All Our Family's Stories

I feel like even before I existed food was a big part of me — and it’s so much of a part of the inspiration now with Madre Foods — and it’s because it’s a part of all of our family stories in one aspect or another.

Katelyn Hilburn

I tell people all the time, "No matter what mother's story I tell you, food was the thing that, generation after generation after generation, brought our families together." And it did that in different ways. In this project I've been looking a lot into the women who came before me, and it's been insane to find out who they were. One was the daughter of a butcher, but she ended up running the butcher shop, and this was back in the day when most women didn't have jobs. There was a cotton picker, which is funny because now I'm married to a man who grew up running a cotton gin with his family. There was a lettuce farmer, and a cookbook author, and all of them were moms too. My mom grew up in a multicultural family and from there integrated a lot of traditional classic foods from her Mexican, Native American, and Swedish heritage. She incorporated all of these into our lives, but added modern nutritional knowledge. So that was how I grew up with food: How do you make food interactive and tasty and all those things but still serve your body?

After visiting a sick relative in El Paso, we were driving back home and right about halfway was Santa Fe. I had never been, and didn't know anything about it. Halfway in we were really tired, and my mom who grew up in El Paso had been to Santa Fe as a child, and she said, "I just remember loving it here as a kid; why don't we just stay the night?" So we stayed, and it was just this magical morning when I woke up. We walked around a little bit, then we decided to drive to Chimayo, and I just felt like it had some kind of pull and there was a pulse there — and it just felt like home. It felt like what home was supposed to feel like. I think I had been trying to figure out what that was supposed to even feel like to create one. I had lived a very transient life. I knew home in the sense of family — I have a great family — but I didn't know home in a place, ever. And I could just feel it. I remember telling my mom that: "There is a pulse here, and I'm going to move here." When we left it was like there was a new fire I hadn't had before, and I just started pulling things together and ended up moving here not long after.

So why Madre Foods? This happened because of my daughter, Violet. When I had Violet, she was breach, so I had to have a C-section and that stirred up things on a really deep, womanhood level for me. And then on a physical level too, like I had this list for recovery that was put on me that was way too much for one person to handle. And the bigger situation of it was — being my overdriven self — I had convinced my work to have me stay on and work many hours on a big event we put on every year. So, I had that on me; I had had a C-section; I had a husband that was working at minimum 15-hour days on a film; I was very sleep deprived — and also our daughter wasn’t taking to nursing; the C-section had made her so sleepy she just wasn't kicking in. We just had a lot going on in what felt like a very small space with all of it. And the thing that ended up bringing me back into having some kind of, I don’t know, just presence in the world again was my mom started coming over and just really quietly cooking meals that I grew up with, that she grew up with. She would make sure I had broth every day and nursing milk and anything nourishing, and would just quietly provide this subtle form of restoration.

Then when I went back to work, it's funny, things were completely the same and because of that they were completely different — and it was like I couldn't connect. At the time I thought it was just because I wanted to be with my daughter, but it turns out there was something else that my soul was wanting that I had to discover and move onto.

That also was a period of time where I was still getting back with food myself. I was nursing, so I was starving, and it was like food became such a staple for me to just get through the day. It was that grounding thing for me, and then as my daughter started eating food I started really engaging with food at a basic level again and then building it up with her. Just watching her interaction with food, mixed with my joy at providing it for her, started lighting something up again that brought me back to being sane and grounded again.

There were so many things going on at that time that you just feel like if someone asks you for one more thing you're just going to snap — but I could've given to that endlessly. It was so much fun. That's when something started brewing, something like, "I don’t know if I can turn this off anymore; I really want to do this," but I didn't have the articulation of what or how or who or anything.

Then as I was transitioning away from that job, I was restless to move on so I started throwing myself into small business classes and workshops just to have something to occupy myself more than anything. And the other thing that got me through that restless period was just cooking, cooking like crazy. That's when I was like, "Why don't I just try this out?" and "What part of cooking do you feel really close to right now?" The answer to that was still sort of unraveling, but at the time the answer kept coming back to the postpartum mother.

Sopa de Flor de Calabaza

Sopa de Flor de Calabaza

So at that time I decided to try doing an application for doing postpartum cooking for new moms and either cook in their homes or deliver. Then it expanded from new moms to families, but from there it kept growing and growing. When I started getting orders, and then working with people that were ordering and kind of testing the market and asking questions, I was delivering a lot of different stuff, but the broth was always there and it was the anchor of everything — but we just didn't know yet that it was the anchor.

At the time it was anything from broth to lactation cookies to soups to Buddha bowls, pretty much anything we could think of that would restore a healing body after childbirth, so just coming up with really intensive recipes. But when you cook like that, you're cooking to help people recover. Childbirth is one the most physical, mental, emotional things you can go through; it just wears your body out. So it starts to relate to all these other people that maybe aren't giving birth but are also going through an intensity in their health.

What started happening is other people started approaching us, saying, "Well, I don't land in this category, but I want to be a customer. Your foods fit my needs perfectly." So it was the elderly, high-performance athletes, people who were sick or trying to recover from something, people who had just had surgery, all of this stuff in addition to families. I could relate to their stories just as equally. Through my youth to college I was a competitive athlete. And in my early twenties, in a battle for my life, I was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit and intubated for over three weeks. And I've watched my grandparents and relatives older than me need to rely on healthy, nourishing foods to maintain their health. 

