Liz Abene of Canteen Girl

The four of us (Eliesa, Chris, Greg and Joe) pile into Lizzy’s, aka Canteen Girl’s, Kitchen. She’s buzzing around the kitchen with flour on her cheek, baking her kid’s favorites. Lizzy is camera shy, worried about her lack of makeup, and between questions she continuously asks us if we’re hungry. Her kitchen is warm, drawings by her children cover the walls. You know that this is the most important space in the house. Her famous Holly Bars are available at both of our locations and for wholesale. She was nice enough to let us interview her while she was baking. With that, we dove right in, asking all kinds of questions.

What is that stuff?

This is coconut oil. I buy the Louanna kind because it’s all natural, non-hydrogenated and its been around since 1894. I like it, it’s from the south. It’s not that fangled, I’m organic, I’m this, I’m that. It’s the real deal.

So, the deal with coconut oil is, if it’s above 74 degrees it becomes a liquid, but if it’s below it stays solid. So at this time of year I still have to melt it. It’s also a natural anti-bacterial so it’s really good for your skin.

How long has Canteen Girl been around for?

Since, last November. That’s when we decided on the name, but I started making granola in the summer. August probably.

How is your granola different from other granolas in the store?

My granola only has nine ingredients. My granola is not as sweet. My granola has a salty part to it as well that I think gives it a better flavor profile than the granolas in the store. I use whole almonds, I break up the walnuts, whole oats, a mixture of cinnamon and salt and I use maple syrup as the sweetener. Oh, and molasses.

And there’s my assistant… (Lizzy points to her beagle, Foxy).

Is Foxy your kitchen manager?

Yes, she’s my kitchen manager. She keeps the floor clean. Keep up the good work, Foxy! Excellent job!

How old is Foxy?

She’ll be ten next month! I’m so sad, she getting so old. She keeps walking to window sill and sniffing, wondering why it smells like squirrels.

(Lizzy turns on her mixer, making us all have to talk very loud. Foxy gets annoyed and goes outside.)

When did you start baking?

I started baking when I was little, but I started baking even more when I had kids.

What would you bake for them?

Everything. Even my first child’s baby food was made from scratch, then put into jars, then frozen. When my daughter got a little bigger, she would help me in the kitchen. She would get all covered in flour no matter what I was making, whether it was bread, pizza, or muffins, she was always covered.

So this has always been a passion of yours?

Yes, and more baking than cooking. I like to cook, but I like to bake more.

Why is that?

I don’t know, I just like it better. I like sweet more than savory, but baking is more exact and cooking can be more free. I prefer the constraints of baking. Certain amounts of this to that.

Do you have a favorite thing to bake?

My favorite thing to bake is probably a pie because it is the most satisfying when it’s finished because they’re so beautiful. And, when I actually succeed at making a good cake that’s very satisfying too. Cake are really hard, but I can do cupcakes very easily.

And then I make homemade pizza a lot. That’s the other thing I really like to do. I actually made some last night!

(Lizzy puts her mixer into second gear)

You said your daughter helped you a lot in the kitchen, how old is your daughter now?

She is 17 now. Starting from when she was one and a half she would be right in there. I recently found a picture of both of them in there (her son also) with their own bowls and flour everywhere and they’re both making their concoctions. My son gets a little too carried away, he always wanted to eat it so I didn’t let him use Play-Doh. Then, I always had to make homemade Play-Doh so he could eat it if he really wanted to.

He also loved the smelly markers. I would leave him alone for five minutes then I would find him with a ring around his nostrils and mouth.

If it smells like apple, it tastes like apple, right?

Ha! I guess so!

What are you busy baking right now?

I’m making Holly Bars, the regular ones with cranberry.

(Lizzy puts her mixer into third gear, drowning out the remainder of the interview)

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credits: photos by Eliesa Johnson