This summer I had a really cool job. Two awesome people decided to plant their restaurant dream in the heart of my small Alabama town. What makes this story so amazing is the fact that this restaurant, planted in a town whose known for its stockyard, and thus its love of meat, doesn’t serve any at all. The menu is strictly vegetarian. The owners will be the first to tell you, it was a slow start because it was a concept that was so foreign to my hometown- you don’t actually have to have meat to enjoy your dinner.
This hasn’t kept this story from becoming a one full of success. While I’m sure there are still skeptics, for the most part my town has been fully transformed because of this restaurant. It has become a hub for social activity and is a place anyone can feel fully comfortable to embrace whatever makes them feel cool. It really breathes so much acceptance and innovation into our town and part of it is due to the fact that the owners really make everyone feel so welcome. There aren’t many people they can’t name by name, and correctly guess their food order, and if there happens to be a new face that finds itself inside of Gerson’s Garden, they’ll definitely be greeted with a hello and a visit from the people in the back that make the magic happen.
What makes this place so special to me is that I was completely anti-vegetable. At nineteen, the only ones I was comfortable eating were corn and potatoes and I’m not even sure that those counted. Prior to serving there over the summer, any visit I made to Gerson’s consisted of me eating broccoli alfredo with no broccoli. I wasn’t necessarily there for the food but more for the entertainment and sociability of the place.
That was until they needed help over the summer, and I just so happened to be free. Now while the struggles of turning this bubbly, two left-footed, awkward girl into a sub-par server is a hilarious story for another time, the two owners, Bill and Siri, really invested a lot of time into me. They vowed to make me enjoy vegetables, and they actually succeeded in their quest. They took the effort to make cute little certificates (pictured below) to reward me for trying something new. I can truthfully say that because of them I am a changed woman, and they’ve altered the way I look at, and enjoy, food for the rest of my life.
But, it wasn’t just the food. This summer I learned more about politics, music and embracing new things than I had in the nineteen years I’ve walked this earth. I learned how to listen to viewpoints that were different than mine and respond with grace. I learned how to appreciate parts of people and life that you don’t necessarily enjoy. I learned that sometimes you may not like all that you try, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth giving it a shot. I learned how we really are all just people that have interesting stories and that we all have something to learn from each other. I learned a few things I definitely could’ve gone my whole life without learning, but I also learned things that I will exercise and practice for as long as I live. I think we all need to be more like Bill and Siri, and the awesome souls that work and hangout frequently inside of those walls.
We all need to dare to be different and accepting, and strive to ever be full of our opinions and passion. I could never thank you all enough for the time you invested in me, and for the summer of mine that you made amazing.