Here in New England: Hard Work
On July 4, 2003, she put 17 bottles on a cardboard table in the parking lot of the local grange. “I made little salads with the dressing,” she says, “and people would taste it and their eyes would light up.” She sold out before noon. The next week she sold out again. “I loved seeing people’s smiles,” Nancy says. “When you go through the death of a child, or whatever trauma you’re going through, there’s always something to pull you back into life. And if you follow that energy, that’s what’s going to get you back.” At summer’s end, a woman said to her, in a near panic, “How am I going to get through the winter without your dressing?”
Nancy knew then that she had to get serious. She found a community kitchen that rented by the day. Billy and Elizabeth and friends filled the family car with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, Dijon mustard, and spices, and cases of lovely Italian-made bottles. Two days later, they emerged. An artist friend designed a beautiful painting for the labels. Nancy’s women’s group held labeling parties. A friend gave her lists of specialty stores where she could show off her dressing. There were more farmers’ markets. Her phone number was on the bottle, and soon she was getting calls from all over. Everyone who tasted it wanted more.
Five years ago she and Billy set up a booth at the Made in New Hampshire Expo, Billy doling out little salads, Nancy the gently tangy dressing. “It was like stepping out on Mars for us,” Billy says. “But it gave us joy when people put it in their mouths and said, ‘Oh, this is good.’ ”
“Our spirituality says we are called to life,” Nancy says, “that we must find the place that keeps pulling us along. So I followed it. And it kept bringing us out.”
A few years ago the Browns remodeled their house, one room at a time. “We started with Carter’s room,” Billy says, “because we knew it would be hardest. It was.” They ended in the kitchen, where they love to gather, where the dressing began.
“When we finished,” Nancy says, “I felt we were back, as much as we could be.” From 17 bottles, her Three Acre Kitchen brand has grown to 1,000 cases a year. She makes a balsamic marinade now, too, flavored with juniper and rosemary, and a blueberry balsamic glaze, all helped along the way by her friends who’d come over and taste spoonfuls of her recipes until perfection.
“Carter would so love this,” Nancy says. She has just served lunch–fresh greens and bits of fruit, all topped with her dressing. Her eyes are smiling. “I can just see him hawking this at farmers’ markets. He’d be so proud. He’d have so much fun with it.”
For more information on Nancy Brown’s products, call 603-223-5985 or visit: threeacrekitchen.com