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A Moveable Feast

If gardening is a metephor for life maybe we should all have our feet in the sand.

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The Hansen Curtis Family via Candace Simpson
Sunday Morning / May 14, 2023

An ancient Chinese proverb confirms, “Life begins the day you start a garden.” If true, life is perpetually being reborn, relived, and repurposed.

Apple Spice Box — The Premier Box Lunch Delivery & Catering Service — understood precisely that when they opened their doors in 1988. Founders Wayne Curtis and Randy Clegg rented a storefront from 88-year-old Fritz Haertel; whose once thriving bakery was conforming to a modern world. Old style bakeries were being replaced by modern supermarkets, but instead of shuttering the store altogether he looked to and partnered with the future.

During the early days, Haertel would linger around the ovens and mixing bowls of the new coop called Apple Spice Box; offing suggestions on the art of baking bread and imparting other culinary wisdom. In addition to the practical baking techniques, Fritz was inadvertently teaching the young entrepreneurs the value of personal service.

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Courtesy Apple Spice Box

During the last 30 years, Apple Spice Box has grown from its original location to a nationwide company of nearly 50 stores that takes daily fresh baked goods to businesses, meetings and events all over America. If Christ fed 5000 with just 5 loaves of bread, perhaps Curtis, Clegg, and the Rye King were on to something, too.

The Spice of Life

That women live longer than men is a quantifiable fact, and calls our fairer sex forward to lead. They’re the arbiters of the spirit in every home, and as Jane Austin once observed, “We women love longest — even when all hope is gone.”

The diagnosis came like a thief in the night. “An aggressive cancer that begins in the cells which support the nerves,” according to the American Medical Association, but despite maximum treatment always seems to recur. From the time of diagnosis, Glioblastoma sets the egg timer on life expectancy and the clock is always ticking. However, legacy is reductive and like a great recipe we tend to be remembered for one particular thing. Getting in front of that message comes long before the bell.

There is no working relationship whatsoever between death and dying. One we aim to control the other we accept and concede. Yet both require perspective about reality and beyond and she lived as she loved — as though he were dying.

Their blended family saw five children grow from teens to adults, and her remedy for adversity was always hard work. Like an antiquated farm from yesteryear, she’d tirelessly tend his tiny garden spot in their upscale suburban neighborhood bringing the farm to table and life.

For Curtis, the garden was a metaphorical neighborhood. Some plants have similar growing conditions, others need space to be themselves. They represent sweet, sour, bitter, salty and spice respectively, but only together in different combinations create the balance of life. Like all great chefs, Curtis could often conceive taste combinations ahead of his dreamy creations and has passed the gift to daughter Kat who can “taste things in her mind.”

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Kristen Curtis, Kat Curtis via Instagram

“We all have an 80/20 in us,” says Kristen Ashworth Curtis, “and no one person or particular is perfect 100% of the time.” Fussing over someone with a garden ripe tomato or braving a new recipe is to take back and to personalize our community from the e-commerce world. Martha Stewart once said, "no genuine act of service is ever convenient."

For decisions about downsizing, deadheading and disease inevitably confront our gardens so “Right the wrongs. Eliminate the regrets. Live each day as though it were your last,” Curtis says, of a lifecycle she now knows comes with seasons.

While they fulfill the measure of every year, they’re also a metaphor for life and living. “We reap what we sow,” she says, of Apple Spice Box's enviable legacy with 50 stores in 22 states but quickly adds, “always tend your garden as though it will live forever.”

For Wayne Curtis

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