If I Can Bake It There, I’ll Bake It Anywhere!- Mini Black & White Cookies-21 eggs, 14 1/2 cups of sugar, 11 sticks of Butter, and 17 cups of flour used so far- 163 recipes to go!

March 30, 2010

Martha's Mini Black & White Cookies

André's Mini Black & White Cookies

If there is such a thing as the quintessential cookie of New York City, it would have to be the Black & White Cookie. It’s sold in every bodega on every street corner in the Big Apple and is usually the size of a small child’s face. Pastries in NYC have a tendency to be super-sized as the energy level needed to get through the day in the life of a New Yorker is astounding.

Martha offers a mini version of this terrific cookie in her Cakey & Tender section of the cookie book. The recipe is a breeze. Flour, baking soda, salt, vanilla, buttermilk, sugar, eggs and butter are whipped together to form the cake-batter-like dough which is spooned onto a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. They are baked very briefly, till they are just beginning to brown at the edges.  They mostly resemble muffin-tops at this point. Transfer them to  a wire rack, upside-down, to cool.

The icing is just powdered sugar, corn syryp, lemon juice, vanilla, and water. Add cocoa powder to half the icing mixture to make the Black side of the cookie then paint away. They are really attractive and tasty cookies. I followed Martha’s recipe exactly as it was written. The recipe was suppose to yield 5 dozen cookies. I barely got 2 dozen out of it. I checked my scoop to make sure it was a level tablespoon as indicated, but alas, two dozen. I’d write a letter to Martha, but isn’t that kind of what this blog is about?

Anyhoo, it’s a yummy cookie that is really, more or less, a small cake.

I (heart) NY.

Except when…

I (dagger) NY.

I’ve lived in NYC off-and-on for a good portion of my life and I will be sharing many stories about this terrific and unforgiving city.

I should start with my first experience, though.

Back in 1987, I moved to New York City from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This is, by the way, the definition of  ‘Culture Shock.’ I was eighteen years old and had been accepted into a performing arts college on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I was young and full of chutzpah. I had Frankie’s tune ringing in my ears… If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere. It’s up to you, New York, New York!

New York in 1987 was not much like the New York of today. This was Koch’s New York, not Giulianni’s. It was filthy, crime-ridden, and filled with drug dealers, prostitutes and gun fire.

When I arrived at the Newark Airport, I was greeted by friends of our family, who offered for me to stay in their home until I found housing, and a part-time job in the city. The school I was attending only found housing for women, since it was, predominately, a women’s college.

My temporary Jersey family were very nice people, but ruthlessly Catholic. I was not a very masculine kid, and according to them, the only acceptable place for a young man with no designs for marriage, and a fondness for decoupage, was the seminary, not acting school. Honestly, I think this attitude is what’s led to all the current mishigas in the Vatican. Needless to say there was tension in the Jersey household and my welcome wore out pretty quickly.

It’s really a frustrating thing, not being accepted or appreciated for who you are. I grew up without the ability to be anyone other than who I am (ironic for an actor, huh?) and have paid dearly for it again and again… but that’s another story and another cookie recipe.

As luck would have it, three days before the semester started, I landed a job as a live-in house-boy for an older couple on Park Avenue, just a few blocks from my College. I packed my bags and hopped on the next train to Manhattan. When I arrived at my new employers’ lavishly and impeccably decorated home, the lady of the house, a painfully thin woman with shocking red hair and day-glo painted lips, took me to the attic apartment, my new quarters.  She instructed me to report downstairs in exactly one hour.

I quickly unpacked my belongings and peered out the tiny window onto Park Avenue. I couldn’t believe it. I was, officially, a New Yorker.

I met the lady of the house and her husband on the first floor. He was a haggard fellow, chubby, bald, and ashen, with massive eyebrows that competed for attention with the dark bushes extending from his ears. It was like his head was a barren dessert where little hair topiaries sprung up in the most surprising places.

They handed me a notebook and a pen and told me to follow them. They led me from room-to-room explaining how it was to be kept and how things were to be arranged, where I was to pick up the laundry, and where they kept their petty cash. They had a cook, and a housekeeper who came in during the daytime hours, but after 3:00 PM, I was to be at their beckoned call.

