I am fond of quoting Judith Martin, aka “Miss Manners,” who says couples should not be seated next to each other at dinner parties because they tell the same stories, but they tell them differently. My recollection of the origins of Against The Grain goes like this: I had been on this challenging gluten-free diet for a number of years, and hated the bread products—crumbly faux-sandwich wrap substitutes, astonishingly bad sandwich bread, no burgers or pizza—the whole deal. When my then 14 year-old son was also diagnosed with celiac disease, Nancy went into high gear to make his life normal. Nothing like the maternal instinct! Suddenly I find myself eating really good bread and pizza, and I am telling Nancy, “You really ought to think about making a business out of this.” For a little while, she said she was thinking about writing a cookbook. I dissuaded her, saying “Who wants to cook? They want to buy it already made.” Or something like that.
Somehow “you” starting the company (Nancy) morphed into “we” (both of us). I was OK with that. I have done many different things over the years: college instructor & opera composer; Wall Street systems management; computer & technical book author, even fiction writing, among other things. I’d never run my own company, although the signs were all there. When I worked for others, my bosses never could quite understand that they should to be reporting to me, rather than the other way around. That Nancy and I knew practically nothing about the food business (other than the waiter/waitress stints we did as graduate students), was no obstacle at all. If you are resourceful, you can find out what you need to know. Maybe that is what entrepreneurs do. I am also willing to take risks, which is another thing you have to do. But I knew a good thing when I saw it, and I knew how much people like me desperately wanted what it was that Nancy could make. I never looked back.
One thing that has become abundantly clear since we started this is how little the average consumer knows about food manufacturing. Because Nancy and I came into this business with no pre-conceived notions as to how you manufacture food on a large scale, it never occurred to us to take the kind of shortcuts (read: cost savings) in order to make cheap food. If the recipe calls for eggs, you use real eggs; you use real milk; you use real cheese; and so on. None of these chemically engineered additives, enzymes, binders, mold inhibitors, flavor enhancers, and all the other weird inventions of the food industrialists.
If I have a personal mission, it is to make available to everyone what I have been so fortunate to have for myself—Nancy’s original and excellent gluten-free creations.