Linda K. Ballard

Linda K. Ballard

“The holidays are busy” is quite an understatement in our neck of the woods and this year, with or without COVID, is no exception for the cooks, bakers, chefs and caterers.

And their specialty items do not require a retail business front, although they do have to adhere to the “cottage law.” The Texas Cottage Food Law allows individuals to sell certain foods made in home kitchens.

It was a holiday that I first met Tamara Boatman. She was carrying a baby on her hip with toddlers standing beside her while delivering a specialty item she had made into a retail flower store. In fact, I credit Tamara for being one of the “firsts” to introduce our community to the chocolate dipped strawberry. It caught on so quickly, it probably had her dreaming about making them in her sleep.

Tamara said, “I had initially begun making chocolate dipped strawberries as a church fundraiser. They were very successful, and I had a lot of requests for them even after the church no longer wanted to do them, so I continued making them until I discovered that chocolate dipped strawberries were not technically legal for an individual to sell.

“Unbeknownst to me, any food item made in a home kitchen was not legal to sell for years. However in 2011, the first ‘Cottage Food’ bill was passed in Texas and it was expanded in 2013, but these did not (and still don’t exactly) permit fresh dipped fruit though. A friend kindly gave me a head’s up in 2013 that there were these cottage options if I was interested. Besides the strawberries, I had also been baking cookies and pies. I decided to look into it and…”

It was on February 3, 2014 that Tamara officially filed with Gregg County under the name of The Lemon Tree Cottage and has been operating under the Texas Cottage Food Law ever since.

The children are definitely involved in the business according to Tamara.

“Since we home school, they have had the opportunity to watch the ups and downs of a home business 24/7/365,” she said.

Tamara does most of the baking and decorating, although her twin daughter Caitlin, age 15, enjoys making fondant decorations used on most of Tamara’s cakes. Her other children, Emma, 19, Jonathan, 17, and twin Elizabeth, 15, help with packaging, cleanup, grocery runs and critiquing.

“My children are the reason I do what I do,” said Tamara. “As a young mom, I couldn’t afford to buy the kinds of cakes and cookies I wanted for my children’s celebrations. As I have always loved to bake (I had free reign in the kitchen growing up), I began experimenting in my own kitchen, reading tutorials and bakers blogs on-line and teaching myself as much as I could.

“It is because of my children that I have learned to do what I do. It is also because of them that I continue. The Lemon Tree helps us make ends meet and stretch the budget. It gives me the flexibility to work from home. I am thankful to live in a state that is small business/cottage friendly.”

Right now, sugar cookies are one of her largest specialty items, along with cinnamon and lemon rolls. Cheesecake is her absolute favorite thing to make, but ironically, it is not something she can sell as a cottage baker. She saw to it each family member received a cheesecake on their birthdays last year. Loving a challenge, Tamara will try to cook almost anything and knows if she can do it once, she can do it again.

She said, “The kitchen has always been an outlet for creativity and therapy in my life. Things are a little rough? Go bake something and share it. Deliciousness shared it a bit like laughter shared…it divides the sorrows and multiplies the joy. Ultimately, that is why I do what I do.

One day I would like to consider opening a brick and mortar, but right now being able to be available for y family is more important, so that is a dream for another time. “

The easiest way to place an order is through their Facebook page at The Lemon Tree Cottage Bakery. You know it is Tamara’s if it says Kilgore and not the UK.

To make your life easier through the holidays, you will be reading more about our cottage bakers and caterers in the next issue of Chit Chat Corner.

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ARBOR GRACE is in possession of old Photo/Scrap Books from the Gregg Home for the Aged previously located on Highway 42. Some of these books date back all the way to the 1980s and go through the mid 2000s!

They are inviting anyone that had family there during that time to set an appointment to come look through the books. You can take a walk down memory lane, and THEN take the photos of your loved ones home with you.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the News Herald, and may His love and laughter fill your hearts and your homes throughout the week. In the meantime, we may be reached at chitchatlinda@aol.com or (903) 984-2593.

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