“It’s not just about what you do, it’s who you are in relationship to your community,” said Elizabeth Winslow, co-owner of Farmhouse Delivery.
Building community and embracing its full diversity is a natural outgrowth of Winslow’s upbringing in Beaumont, Texas, and the Lake Charles area of Louisiana. Although the surroundings in both places were socially conservative, she was adamant in saying that her family was different. “There was never a sense that any sort of closed-mindedness or prejudice was okay,” she said over coffee in south Austin. “It never was an option for me to be judgmental or to ever think that other people were less than.”
When Winslow was six, her mother married a man with three children. While she was in high school, her stepbrother was in college in the same small town. This was the mid-to-late ‘80s and he was coming to terms with his sexuality with the full support of family and friends. In Lake Charles, that meant late night dancing with Winslow and his friends at a bar called the Paragon.
“It was a lot of fun, just dancing and determining who we were. He was definitely with a group of people that loved it,” she said. (The Paragon) ruined straight bars for me forever! It was something fun as opposed to something transactional.” Her stepbrother, Chris Tennyson, now lives in Austin with his partner.
Winslow recalled that growing up as an only child living with her dad, she cooked from a very early age. Early on, she realized how much the act of cooking food brought people together. Her grandmother, who lived in the country, canned her own fruits and cooked three meals a day. It was all woven into the family’s DNA, so when she decided to combine her love of fresh food with the locavore movement, connecting with Stephanie Scherzer of Rain Lily Farm was a natural progression.
“I had started a prepared meal delivery service and I wanted to get people cooking in their own homes and connecting with their community,” she said.
Three years later, Farmhouse Delivery sources from a number of farms in the Central Texas area and partners with other organizations, including the Sustainable Food Center. Scherzer handles operations and Winslow runs the customer service side of the business, overseeing marketing and the website. “Our biggest challenge is to continue to encourage people to cook at home,” she added, “and to stay invested in the movement and the lifestyle and to keep engaged.”
Winslow’s foodie passion also brought her husband into her life. Back in 2001, Thomas Winslow visited her gourmet grocery store, Liberty Market, in Beaumont. “She remembers that I couldn’t make a decision about what to order from the prepared food case. I remember being a little tongue-tied as I was so shocked to meet such an interesting, smart, beautiful woman in my boring little hometown.”
A year later, Thomas applied to work at Liberty Market and the rest, as they say, is history. Elizabeth, recently divorced at the time and with two children from her previous marriage, didn’t see herself getting into a relationship. “We just knew it was going to work and we got married!” she said, laughing at the memory of their wedding in December 2003.
“When we married, Liam was two and Tess was four. I was a big deal to them, and of course they were apprehensive,” said Thomas. “We told them that we had a special marriage license that could never be broken. Our relationship is one based on love, but the real foundation is total support, trust, mutual respect and shared interests.”
Those shared interests include—big surprise—dining and preparing good food in its many forms. “We love being at home, and it helps to have such a fabulous chef for a wife,” said Thomas, adding that dinners out might include favorites like Home Slice and Texas French Bread. “On Sundays, our house is filled with music, food and laughter. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be as a family, as cliché as it sounds.”
“We always joke that I’m back of the house and he’s front of the house,” said Elizabeth. “He doesn’t cook, but he loves food and loves a life that’s focused around that. He’s also kind of a neat freak.”
Elizabeth’s father was very civic minded and emphasized that being a good citizen is about being informed and active, meaning that you can’t just have a job, you have to get involved and serve on boards and improve your community. She currently serves on the board of the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation and Forklift Danceworks; she hosted a dinner for Project Transitions’ “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” event this year.
“We’ve worked hard to lay the foundation to grow the business, and it has a momentum of its own,” she said. “I’d love to have more people eating really good food in their homes, wherever that is. I’m excited about the opportunities that are there to spend time with my kids while they’re still at home and before they get older.”