ABOUT HEARTS IN THE MIX
I am Rebecca Wood. I am a Georgia native who learned a lot about the value of fresh food and the magic of sharing meals prepared with love from my Depression-Era grandparents. They kept gardens and ordered what they couldn’t grow from the same farms each passing year. Peaches, corn, and berries came into the house by the gallon and bushel for processing into jars or straight into the deep-freeze. They toted me around with them to the U-pick farms, sat me up on the kitchen counter to stir sugar into peaches and strawberries, or sat with me shelling butter beans on the couch while I stayed up too late watching the Solid Gold dancers on the TEE-vee.
Each of my grandmothers had her own brand of “treats” that could be expected at holidays, celebrations, and birthdays. I always looked forward to the sounds and smells that drifted through the house on those occasions, and, of course, to licking the beaters!
I built on these traditions as I began raising a family of my own in Atlanta. I started baking sourdough with a gifted starter and sweet treats using my grandmothers’ recipes, tweaked a bit to replace their hydrogenated oils and imitation flavors with healthier, higher-quality ingredients. Friends began buying me out of my wares and Hearts in the Mix was born. I was invited to share a space with my CSA farmer in a weekly market, and next thing I knew, I was set up in a commercial kitchen space with a little business that was making money!
After our family moved to Nashville, I landed a job as an administrative assistant at Zac Brown’s recording studio, Southern Ground Nashville. When The Wood Brothers, my husband’s band, booked time to make a record, my sister-in-law and I took advantage of the studio kitchen to spend a bit of time with our fellas and feed them freshly prepared, nutritious food instead of the regular sorts of studio fare: cold pizza, the incorrect Thai order, more pizza...
Effective immediately, I began feeding locally-sourced, studio-made lunches to all the artists and session musicians who booked the main room for a full day. As aromas wafted up into the tracking rooms, artists would get excited to find out what was cooking on the day they were there. These meals became a selling point of the studio and Zac dubbed me “Studio Mama.”
For nearly eight years, I kept record of each artist who came through, the menus and recipes I prepared for them, and the projects they were working on during each recording session. I got to know their tastes and their dietary needs and customized their meals accordingly.
Drummer Chad Cromwell once rescheduled a session at another location based on availability of turnip greens at Southern Ground Nashville. They were out of season, but luckily, I keep a well-stocked freezer and was able to secure the drummer!
Songwriter and artist Jon Randall Stewart was always asking me about a particular salad dressing I made with Ume Plum Vinegar.
Friendships formed, and some asked me to cook for them outside studio hours. I got invited to join the barbecue team with Billy Terrell of The Beached Pig at Memphis in May. (See Drunk in Memphis Cobbler, invented here)
Being around creative energy has fed my soul and inner artist my whole life. I was a dancer from age 3 to 18, and then did some fun projects in adulthood. My dad was a drummer, so I was always around musicians growing up. When I was 19, I was accepted into a tight group of friends involved in organizing community playtime for people of all ages, but especially adults who tend to forget that fun is important. Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons fed my love of costuming through themed parades and marches, as well as the creation of the Atlanta Beltline Lantern Parade.
After moving to Nashville and having major surgery that required an extensive healing time and brought on debilitating anxiety, I was able to harness that creative energy I’d been stockpiling across a lifetime. I took up carving linoleum blocks for handprinting, embellishing, and framing. At this moment, I’ve carved over 30 blocks of varying difficulty and have a line of notecards available for purchase. I blended two pieces of my artwork to create a label for my spice blends.
Then the pandemic struck. On my 43rd birthday, we got notice that the studio was to be shuttered and listed for sale. I cleaned out the cabinets and freezers and distributed the respective contents among studio employees and brought home the majority. We’d signed up for a CSA and I now had a fair amount of time on my hands, so our family meals went next-level. But I wasn’t ready to give up on feeding others.
I was able to turn to my recently renovated home kitchen and pivot my skill set to reinvent Hearts in the Mix. I made large vats of soups and stews and posted them on Facebook and Instagram for sale. I delivered meals to friends and neighbors who were stuck at home due to quarantine and illness. I bottled and sold the spice blends that I used in my studio recipes and did some rogue catering out of my home kitchen for other recording studios and a few previous clients.
With all the extra time, I am able to focus on writing the cookbook I’d been asked to create for so many years. It will be based on the many menus I prepared in the secret kitchen, down in the Southern Ground Nashville basement, for our clients, friends, and co-workers, reliving and recapturing the memories of such an incredible time in Nashville.
Hearts in the Mix is now alive and reimagined as a business committed to feeding souls through mouths, eyes, and ears. I am making and selling sourdough and other baked goods using organic ingredients and sourcing locally whenever possible, and designing T-shirts, bags, and notecards with my blockprints. My spice blends are currently being carried by Nourish Marketplace in Kingston Springs, Tennessee, and at Green Door Gourmet in Nashville.
I am now gearing up to launch a prepared meal delivery service. Subscribe to my mailing list for updates!