Jenny Goldsmith
North Lake Tahoe Bonanza

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May 3, 2012
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Meet Your Merchant: A home-cooked meal with good intentions and a side of love

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Long gone are the days when women would stay at home, apron tied on, slaving over a hot oven, preparing a warm meal for their husbands and children. In this day and age, with most mothers working 9-5’s and stay-at-home mom’s spending their days volunteering in the nonprofit sector, putting a hot dinner on the table can be a challenge.

That’s where Meals By Maggie comes in. A few years ago, wife and mother-of-two, Maggie Browder, noticed her child-bearing friends were struggling to put a decent meal on the table. She saw a void and wanted to help, so she created a culinary business where once a week, she provides Incline Village families, seniors and hungry individuals with a health-certified, home-cooked meal.

“After my second son was born, I had a group of friends who were having first or second babies and they were panicking,” Browder said at her Incline condominium where she is finishing wrapping a present for her oldest son’s sixth birthday. “They were working or had traveling husbands or were stressing out about having another baby — whatever the reason, they didn’t know how they were going to put food on the table every night.”

Growing up in the small and uneventful town of Happy Camp, Calif., Browder spent many afternoons lending her hand in the kitchen.

“My family was a very food-focused family and I started cooking with mom when I was really little,” Browder recalled. “I remember when I was seven, I baked my first blackberry pie — I picked all the blackberries and made the crust.”

Browder left one small town for another when she moved to Weed to attend community college before transferring to Humboldt State where she completed her degree in education.

After graduation, Browder relocated to Chico and found work as a middle school language arts teacher in the neighboring community of Colusa. The job fulfilled her career goals, but the college town dating scene wasn’t as rewarding for the goal-oriented teacher.

During a summer teaching seminar, Browder crossed paths with a woman who insisted she meet her nephew, Brian — a budding technology guru who lived in Incline Village.

The Browders eventually wed at The Chateau in Incline and settled in the mountain community where Maggie continued to pursue her teaching career at the middle school. However, when the couple learned they would be having their first child, Browder took an extended maternity leave before ultimately deciding not to return to her position.

“I became pregnant with my second child and I knew I wanted to be the one who was with them all day and taking care of them,” Browder said. “That was around the time when I noticed my friends were starting to struggle.”

Browder approached her husband about the possibility of providing a meal for her circle of friends once a week in order to ease the burden on them, but her by-the-book husband informed her of the laundry list of hoops she would have to jump through to make the operation successful.

“Brian found out I needed a state business license, a county license, a commercial kitchen that was covered by the health department and a state sales tax permit,” Browder said. “I burst into tears and thought I could never do that.”

Browder shelved the idea for a few months until she received a sign from a higher power. The family had been attending services at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Incline when it was brought to Browders’ attention the facility contained a commercial kitchen suitable for her business concept.

The church, whose mission is to reach out to others, eagerly supported Browder’s idea, giving her the momentum to obtain the contracts and licensing she would need to see her business to fruition.

Since December 2010, Browder has been supplying local families and residents with weekly, home-cooked meals inspired by her childhood, her passion for culinary literature, her travels and her own children’s taste buds.

Every Thursday, the longtime Yogi enters her happy place in the kitchen at the church, where she whips up meals from gluten-free enchiladas to comfort-inspired chicken pot pie. She adds her own personal touch to each recipe, prepares everything from scratch and uses green packaging materials for her customers.

“I’ve always said I find my Zen when I’m cooking,” Browder said.

Browder’s weekly recipes are top-secret, but that’s not to say she won’t put out a cookbook eventually. At the start of the New Year, Browder and her husband plan to travel to Belize to visit longtime friends, George and Irma LeBard, with whom Browder will be co-writing a Mayan cookbook.

“When I travel, I like to pick up cook books and when Brian and I went to Belize a few years ago, I couldn’t find one,” Browder said. “When I came back, I talked with George and Irma and we decided to write down these Mayan recipes that have been passed on orally for centuries — it’s going to be a collaborative effort with them.”

While her client base is expanding, Browder plans to maintain her once-a-week catering schedule so she can prioritize plenty of time for her family.

“I couldn’t have done any of this without my husband … he’s the one, who from the start said, ‘if you want to do this, let’s do it right,’ and he’s been incredibly supportive throughout the whole process,” Browder said.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated May 3, 2012 01:16PM Published May 3, 2012 01:14PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.