Food, when prepared consciously, nourishes everyone.

As the customer base kept expanding, I knew I couldn't also just keep expanding the foods that we made at the same rate, so I spent some time just fulfilling whatever orders I took in, in order to find the patterns in what people were ordering. That's when it started to happen and when it started becoming really clear: People more than anything were coming to us because our broth was what made us different. So the broth became our anchor, and things went from there. When we open our location we'll still do a small list of morning rush items (pastries, muffins, granola cups) and have a simple rotating lunch menu, but everything will be healthy, and everything will be founded on broth.

We are creating artisanal sipping broths. That means you're not going to get a basic broth when you work with us, like Swanson boxes on the shelf. Ours are being cooked responsibly and processed responsibly, which makes a huge difference in the nutrition, and we also anchor back to locally and responsibly sourced ingredients, which makes a big difference too. We're taking all these ingredients and making high, high quality broths, and literally anything food-based, from the pastry menu all the way through the lunch menu, has a broth foundation in it. Somehow there's broth in it. You can even just get the broths in to-go coffee cups and sip on them like your morning coffee. They taste great just on the go, sipping them from a cup. And if we're able to get this location going, we'll be filling up growlers so you can sip all week from home or fill it up for a recipe. It'll be the first true broth bar in Santa Fe, and the only one between California and New York.

Trotter Broth

Trotter Broth

Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers were so aware of broth and its benefits. You can also look at it cross-culturally and broth is still there, which is so cool. 

Broth dates all the way back to our caveman ancestors, which is so fascinating, and that came from them having to be hunters and gatherers and having limited resources to nourish their families and needing to use every part of the animal to sustain their families.

You can find it in every culture, but it's like somewhere along the line speed and instantaneous satisfaction took the place of quality and nutrition, and people forgot and they kind of just got disconnected and it disappeared, kind of just swam to the bottom of the ocean and disappeared.

Now, though, there are pieces of equipment and technology that allow for all those things to still be met, the consistency and taste and speed and flavor, large size amounts and all of that, but it's just waking people back up to that kind of primal nutritional knowledge and being a providing source for them.

The nutritional benefits are pretty much endless. One of the big things is collagen, and collagen a lot of times people think of that as like hair and nails, but it's also your eyesight; it's also your gut, your nervous system, and brain function. If you have healthy hair, skin, and nails, it's simply a reflection of greater health on the inside. A lot of people right now, because of the revolution in food, which is really more of an anti-revolution in food, have developed things like leaky-gut and celiac disease, and all of this is making the system not able to process what it should be able to process. So the collagen in broth is a great way to heal your system so that you can actually begin to take in foods in a regular way like your body is supposed to. 

My inspiration along the way really is a tie for me between three people. It's like this little triangle that happens for me: It's a mix between my mom, my daughter, and my husband. Each of them embodies a trait that I don't always have the capacity to just step into, and they're just in it, always. My husband, his faith and trust in me is unbelievable sometimes. Sometimes I'm just dumbfounded by how trusting of me he is. He's just like, "Do it; I know you'll be fine." There are never any doubts in his mind about my capabilities or aspirations. "Ride or die," that's Taylor.

Katelyn with her mom and her daughter, Violet

Katelyn with her mom and her daughter, Violet

With my mom, for me, I'm trying to be a mom and I'm trying to be a mom in the best way that I know how. That has been a real learning curve for me because I'm doing it so differently than she did it. I have so much admiration for her and how she decided to be a mom, which was totally selflessly. She took care of the three of us, and then all the other kids on the block, all the time, without regret or resistance in a bone in her body. Everything was for us, and I sometimes don't have that in me, and I am in awe of the people that do. And she still has it. I place a great deal of honor and awe in her focus and dedication in mothering.

As for my daughter, more than anything, Violet has taught me to celebrate yourself in all things. That kid is so happy with herself, so how can you beat yourself up? I try to remember to be that way. There are times when I question if I'm even deserving of something good or capable or just enough, and then I see her literally clapping and yelling "Yay!" because she was able to say the number three and she's just like, "I'm the best person ever. Good job, me! Life is awesome!" You have to realize, yes, remember to celebrate yourself a little more. I think as women that's really hard especially, but with Violet it's not hard at all, so I try to get back to that. It's magic in action, watching her.

The advice I would give to girls coming up? Be your own boss. Really, and that can be from a business perspective, in your relationship with yourself, or just picking if you want to buy whole milk or 2 percent at the grocery store. Just be your own boss. When you're your own boss, you're making your own rules. And that just makes a huge difference, because then decisions become choices, and fear becomes excitement. Being limitless is powerful. It's not possible all the time, but if you dig deep enough it's always possible in some aspect of your life.

Katelyn is the owner at new Santa Fe start-up Madre Foods, and has been dubbed "the Broth Boss." Her background is in community action and partnership facilitation with projects such as the Fantase Fest, the Santa Fe Arts + Creativity Center, and the Santa Fe Nuclear Weapons Summit. After having her firstborn, life began to radically change for Katelyn and she began to pursue her journey as an entrepreneur. Weaving the knowledge of her ancestors into her present-day food journeys, she set out on a mission to pass down the legacy of her family's healthy handcrafted foods to anyone looking to be nourished.  

Recipe: Madre Foods Rummage Broth

Words: Katelyn Hilburn

Tricia English