Mason Purtell and Lauralyn Rosenberger

Mason Purtell and Lauralyn Rosenberger

My day job (Mason) is baking at Origin Bread. This company was started a few years ago by Kirk Smock and turns local organic grains from Meadowlark Organics into sour dough bread. There’s actually a wide variety of grains being grown right here in Wisconsin—spelt and rye are two common ones. Meadowlark is trying to establish a local grain economy that’s more healthy and eco-friendly.

(Lauralyn) I’m head of pastry and production for the Underground Food Collective (which includes Underground Butcher, Underground Catering, The Heights (a restaurant), Forequarter (another restaurant) and a food truck). My favorite thing is to make the desserts for Forequarter, which can include everything from cakes to ice cream.

(Mason) We met at a Slow Food event at UW. Slow Food is an international organization that was started in Italy and is basically the polar opposite of fast food in terms of sourcing, food quality and employee conditions. Food sourcing is something we both feel passionate about and we spend a lot of our time discussing how we could do it better.

(Lauralyn) We’d eventually like to open our own restaurant and currently have a pop-up, “elemeno” (LMNO), on Mondays from 5:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at Pasture and Plenty. We serve vegetarian, hand-pulled Chinese noodles with different toppings and broth each week.

(Mason): Everything is locally sourced, except the salt! We get our vegetables from farmer’s markets, use Meadowlark for flour and even source our spices locally through Hickory Hill Farm. We’ve given ourselves the challenge of starting with the ingredients and then coming up with the food. It almost feels like a secret power and we think the freshness and quality mean our food can quickly rise to that of people with a lot more experience than we have.

Our most memorable caffeine was a 20-hour walk, which was fueled by coffee. When we were first dating, it was summer and we would go on very long walks together. The longest was what we’ve taken to calling our “20-hour day.” We walked through the city, found a place on the UW campus that was open until midnight to get more coffee and walked out to Tenney Park.

My current caffeine of choice is (Lauralynn) a cortado and (Mason) a natural, pourover coffee. A cortado is half espresso and half steamed milk. A natural coffee is processed by drying; it’s more typical for coffee bean processing to use water, which requires special equipment and a lot of water. It’s great to have a coffee made by someone who cares. Anticipation is key. As you’re watching it being made, you’re thinking, “This is going to be great!”

My favorite place for caffeine is someplace small and local. The quality is almost guaranteed and we like to support small businesses—especially as we hope to eventually have our own. We especially like Café Domestique. Dan (Dan Coppola, the owner) exemplifies the idea of an old school shopkeeper who’s the center of the community. He truly knows everything that’s going on in this neighborhood! We also enjoy Bradbury’s Coffee and for a place with bustling human energy, the Colectivo on the square. Even though they’re a larger place, they’re still making ethical choices like using Sassy Cow for their dairy and hiring people with disabilities.

The person I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with is Thelonious Monk (Mason) and the tap dancers behind “classic tap” (Lauralyn).

Thelonious Monk was a jazz pianist from the ‘50s and ‘60s and he was a mad genius. I’ve watched him perform on YouTube and enjoy seeing how he’s just lost in the music. There’s a polarizing debate around him: If you follow the comment section, people say he’s either the worst pianist or the best. There the sense that he’s always flirting with this line of pushing his creativity, purposefully hitting clunky chords to create something special. I think his opinions on creativity would be really inspiring. I’d love to hear what he has to say.

(Lauralyn) I’ve been tap dancing since I was a kid and recently got back into it. Last fall I took a class with Katherine Kramer, who won the National Hoofer Award for tap dancing in 2018. Last fall, she taught a class of “tap classics” that was based on people she worked under in New York when she was in college.

These were well-known dancers and she wanted to make sure they weren’t forgotten. They included dancers who had studied under Bill “Bojangles” Robinson—many people know him from Shirley Temple movies—and Stanley Brown and Ralph Brown, who actually were not brothers.

I’d love a chance to sit down with my fellow students and learn firsthand from the masters whose dances we studied.

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine. Our broken food system. We’ve noticed the biggest barrier seems to be apathy. If you believe in changing the food system and have enough money to make choices that reflect that commitment, the barrier becomes the willingness to do inconvenient things. And that’s where caffeine comes in—something that might sound hard, will feel easier thanks to the will and energy that caffeine can provide.

We all eat multiple times a day and constantly make choices about our food. You don’t have to do something big, you just have to be aware of and change some of your daily habits. You don’t have to have a lot of money—just enough to feel you can make the right choices and not settle for good enough. When you decide you’re not going to settle, it might feel overwhelming at first, but then you realize it’s actually empowering to cut out the crutches!