Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Good food is good for freelance morale

As I celebrate the one-year anniversary of being a freelancer, I am pleased that freelance is good and life is good. I have worked with 28 different clients, half a dozen art directors, published a couple of dozen stories, directed a short film, and learned more than a little about quarterly taxes. I have nothing but gratitude for the good people who hired me. Without you, freelance is not good.

In the downtime, and there is downtime in freelancing, I rebuilt a sailboat, won a National championship, won my first Laser regatta, attended the Laser Worlds in France, got a good start on a novel, and fixed a lot of broken things around the house.  Thank you to my wife for giving me the confidence that the slow times would pass and I would be busy again.

My wife Lisa Borden is a freelance account planner who has worked for a variety of inspiring clients. She’s also a great writer. Her piece on this blog, “Last Night I Bought a Ukulele,” was picked up by the Huffington Post and is the top-rated post to date. 

As we live in a dual-freelance home, I thought it would be best to celebrate our year of freelancing together by sharing some morale-building secrets. When you are a company of one, there is no holiday party, there are no Thursday night drinks, and the company culture is what you make of it. This is what works for us.

For us, food is a great way to build morale. We often go our separate ways during work hours, then meet for lunch and dinner. Many days, I get up at 4:00 am and start working by 5:00 am. By lunch time, I’ve given an assignment a good effort, and after seven hours of concepting or writing, I am ready for a break.

We do a grocery shop together once a week and buy plenty of fresh ingredients to make always good and sometimes great food. If one person is working and the other isn’t, the non-working freelancer does the shop and other chores that need to be done. There is something special about the banana section at Stop & Shop as I’ve had calls with work three times while choosing a bunch.

So, here is a tour of some of the items we have purchased that have improved morale and saved money in the long run:

Breville Pizza Oven and Kitchen Aid
“Hey, do you want to have pizza night tonight?” is always a great question to answer. Lisa’s brother has a brick oven pizza in his home that is heated with wood. We love pizza but wanted something a bit simpler. The Breville Pizza oven gets hot enough to make the crust really crispy. It’s a nice little appliance and retails for $149.95 at Williams Sonoma. Forget about the store-bought dough. The good stuff needs to be made fresh and it’s quite easy with a Kitchen Aid mixer. Lisa found this one on sale after the holidays for $199 on amazon. It’s probably the least fancy of all of the Kitchen Aids but it does the job.

And oh, the pizza. It’s so fresh, so delicious, it makes going out for pizza a let down. The only thing you have to remember is to not burn the roof of your mouth off. It’s that good. The only downside of this pizza oven is you can only make one pie at a time so you cook one, split it, then cook more. The later pies are usually better as the oven is hotter.

Panini Maker
At first, I was skeptical. How much better could a Panini be from a Panini maker rather than from a fry pan? A lot better. The high heat on both sides of the Panini maker, also by Breville, turns a couple of slices of bread and some protein and cheese into a thing of beauty. Shop for Panini bread, as it is thicker and stands up to the task. This was about $75 on amazon.com and it is the best value of all of the appliances reviewed here. You can also make toast in it, so the toaster is in the basement, gathering dust.

Slow Cooker
This sounds like an old-school device from the 1950’s but the food it creates is insanely good in the winter. Throw a pork loin and some hoisin sauce in the porcelain tub in the morning and at dinner you have a gourmet meal. This appliance is around $150 but is worth every penny in the winter. Not so much in the summer, as the creations are a bit “stick to your ribs.”

Rice Cooker
The best friend of the slow cooker, the rice cooker turns a cup of Chinese rice into an amazing treat. Since Chinese rice is a great value, this rice cooker made by Zojirushi pays for itself in a couple of months.  The basic model is $50 and they go up from there. You have to wash the Chinese rice before cooking, otherwise it turns into a cloud of starch.
Lisa is a voracious reader and she plows through cookbooks. This tomato mozz salad with fresh jalapeno came from Fresh, Happy, Tasty by Jane Coxwell and it really is great. Again, you’ll never order it in a restaurant after you have this one.

Good food is great for morale and for the price of one restaurant meal, you can have an appliance that will give you a lifetime of freelance meals. If you’re having a slow month struggling to make both ends meet in the middle, you can make beautiful meals for pennies on the dollar.

I’m hoping freelance is good for you and you are living a happy, simple life free of drama and nonsense. There are some cool people working on profiles so I’m hoping to have some new material to share with you soon.


doug chapman said...

This Panini Maker® is incredible. All claims made by Joe are true.

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