My Shetland Nana, Johanna Margaret Woodham, had arthritis, and so it was difficult for her to blend the butter into the flour mix. She recruited my help when I was tall enough to reach her kitchen counter standing on a stool.
I spent many hours and days with Nana, especially during holidays, as my mother was a single mum, and worked long hours in our Grocery Store, in Christchurch, New Zealand, in the 1950’s. Making shortbread for friends and family has remained a tradition for me, until this day. After graduating from the Christchurch School of Nursing as an RN, I left New Zealand for my OE (Overseas Experience - Kiwi term for Walkabout). Following one year nursing in Australia as a post-op Cardiac Surgical Nurse, I donned a backpack, with a one-way ticket to London. I spent one year, traveling through 15 countries, mostly in SE Asia, on a budget of $5 per day (including accommodation). Those were the days!
Arriving in London with £65 (US$100) to my name, I immediately found work as an RN. Nursing in London was exciting. I was fortunate to be the private nurse to the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire (Deborah Mitford), and for an English Countess in her Scottish castle, among others.
After several years in London, I flew to Dubai, to take a position as private nurse to Sheik Rashid bin Saeed al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, and the father of the current Ruler. I spent 9 months with Rashid, caring for him in his palace. I returned to London filled with wonderful experiences of the Gulf – camel races, private jets to Pakistan, nursing Rashid in a glorious royal tent in the desert as his entourage drilled for water.
In 1986 I moved to Bethesda, Maryland, and worked for a Cardiology practice in Chevy Chase. My shortbread, would disappear at lightning speed from the lunch room. My colleagues encouraged me to sell my shortbread, so I found a small kitchen to rent in Virginia, and “Nana’s Shortbread” was born. I sold to several local stores, and The Washington Post featured my small company in their Food Section. During this time I launched a product called the Kiwi Kozy - a small microwavable pillow filled with grains.
These were also featured in The Washington Post’s Style Section. To this day I have sold and given thousands of Kozys.
Finding myself pregnant with my second child, I decided to stay at home to raise my children – and put my company to rest – at least until my children reached College. 2009 was a time of reinvention. I divorced, my son and daughter left for college, the passing of my mother, and a move to a new home. During this emotionally challenging time, I found the practice of Yoga and was enthralled how it fed my soul and brought a much needed balance to my life. So much so, that I became certified as a Yoga Instructor, which felt like a symbiotic shift for a retired nurse and mother.
Nana’s Shortbread was still on the back burner, until summer of 2013. The time seemed right to revamp my packaging, re-name my small company and explore opportunities in local stores. Nana’s Shortbread became “3 Nanas,” to include my Nana, my Mother and myself.
As I walk around Bradley Food & Chevy Chase Supermarket, filling the shelves and sampling my shortbread, wearing my mother’s apron as I do, I am taken back full circle, to days as a small girl, in my mother’s corner Grocery Store. That organic feeling of women, mothers, grandmothers, baking, teaching – and this simple biscuit – loved, shared, and enjoyed, brought half way around the world via Shetland and New Zea land.
Over the years, I have coined a phrase: “The Shortbread Effect.” Whenever you give Nana’s Shortbread – you are remembered. Shortbread woos its recipients into a dizzy state of gratitude. There is nothing quite like it on the market!