Dede Wilson

co-founder of

Summer Love

The summer my twin boys were three years old I was near my wits end. Their dad Harry was working in New York City, four to five days a week. This meant that he stayed in the city and came home on the weekends. We had this arrangement because it was a great job with Sports Illustrated and the salary and perks seemed worth it at the time. I owned a fledgling bakery in Amherst, so I was home with the boys and their eight-year-old sister, working like a crazy person, and doing basically a single-Mom thing during the week.

I had been working in the food world for several years and owning my own bakery was the natural next step. My business partner, Robin, and I opened Harvest Moon Bakery with very little money and a whole lot of optimism. She was in charge of the front of the house and ran a tight ship. The baseboards and walls were washed down every week, the place was pristine, inviting and most importantly, ours. Her husband, Doug, created a lovely terra cotta floor for us and Robin developed a display system that was stylish, efficient and gave an old-world European flare to the store. I was in the back, churning out cookies and cakes, pies and tarts, while our bread baker Michael handled the baguettes, croissants, Danish, brioche and all of our rustic breads.

Bakery production work is back breaking labor. Put that together with the stress of owning the business, having toddler twins and a husband that was a weekend Dad, I not only felt like I was losing my mind, I was physically drained beyond measure.

Mary McNamara to the rescue. I met Mary several years before when we both worked at Bread & Circus, a predecessor to what is now our local Whole Foods. I’ll never forget the first time I saw her. She had straight brown hair, braided, and the most open, pretty, friendly face and smile. She worked in the produce department and was unpacking and stacking some sort of fruit or vegetable. I worked in the deli and bakery and eventually developed the sampling program and taught classes. We became very good friends. She will be a friend for life.

In the midst of all this business/twin/husband stress, Mary agreed to watch the kids for the summer. At the time she was a stay-at-home Mom with kids of her own. It was beyond convenient. I could drop the kids off in the morning at a house where my best friend lived, there were her kids as built-in playmates and a huge yard. Actually the term “yard” doesn’t begin to explain it. She lived on a working farm! The kids could eat blueberries and cherry tomatoes right off the vine and pick flowers in her garden. It doesn’t get better than that. But it did.

One Wednesday she suggested that I stay for dinner. Her husband Wally, who runs the family farm, is another warm, generous person. Hanging out with them is easy, comfortable, simply effortless. No pretenses, no odd social moments. In fact, I once told Mary that one of the things I loved about our relationship, was that we could both sit in a room, each reading a book or doing our own thing, and there was no pressure to converse or “be on”. She is like the sister I have never had – although I don’t think we have ever had a fight like most sisters I know.

The next Wednesday we repeated the communal meal at her suggestion, then again and again the following weeks. It became the summer ritual. It saved me from the nightly cooking that had, at that time, become a chore for me. I was working all day at the bakery, and when I came home to the twins, I just wanted to collapse. But Mary would always have fresh vegetables plucked right from the earth just outside her door, and a delicious healthy main dish that she would prepare with ease. Mary is a very intuitive cook and I always enjoy whatever comes out of her kitchen. I don’t remember the specifics of what we ate, because that was trivial compared to the fact that I was being fed and nourished in other very important ways. These breaks from my routine, which felt like a never-ending treadmill, saved my mind and soul that summer. I don’t know if she realizes how nurturing, how loving, how important and revitalizing these evenings were. I felt cared for in a way that no other part of my life was providing. My kids were tended to during the day, and Wednesday nights began to feel like a mini vacation.

Mary has worked with me on every cookbook I have written. I call her my baking muse, as I always know she will be there for me to talk about minutiae like the nuances of the measuring flour via the dip and sweep method or comparing flavor profiles of chocolates. We have known one another for over twenty-five years. My bakery was closed years ago. Our kids are grown and almost all of them are out of the house. But the love I have felt from Mary is a constant flow. Mary, I love you. I thank you for all the years of support and friendship. Here’s to the future. I have a lot of catching up to do in return.