Friday, May 20, 2011

Random Bites: Adventures With Tea and An Ode To My Fellow Booksellers

I've been remiss in following up concerning the success of my friends Alan and Marlys; the creators of Adventures with Tea. You may recall a Foodie Five post that I did with these two a while back and since then their own adventures with tea are getting them even more well-deserved attention. Alan and Marlys have been hosting cooking demos with tea; one recently at the new Hy-Vee at Liberty, where they've been demonstrating their prowess at not only creating exciting and flavorful dishes but showcasing their own impressive line of teas. These cooking demos are just the beginning...they offer not only their wonderful teas(my favorite being the Creme de la Creme Brulee) but opportunities to host your own tea-tasting adventure. I was most excited and honored to be asked to offer my first blurb as The Confounded Cook on their recipe card collection. I do indeed enjoy the teas and I'm including their recipe card collection in my Cookbook Challenge so I'll be making one of their delectable-sounding recipes. I have already made a G'Day Orange Juice using the G'Day Berry loose tea and it was delicious. I'm thinking about the Smoky Cheddar Biscuits for the challenge recipe. As I said in the recipe collection quote, Bravo Alan and Marlys!

Writing about Alan is a good segue to my second random bite which refers to my bookstore job. I first met Alan when we were bookstore co-workers. I've written often of my lifelong love affair with books and all things related to the written word. Despite the advent of e-readers, I still relish the feel and smell of a book and its pages. I feel comforted by being in the very presence of filled bookshelves, as if I've discovered a treasure chest that is begging to be rummaged through. As I continue learning to cook and blogging about it, my cookbooks in particular have become my new book collecting obsession and each of them has something enlightening to offer. In fact, right now, my store is featuring a table of The Confounded Cook's favorite cookbooks and food writing.

The book industry is weathering great and powerful challenges these days and all of us are feeling it. One bookstore chain has already closed its doors and that's tragic for the folks losing their jobs and depressing for the book industry as a whole. E-readers, including our own, are selling like gangbusters and if that keeps people, particularly children reading, than I'm all for it. In fact, we own one ourselves and thoroughly enjoy it and in the end, didn't keep us from buying regular books. I admit, though, that I fret a bit about the long-term impact of e-readers and the struggles of our industry but not for the reasons you may think. I think books will survive in whatever form readers may choose but I worry about the loss of bookselling jobs. Lord knows I'm a fan of the independent bookstores and have certainly been a customer of theirs many a time but there is only so many folks that these shops can employ and benefits are quite often not an option. I know, I'm on a bit of a stream-of-consciousness drip here. My point is that while books are most assuredly treasures, the booksellers I've worked with over the years are some of the finest folks I would ever hope to know and I care about what happens to them.

We booksellers might be bound by our love of books or language or words. Many of us tend to be pop culture aficionados and share our loves of film and music. It might just be the shared experiences of our job, be they good or bad. We may be bonded by the fact that many of us got into the industry because we loved the bookstore atmosphere only to learn that bookselling has its own unique challenges. It could even be the occasional mutually raised eyebrow as when a customer comes through buying Tantric Sex For Dummies....as a wedding gift. There might even be simultaneous bitten tongues when a customer asks for psychology books by Siegfried and Roy. I digress....

In my decade with the book business, some of the best friends I've ever had have come from the book industry. From Washington DC to here in KC, there are many a bookseller, current of former, who are a part of my life and I treasure them all. They have been with me through thick and thin, including when I myself have been both thick and thin. Facebook has allowed me to stay in touch with my former co-booksellers and thanks to the wonders of technology, I've been able to share in two of my DC cohort's special moments: the birth of Ali's first child and Natalie's marriage proposal. I also still get together with my most awesome Plaza cohorts Ashley, Jeff and Angelo.

My current bookstore has a collection of folks that are true blue booksellers and friends. I met my best KC friend Ronnie there, my friends Linda, Jane and Jo would be part of our first dinner party group and as co-workers moved away, I would end up with friends all over the world. One of those friends Misty was recently married in England and some of my co-workers flew over to attend. Many of my fellow booksellers are also brilliant at customer service but they really shine when it comes to helping out a fellow bookseller in need. They make and bring food for birthdays or to contribute when a bookseller had lost a loved one. They host parties for farewells, engagements, baby showers or just as an excuse to get together. Most notably, they surround a fellow bookseller with love and support in times of need. One of our fellow booksellers and their family recently survived but lost much of their belongings in a devastating fire. Barely a breath was wasted before people started to rally 'round and provide aid; be it monetary or to help moving.....because that's what they do.

There are certainly, as with any business dealing with people, difficult customer issues that can make for a rough shift. I could elaborate for days, as could my fellow booksellers, on odd or challenging customer interactions. There are, however, moments with customers that can be life-altering as well. Since the days of caring for my parents and my Dad's passing, I find myself offering words of sympathy and comfort for the customers who ask me for books on eldercare and Alzheimer's. This week, I helped a stroke victim who could barely speak find a book (and his lost phone) and did it with a significant lump in my throat. Also this week, I got a soldier leaving for Afghanistan set up with an e-reader and just yesterday helped a woman tearfully searching for books on grief for three children who watched their parents die in the Alabama tornadoes. There are actually many moments like these that sometimes get lost in the wake of dealing with difficult customers. Bookselling is most assuredly an honorable profession and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Many of my fellow booksellers are terrific teachers. Many of them are also world travelers. They all have a quality that I find irresistible: an insatiable desire for discovery and to continue learning. Whatever the future of the book industry, I will forever be grateful for my fellow booksellers.

5 comments:

Kristy said...

BRAVO! Wonderful post!!!

yerttle said...

Everything I love in one post...

I do loves me some coffee, but when I want a treat or comfort, Earl Grey is my choice...thank you, Picard...

Highlight of my day: the first breath drawn in a book store: paper, coffee, and fresh-print newspapers. Barnes & Nible stores have become a comfort for me, having moved so much with the military. They are the same comforting space while at the same time offering a bit of local history. I love books, electronic, paper, new, used...books books books...and their lovely sellers . :)

yerttle said...

Noble. Not Nible. Although the snacks are tasty... :)

sixtyfourcolorbox said...

I am still saddened when I think of both times I left the Zona Rosa store. So much happened in the time I spent working at the store, the memories and friends made will be cherished forever.

Lisa Mandina said...

Love this blog! I love all my bookstore friends as well. My life would not be as colorful without them. Even teaching I don't find people who have as many of the same interests as I do, or who can talk books and movies like we all do.
I need to try some of Alan's tea, but never seem to be available when he's having his demos.
I also love your table! I had an idea for an endcap I could do with teen book suggestions, but never got a chance to get with Jo and get it done.

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