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Opening my eyes.

What skills or lessons have you learned recently?

A Red Velvet Cake

I began baking 67 years ago, and I keep repeating the same steps, over and over again. I would read the recipe and have all of the ingredients ready before I would begin the process. I have lost my touch. Lately my expertise has failed me.

I am doing everything as I had in the past but I am becoming distracted like never before. When I worked in Bakeries I had so many distractions, from every side, but I did not let it detract me from my work. My cookies had to be good every time. The Huge Hobart Mixer full of chocolate chip cookie dough had to be perfect. I could not waste the companies’ product. That was my big challenge. I loved making cookies, and they had to be perfect each and every time I prepared them, right down to the baking process.

Anne the Cookie Maker at Eatzis in Dallas TX

At first I blamed my distraction on my recent knee replacement. It hurt to stand up for too long. Then I blamed my puppy for wanting to go out in the middle of my preparations. Finally I blamed Susan, for talking to me in the middle of my work. I am no longer in the middle of a very busy bakery, but in a beautiful, fully stocked kitchen, with every tool necessary (no Hobart, just my Kitchen Aide Mixer).

Why did I mess up my Waffles last week? I read the recipe, melted the butter and let it cool enough to add to the dry ingredients. For one split second, I thought it was time to mix the butter into the bowl of dry ingredients. Panic hit me quickly as I stirred the butter in, because I could see that it was not mixing the same as I remembered. I am not just making a batch of waffles, I am quadrupling the recipe, because I make lots and freeze them.

My mistake was thinking I knew how to continue the recipe, and I did not follow the procedure exactly. Recipes are usually written in steps because you need to do step 1 before step 2.

Always follow a recipe exactly because it was written for that exact purpose. My brain is too full of more important things to remember each and every detail of a recipe. I guess I could do that if I only made 1 type of cookie, but my collection of cookie recipes, especially the Italian cookie recipes passed down from my cousin Phyllis, are PRICELESS to me. That is why I chose to purchase the Application by DVO, called Cook’n. I love it so much because I can capture a recipe from the Internet, test it in my kitchen, and if I like it, I can put it into my own Cookbook to share with my family and friends.

I believe, if something is good, share it. Thanks to Cook’n I easily share, and I enjoy sharing.

Long ago a neighbor gave me something she called a Whoopie Pie. I had never heard of them before, but my children and I loved them so much. I asked Millie for the recipe and she told me it was a family secret, and she could not share it. Of course I begged her, and she relented.

Our grandchildrens’ favorite Whoopie Pies

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HAPPY HOLIDAY

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Cookie lovers. I love baking, especially cookies, and enjoy sharing my tried and true recipes. But, I am always looking for some new cookie recipes, especially for the holiday. My specialty, if I can call it that, is for Italian Cookies, since I began when my cousin shared our family cookie recipes with me. Anybody out there feel the same as me?

The Bag Lady

What is in the bag today I asked my Nona, as she appeared early one Saturday morning, at our home in Somerville, Massachusetts.  Did my Nona understand my question, I wondered.  Did it matter that she did not understand exactly what I said?  It was evident, by my body language, that I was a happy and excited little girl, because something good was going to happen today because my Nona with there.

Knowing that Nona lived in the West End of Boston was all this little girl of maybe 4 or 5 knew.  She showed up occasionally, and always alone.  My Grandpa, Joseph (Giuseppe) had passed away some time ago, and I have no memories of him, just a story or two.  What I do have of his is the wooden rolling pin he made for Nona to bake with, and it is a treasure for me.   Grandpa was a carpenter.  Yes, my grandfather Joseph was a Carpenter, just like THE JOSEPH THE CARPENTER.

I heard that he had a very hard time getting jobs because he was Italian, and in those days, it mattered where you came from.  It appeared there were dueling events between the Irish and Italians in the West End for jobs, so they probably had some very rough times.  I heard Grandpa was not one to back down from a confrontation.

Nona and Grandpa came to this country from Syracuse, Sicily, Italy with 3 or 4 children, and my mother Agnes, the baby, was born here in Boston Massachusetts.  So, I can only assume that they spoke Italian all the time.  That is why I did not know what Nona said around me, and she probably did not understand me.   I do know that I dearly loved my Nona, without even speaking the words.  I clearly recall the special times with Nona, sitting at her feet, while she sat on the window seat, darning socks for our family.  It was priceless, seeing the needle go in and out of the sock, which she had turned inside out, to darn the holes.

My excitement reached its peak, when she spoke, VILLA WOOKYA, which meant, thread the needle.  Of course, I did not need words, because I saw the needle without much thread, and as she made a knot at the end of the stitch, she bit the end of the thread.  My time came, and she handed the needle to me, for me to thread.   Her eyesight was probably not the best at her age, and I excitedly grabbed the needle, and as quickly as my little fingers could go, I held the needle in my left hand, licked the thread, twisted it a few times to make it thinner, and pushed it through the hole of the needle.  Proudly, I handed the threaded needle back to Nona, so she could continue sewing, both of us in silence.  I was so proud of myself for accomplishing this task, and oh how much I loved her.

Nona always appeared at our home with surprises for us 4 children, and it was always like Christmas when she appeared.  Was it in her pockets or in a brown bag?  We never knew, but there was always something.  I loved Tootsie Pops the best, so when that stick appeared out of the bag or pocket in her coat, I would jump for joy.  Sucking on the Tootsie Pop, with a surprise inside was such a treat for us as Mom limited our candy consumption.

Even today, if anyone were to offer me a Tootsie Pop, my memories of Nona, sitting on the window seat would clearly come back to me.

 

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Baking Tips

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My Dad

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Different, but …

Different, but not less – from Temple Grandin

After watching the movie Temple Grandi, we repeat the phrase, Different, but not less.  Temple said this in the movie, and she definitely was not a less person.  If anything, Temple was more.  The amazing thing Temple Grandin did for animals was one thing, but what she taught other people with some type of disability/difference, was too deep to write about.