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I grew up in Kansas and later lived in upstate New York and Colorado before moving to San Antonio nine years ago, partly for a job and partly to be near family in Dallas. Because of the strong sense of community, it didn’t take long for San Antonio to feel like home. 

In my North Central San Antonio neighborhood, we’ll often see our neighbors out for a walk. Whether it’s a stroll around the neighborhood or the nearby pond, going for a walk is how you get to know your neighbors here. Everyone’s so friendly and wants to get to know each other, which is not something I’ve encountered to this extent in any other place I’ve lived. You can come across someone walking their dog or a family on their way to the playground, start up a conversation, and make a connection.

We’ve made good friends, especially with other families with young children. Over the summer months, our neighborhood brought in an ice cream truck for a private event. The truck parked by the little pavilion in our neighborhood, and this turned into a great opportunity for neighbors to come together and safely socialize outdoors. More recently, a group of us have been meeting outside regularly, each household a safe distance from each other. We’re able to have conversations about what everyone is dealing with and give that emotional support that we all need right now. 

The Park Community Church has also played an important role in my San Antonio life. Whether you’re having a baby or having surgery or moving, the community comes together to help. Last year my husband, Josh, and I served on the church’s core team, so we were able to get involved with events and projects. During the pandemic, we’ve opted to tune into services online, since we have a young daughter, Eleanor, who is 4, and because I work with people who are considered high-risk and want to make sure I’m doing all I can to protect the people around me.

This year has certainly put a lot of things into perspective. Now that we’re spending more time at home, we’ve prioritized making the house feel more like home. With the money that we had set aside for a vacation, we remodeled the bathroom. We also put a raised-bed garden in the backyard and it has become a relaxation activity for us and a way to nurture ourselves by spending time outside and growing our own food. As someone who spends a great deal of time cooking and experimenting with recipes, having this source of ingredients is especially satisfying.

The Baade family with their backyard raised-bed garden project. Credit: Courtesy / Sarah Baade

I get inspiration for my recipes from a variety of sources, but mainly it’s from my family and my surroundings. My oldest brother was the baker of the family. He could make bread better than anyone I know and was most known for his orange rolls. He passed away in a car accident last year, and the best way that I could honor him and our time in the kitchen together was to mesh two different family recipes. So I took my family’s monkey bread recipe, which is a holiday favorite, and put an orange twist on it in my brother’s honor.

And, of course, being in San Antonio, the food culture of the city is a big influence. Growing up in Kansas in the ‘80s and ‘90s, there weren’t a lot of options when it came to food. My family lived in a very meat-and-potatoes kind of town, so we didn’t have a chance to experience many different cuisines. Now living in San Antonio, we have so much access to all different kinds of food.

The city is known for its excellent Mexican food, which has certainly influenced my cooking and the flavors I incorporate into my recipes. My local H-E-B has a kosher section because of the large Jewish population in this area, and something I’m seeing more and more of is fusion food. There are so many different cultures in San Antonio, it’s really eye-opening and definitely spurs creativity. Just realizing you can make anything into a taco is a gamechanger. My neighbors have even become taste testers for recipes as I fine-tune what I’m making. It’s a win-win situation as they get treats and I get feedback which helps me to improve my recipes.

While we’re spending more time at home, we’re also staying close to home when we go out. We go to Phil Hardberger Park almost every weekend. We try to get there early before it gets too crowded and like to take Eleanor to the playground and walk the trails. We’ve also been making more of an effort to eat local this year, and two of our favorite neighborhood restaurants are Green Vegetarian and Las Chiladas. For coffee, we’ve been stopping by Early Bird Coffee every weekend. It’s the cutest little coffee shop set up in an Airstream at Heubner Oaks Shopping Center.

Green Vegetarian Cuisine is located in the Alon Town Centre along Northwest Military Highway. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

When we’re not in the middle of a pandemic, we enjoy having family visit us from out of town. Their favorite spot in town is the Pearl, and I can’t blame them. The farmers market alone is worth the trip. Once it’s safe to have visitors again, I look forward to showing off more of the city and to having more neighborhood get-togethers that don’t have to be socially-distanced.

Sarah Baade is a wife, mom, and audiologist with a passion for food and community.