that yesterday was the one-year anniversary of starting my job at The Keene Sentinel.
A few days into the job, I covered the Annual Keene Chamber of Commerce Gala for the paper, where I also was tonight and covered again. It didn’t feel much different from last year. I walked in, said my name to the people up front and they checked me off their list as a ping of entitlement rushed through me. I walked through the cliques of fancy-dressed folks, meandering through the room of what would usually be a college dining commons area; my old stomping ground, where I ate chicken patty salads and Reese’s Peanut Butter Puffs cereal for dinner. I grabbed a water from the bar, as I also did last year, and pretended to “casually” look around for someone I knew to save me. “Anyone? Oh, excuse me. Oops, scuze me…There’s Michael and Shelly, oh someone is chatting them up. I’ll just situate myself politely by them and wait to get in on the conversation…waiting…waiting…okay just chillen by the trash can, this is cool, hey everybody, I’m awkward. Ok, it’s getting a little hot in here…I am slowly dying. I guess I will…slowly dying…just…go to the bathroom! Aha, yes!”
It was an eruptive, overwhelming feeling that came over as I made my way to the bathroom, smiling at people. I felt left out or helplessly unproductive. I wanted so badly to just talk to someone; to prove my progress even just for myself; like, yes I can attend a function where I don’t know anyone and make conversation, I am a capable woman! I knew it was in me.
And then I began to think, am I even intelligent enough to speak with any of these people? These powerful women who’ve started they’re own businesses; owners of local companies; CEO’s and presidents; volunteers in the community and big names in highly recognized organizations; past Trendsetters; Molly Kelly, dude!
And so, eventually I sat down with other Sentinel staff members, ate butternut squash, beet and spinach salad, these strange fried risotto cakes, asparagus and cheesy, caramelized onion chicken and Mexican chocolate mouse; jotted down notes from the speakers and recorded the introductions to the award winners.
At the end of the night, I approached the Business of the Year Award winner, Mary Ann Kristiansen of Hannah Grimes Marketplace and Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship for an interview. This woman is incredible. Her name is mentioned in pretty much every Monadnock region publication (and more, I am sure) for her founding of the Center which helps to support and educate local entrepreneurs through space, workshops and events. The Marketplace is a hub of New Hampshire made products from local artisans ranging from woodwork, felt art, glassblown items, jewelry, soaps and lotions, wine, beer, baskets, chocolate, cheese, milk, EVERYTHING. It’s where I find more than half of my content ideas.
So, in short, you could say she’s making a huge impact on the local business, community and economy.
I said, “Hi Mary Ann, congratulations! I’m Kenzie Travers from The Keene Sentinel, editor of ELF and Business Monadnock!” She shook my hand and smiled, “Of course, you’re famous!”
UHM, WHAT? No, you’re famous, I thought, how would you even know me?
Then she said, “I love reading ELF. I love your work.” I just about fell over and everything she said to me after that for the interview I just could not comprehend; I mean, she was looking me right in the eye talking about the community and stuff, and I was just drowning in the green sea of her iris’s, completely bewildered. She knew my name, my work, and she ENJOYS it. That was proof of progress enough for me.
I left feeling empowered. To give you an idea of how empowered I felt: It was 9:00 p.m. and I drove straight to the gym.
I also realized that my first day on the job was also the first day I met Shay and Alex. Coworkers, to very dear friendships developed over the year. It’s daunting, although this wasn’t completely the case for me, to move to a place completely new, with no friends or family. After everyone moved home after college, my social circle was nonexistent.
I can’t imagine what life would be like in Keene without meeting, especially now that Alex is moved to LA, Shay and (her fiance) Tom! What would I even do, who would I spend time with besides myself? I feel truly grateful to have met people in a place where it could have been quite possible to not meet any friends.
With that being said, I will now share my favorite staple dish to make: risotto. It’s warm, wholesome and cheesy; mixed with garlicky spinach and kale for a source of manganese, iron and fiber (while covered in garlicky oil). The dish is absolute perfection with hints of rosemary and the lingering kiss of Pinot.It was inspired by Kitchen of Konfidence, and my new, go-to attitude passion for risotto has been inspired by Emerging Adult Eats. She dented my false perception of it’s difficulty.
- ½ cup olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 medium yellow onion,chopped
- ¼ tsp dried thyme
- ¼ dried rosemary
- ½ cup Pinot Grigio
- 1 cup risotto rice
- ½ cup cannellini beans
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp butter
- Kale, spinach
- Salt & pepper
In a small saucepan, warm up chicken stock.In a separate, large pot, heat ½ cup olive oil and garlic till aromatic. To the pot, add onions, thyme, rosemary, pinch of salt and pepper and cook till onion is tender, 6-8 minutes.
Stir in rice and toast for 2 minutes. Add wine, cook for a minute.
Make sure the chicken stock is hot. Then, using a ladle, add chicken stock. Let the rice absorb stock before adding another ladleful, make sure to stir frequently between each ladle to prevent burning on the bottom.
Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
The rice may take awhile to absorb (about 35-40 minutes total). Be patient. There should be about ½ a cup of stock left, if any, by the time the rice is fulled cooked.
Stir in beans, spinach, kale, stir. (You could also saute greens in a small frying pan with olive oil and garlic till wilted, and add to top of risotto. I just mixed it in to save me from washing more dishes).
Stir in cheese.