To cap off my stack of Important Legal-ish Papers, including but not limited to:
- Washington state business license
- Seattle business license
- LLC formation
- Tax forms
- and one thick stack of insurance papers
I may now add a signed Food Establishment Inspection Report with the comment: "Approval recommended". You may all have a glass of champagne while I tell you the story.
SHE WAS LATE AGAIN! Almost twenty minutes late, which was the point where I called her the first time (Wednesday) and she was all, "Huh? I had an appointment with you? For TODAY? REALLY?"
And I got mad. I got really really mad. Which isn't really like me. I mean, I get mad, but I don't very often get curse word-worthy mad, and I rarely direct it at individual people. But I'd just had it! I was so tired! Of being crapped on! At every turn! And I'd been feeling particularly punchy about my time and work and tasks being as valuable as anyone else's, that I'm not just a dumb SAHM with a hobby, etc. etc. I was SO MAD.
So this morning felt a little anticlimactic. I thought she would show up, be as loopily apologetic as she was on the phone, feel guilty that I had to bring my two-year-old with me, sign the papers will quick, and jet. I would be licensed. The end. Too tired to open the champagne.
Which is, basically, what happened. With a little extra added bonus.
This woman shows up almost 20 minutes late and at first I don't suspect her of being the inspector. Because she looks like a very frazzled older-than-me mom. She does not look professional. She carries no air of being professional. The only thing giving her away is a sort of weird metal clipboard, so I let her walk up to the front and ask for me (like the girls serving coffee have any clue who I am) and then I walk over and introduce myself and I am POLITENESS ITSELF. I am still furious with her, but I also just want to get it over with and Being Nice is the fastest way to my license.
So she sits down with me and she starts to share her frazzledness - I think that if I knew this lady casually, or say she was a neighbor or my babysitter's mom or something, I'd love her. I sort of love flustered crazy people and she is most definitely one of these, but LADY I JUST WANT MY LICENSE, right? So I'm a bit ANNOYED with all her apologies and reasons and blah blah blah.
But then, out of the blue, she sort of snaps to attention and boom. We are discussing the matter at hand. And the things she has to say to me are 1) GOOD TO KNOW and 2) QUITE USEFUL. Like, instead of telling me that my labels are all wrong and sending me home with my knives and all that, she says, "Okay, so you'll want to make sure you always put MILK in parentheses wherever you have CREAM or BUTTER, I know, it's confusing, they don't make it easy to understand, just make that little change and you'll be fine." It was like that. Telling me something I needed to know, trusting that I would do it, not needing to see proof, talking to me like I was a comprehending half-decent human being. She had a couple more corrections for my labels and each one was "yeah, they don't make this easy to understand, but this is what you need to do" and then trusting that I would do it.
Then she did the inspection. She put on her little Inspector Coat and walked into the kitchen. I walked over to the counter to get Emma some water. By the time I came back, she was done. "Looks great," she said.
She had a few more questions to which I answered, "well, we haven't quite figured that out yet" BUT she was satisfied that we knew the rules and that was it. Fine by her.
I KNOW CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?
And I don't even really feel like she was a lazy or bad inspector, which is the general perspective I HAVE on food inspectors based on many many stories. The building the kitchen is in is only 3 years old. I know our kitchen owner keeps everything to code. It's a small space. We are making VERY unhazardous foods. (Or maybe I'm just feeling generous because this was MY inspection. Possible.)
So then she's filling out the paperwork for the license and because I sense she would be TOTALLY open to shoptalk I casually say, "We tried the Cottage Food process first..." I mean, you could HEAR the dot dot dot.
And she looks up from her paperwork with narrowed eyes and says, "What. a. joke."
Oh you guys, it was lovely. It was so validating. So affirming. So HELPFUL. Without slamming any one person or any one agency, she easily and intelligently ticked off every ridiculous problem with the state cottage food law and wondered aloud about the POINT. "They've made it SO CUMBERSOME," she said. "It's RIDICULOUS." "They have DESK people reviewing those applications, not INSPECTORS." "It's so EXPENSIVE." Then she looks up again and says, "Did you already pay for it?" I nod. "Well. Then this is what you should do."
I am only telling you this because she didn't SAY not to tell anyone she said this. But basically what we should do, and what we are TOTALLY GOING TO DO, is cut out all the recipes except for our four or five most basic and most requested ones. Like chocolate cake. Vanilla cake. Plain, boring, building blocks for other good stuff. Fill out everything exactly the way they say. Get those approved. And then... just, you know. Go and bake safely. Ahem. AHEM.
This was the advice I received from a state food establishment inspector. I may have to delete this chunk of post in the future, but I just reeeeeeeally wanted to tell you. I WAS TOLD TO BREAK THE RULES.
I mean, this is what people MUST be doing, right?! This is the only way! But still! To be ADVISED TO DO SO!
Also, SHE would be my kitchen inspector. SHE would come to my house and check us out. SHE gives me the final stamp of approval. She agreed that supplementing our four hours of kitchen time per week with a cottage food permit was a great idea. The only thing she was firm about was not wholesaling things we make at home. That's against the law. But I can quote her about not giving a flip about how much flour we use to dust the work surface.
And so, all is forgiven. I no longer hold her personally accountable for all the strife we've experienced over the last six months. The kitchen owner celebrated with me after she left - this woman, you guys. We are SURELY a giant pain in the butt for her. She is not getting enough money out of us to make dealing with my constant emails worth it. But she is SO encouraging and flexible and easy and trusting and happy to help and excited for us and I'm not sure there is a better kitchen landlady on earth. We talked about our first night at the kitchen (next week!) and how we'll pay her and alarm codes and copies of insurance information and OH GOD THAT'S WHEN I STARTED TO HAVE MY FREAKOUT.
So. About five minutes of champagne-worthy elation? And now a freakout. Which I will save for later. Part One was the fun part. Brace yourselves for Part Two, where I grab you by the shirt collars and shriek WHAT HAVE WE DOOOOOOOOONE!!!!???!!!!?!??!!