“Want to buy a cookie?” a group of voices asked in unison, startling my wife and me. This was a few months ago and happened just as we were strolling home along Windward Avenue in Venice. Looking just to our right we saw a couple guys smiling through a rectangular hole in a whitewashed fence. On a platform above them, seated in lawn chairs were a couple young women in shorts and tank tops. After living off the boardwalk for so many years and regularly being approached by many random people asking for many random things, our initial instinct was to say no thanks without missing a step. Something about this was different though, and two steps after saying our rote “No, thanks,” we both stopped. “What was that?” I asked as we turned around. A blonde, long-haired surfer-looking guy named Kyle gave us the pitch from behind the counter.
“We’re farmers from Michigan, and we’re selling vegan, organic cookies using the wheat grown on our family farm,” he said, pointing to a display of four, slightly round drop cookies situated in front of him while holding up a glass jar full of whole grain wheat. “This is my apartment, and we do all of the prep and cooking in my kitchen. Want to try a sample?”
“Uh, sure,” we said. Why not? I could think of a couple reasons. However, they also informed us they were operating legally under a recently passed cottage food industry law that allowed the sale of l0w-risk foods, such as baked goods, to be prepared in people’s home kitchens and sold directly to the public. Another blonde, long-haired, surfer-type, who we learned was Kyle’s slightly older brother Wes, dropped back into the darkness and returned a moment later with a plate of small, pie-shaped samples of all of the cookies. We tasted as we talked.
“Where are you from in Michigan?” Erinn inquired. The cookies were good. Not incredibly sweet, but not bad for something described as vegan and organic and cooked by a couple of dudes in a studio apartment. They were from Custer, a small town of less than 300, halfway up the western side of the mitten. We told them Erinn’s brother-in-law was from Hart, only a few miles from there, and that we were going to be visiting her sister in Grand Rapids in just six weeks. “Cool beans,” Kyle said. Wes mentioned that at least one of them was going to go back in a month to help their dad with farming duties. We finished our samples, and they asked if we wanted to buy anything. I felt obliged at this point, but neither of us were carrying cash and the cookies were $3 a piece. “It’s okay. We take cards,” Kyle said with a shrug. I bought an oatmeal raisin and a peanut butter.