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From pet to plate: the complete, abridged saga


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Currently there’s a dead rabbit in my refrigerator. No, I’m not pregnant and my husband Ed’s not dating Glenn Close. I just have a fatal attraction to cover certain stories—now that I’ve witnessed the circle of life on the African plains and learned to shoot assault weapons in Waco, Texas.

The rabbit, which looks an awful lot like my childhood pet Snowball, is a meat rabbit, while Snowball was an Easter bunny. Two very different animals. How the meat rabbit came to be in my refrigerator is a long story that I’ll make short here. You can read the longer version in our sister publication Foodservice News. And after I cook said rabbit, I’ll post my recipe on Franchise Times’ Facebook page. (If I cook it.)

I met Bonnie Marshall, the co-owner of Marshall Farms—a small operation in Hastings, Minnesota, that raises rabbits for restaurants and off-the-farm sales—at my gym. Bonnie and her husband Scott are akin to franchisees. They both work full-time jobs in order to finance their own business. The only difference is their business is farming, and their store is 30 acres. “The guy who invented the term ‘hobby farm’ must have been from the city,” Scott Marshall groused.

I was there to see his rabbit operation, but Scott wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it from “last hop to butchering.” Especially after seeing me ooh and ahh over the baby rabbits and goats. I promised I wouldn’t faint—or throw up— or tear up. I handle crisis much better than day-to-day life, I assured him.

What I took away from my experience that morning, besides a stripped and cleaned rabbit, was how far our culture has relocated away from the farm. We buy our food shrink-wrapped and precut and processed into products unrecognizable from their source. We like to pretend our hamburger was never a walking, breathing animal and that a pale, tasteless tomato slice is actually a tomato.

“The worst part of the business is killing an animal,” Scott said. “(But) it’s part of life.” And in our haste to produce enough food to overfeed a nation, we don’t always respect that life. “How the animal is treated is a direct result of what you’re going to get (on the plate),” he said. “If you care for it, it comes through in the product.”

My rabbit should be delicious, even though no one brags about my culinary skills. And yes, I will be standing on my soapbox using my holier-than-thou’s dishcloth when I clean up after the meal. I don’t always walk the talk, but I pretty much always talk the talk.

The reality behind FranDev in the desert

I tried really hard to come up with a reality show angle to the franchise development conference I attended recently in Tucson, but I failed. No one was sent home, fired or voted off the agenda. There was a video camera running during the presentations, but no one secretly talked to the camera about the other attendees. People didn’t form alliances; they pretty much all got along. No one thought they could dance, but five of us did do yoga. Why I thought I could make the analogy is because many of us were strangers brought together under one roof in order to learn how to survive in the current economic climate. Our “house” was the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain, where we had communal meals and planned physical activities to burn off all the calories consumed eating  three gourmet meals and multiple snacks a day.

One day our networking activity was golf. I was paired up with Shelly Sun of BrightStar and Tamara McHugh of The Wall Street Journal. Because golf is stressful for me, I insisted Jerry Darnell of BeneTrends drive my cart, even though he didn’t want to play golf. He was a trooper, though. He never let on that I was annoying him, like my husband does. We played a scramble and used most of Tamara’s shots. It took more than four hours to play 12 holes. Later we learned the slow pace was due to the second foursome. Marty Greenbaum claimed the ranger asked them to leave—but it didn’t really matter because finishing their round would have made them late for the cocktail reception—and therefore, like Dominoes, the rest of us.

I aligned with Paul Pickett from Wild Birds and Linda Figgins from HouseMaster. The competition for my favorite Gappa was close, but Pam Gappa emerged the winner. I like Bob OK, but Pam has a purse tree where she displays her stylish handbags and is a glass artist. Sorry, Bob. Here are a few of the things I would have told the camera about my housemates, if only someone had asked:




Executive Editor
Nancy can be reached at 612-767-3200 or at nancyw@franchisetimes.com

•    When Shelly Sun gets dressed in the morning she starts with what shoes she wants to wear and then builds an outfit around them.

•    Hair dryers work better in Phoenix than the Twin Cities. I was so amazed at how quickly my hair dried in my hotel room, that I wrote down the brand of the hair dryer. I purchased a similar model at Target when I got home, only to discover, it was the same hair dryer I already own. Apparently, my quickly drying hair was a product of the environment, not technology. I think all conferences should be held in low-humidity locales. (And yes, Ed, I took the dryer back for a full refund.)

•    Former Franchise Times columnist Wendy Webb has published a novel, “The Tale of Halcyon Crane,” which is part ghost story, part mystery and part romance. If you’re looking for HR advice—Wendy’s former beat—you’ll be disappointed, however. I was reading the book on my Kindle on the plane to Tucson and the first person I saw in the airport was her ex-husband Mark Lyso, who also was attending FranDev. Not exactly mysterious circumstances, but it was eerie.

•    Faegre & Benson’s Brian Schnell can stand on his head. Not only in yoga class, but at cocktail parties. If you’re a client, you might ask him to demonstrate  for you. But remember, he’s billing you for it.

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