HORN OF PLENTY
It’s no longer used to make music, and no-one is blowing through its mouthpiece for a Mardi Gras celebration. It is now a symbol, part of the decor at Hattie’s restaurant, a playful vessel that brings us somewhere else, that offers us an opportunity to set our cares aside, be with friends have some fun, and eat some good food. I saw the old cornet as a possibility, a cornucopia of compost, a horn of plenty… overflowing with an abundance of all good things… transformation. Wanting to create something different, a Love Compost COMPOSiTion a bit more sculptural, I knew it would be a challenge since the instrument was screwed to the “Hattio” (Hattie’s Patio) wall, and I was working with perishable organic matter. It was a very hot day. I was challenged by the bright sky of natural light and the resulting strong shadows one moment, then vacillating with clouds and the threat of rain the next, while navigating my own inner atmosphere. As I was trying to add large leafy collard greens, the red pepper top fell out from where I had lodged it by the valve casings, and when I turned quickly, I knocked over a glass vase that was on a table. With broken glass to clean up, I was definitely questioning my efforts, although my intentions were sincere and my determination didn’t waiver. Hattie’s is giving composting a try, with their pre-consumer food waste going to Pitney Meadows Community Farm. There the kitchen scraps will naturally decompose into compost, a nutrient rich textured matter, that will be mixed with soil to create a healthy environment for growing. The process is a straightforward one at the farm, nature knows what to do. In the restaurant kitchen, a few new procedures are put in place, to separate food scraps from trash. I am elated. Giving something like this a try, is brave. It communicates an open mind, and an open heart, not knowing what the results will be, but persevering anyway, obstacles and all. They were in, and so was I.
“My goal isn’t to be famous or make a profit – my goal is to help whoever I can.” said Ms. Hattie. Hattie’s is an iconic culinary landmark in Saratoga Springs, New York. The food is so good that I once broke my 5 year vegetarian diet so that I could eat Hattie’s fried chicken again. It tasted exactly as it always had… absolutely delicious. More than a restaurant, it is a mélange of Saratoga Springs history, southern and Louisiana cuisine and culture and a foodie’s “happy place”. I was there for the festivities, the night that Jasper and Beth threw a party and watched on a big screen when the crispy fried chicken was declared the best in all the land, with the original recipe that Ms. Hattie passed down through the years. How could it not be? We laughed and cheered and celebrated, all in typical Hattie’s style.
This restaurant with its core values of doing the right thing was established long ago by a woman, Ms. Hattie, who defied the norm, and defined commitment to community. Her generosity, goodness of spirit and giving has held true, and now spans over 85 years. Snapshots of moments from over eight decades live in frames covering almost every inch of the dining room’s interior walls. Starting in 1938, with Ms. Hattie’s mission of never letting anyone go hungry, her basic beliefs and propensity for giving were elevated in 2021, with a new idea,“Business for Good®”, and now 100% of the profits from all Hattie’s locations are donated to charities fighting food insecurities and hunger.
Hattie’s, with its red and white checkered tablecloths, serves an uncomplicated message, good food and good fun. It satisfies our taste buds, and maybe somewhere deeper within us, a place we didn’t know needed some attention.
Saratoga Arts made this program possible through the Community Arts Regrant Program, funded by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.