The couple ran their business from their home. They were publicists for theatrical and special events, and had many people coming in and out all day long.

After the tour of the home, and a notebook full of the many details I was to attend to, I excused myself to run down to the bank and open an account with the traveler’s cheques I had been nervously carrying around with me.

When I returned, I was greeted by the housekeeper, who was heading home from her shift. She told me that there was a guest waiting and my employers had stepped out for a bite to eat. She told me they would be back shortly and I should make sure their guest was comfortable.

I walked into the front office and introduced myself to the guest. She was an older woman with an affectation in her speech that reeked of money, elocution lessons, and lots of gin. “You’re not Alejandro. What happened to Alejandro?”, she asked.

“I’m afraid I don’t know Alejandro.  I’m new. Just started today. I’m André.”

She sat and I joined her. We spoke of Louisiana and of food. She spoke of the celebrities she had known and I hung on her every over-pronounced syllable.

We were having such a nice chat, neither of us heard my employers enter the room. Both were glaring at me. The man of the house escorted the guest to the study, and with a limp wave to me, she disappeared. At that point the woman of the house tightly grasped my arm and dragged me into the foyer.

“What do you think you were doing?” she snarled.

“I was keeping your guest company while she was waiting for…”

The lady of the house interrupted, “You’re conversations with our guests should be limited to ‘May I get you coffee?’ and ‘May I take your coat?’!”

She went on- “I honestly, don’t think you have the class to do this kind of work, and I would appreciate if you would go upstairs, gather your belongings, and leave immediately. You are such a disappointment!”

I was shocked. I felt the back of my neck become warm, and my hands were trembling. Tears were welling up from the deepest pit of my stomach, as I descended the stairs, with bags under each arm. I didn’t know where to go.

I heard the door slam closed behind me as I walked into my first night in Manhattan.

I headed to Port Authority, with ten dollars in my pocket. The banks were closed until Monday. The family in Jersey was no longer an option and I knew no one in the city.

When I finally arrived at Port Authority , exhausted from the three-mile walk though the relatively dangerous streets of NYC circa 1987, with all my earthly possessions tucked under each arm, shooing away the drug dealers and prostitutes along Times Square, I stepped into a small café and ordered a coffee and a cookie (probably a Black & White- I honestly don’t remember which kind it was). I went to a remote part of the terminal, laid down my bags, sat on the tiled floor with my coffee, and my cookie and sobbed.

Looking up, I glanced around the room at all the vagrants and passer-bys.  Not only was I officially a New Yorker,  I was a homeless New Yorker.

I knew I was going to be stuck at Port Authority for the next two days. I knew I had to get my head on straight for this to work and stop feeling sorry for myself. I parked myself near a restroom and camped out for two days straight.

Staring at the vagrants that littered the walls and corners like human graffiti, I wondered to myself…

…which one is Alejandro?


7 Responses to “If I Can Bake It There, I’ll Bake It Anywhere!- Mini Black & White Cookies-21 eggs, 14 1/2 cups of sugar, 11 sticks of Butter, and 17 cups of flour used so far- 163 recipes to go!”

  1. Tommy Salami Says:

    Wow. I’m sorry you got such a harsh introduction to the snooty NYC elite. Part of me misses the old Times Square and the Minnesota Strip (where you ended this part of your tale) because the city is so corporatized now, but I don’t miss the muggings and filth. I guess Starbucks aren’t that bad.

  2. Tommy-
    Thanks so much for your comment. I have to admit, that when I look back on my old photos of the city, I become nostalgic for old New York. A Disney-fied 42nd Street just doesn’t have the same story to tell as the old vaudeville houses that were converted to porn palaces. Subway interiors had every inch covered in graffiti. It was a different place. I was there last week. It’s still magical. Come back and read more when you get the chance.

  3. Don Adams Says:

    Oy vey! And here would be the musical number, in which our apple-cheeked youth reveals his deepest uncertainty, and his persistent hope.

    How I wish you could have known of my friend who lives across the street! Mind you: it was his apartment that convinced me never again to stay with a friend in New York, but it beats the Port Authority. And he’d have been the perfect antidote to the ortho Catholics across the river: at the time he was consumed with Dignity organizing…

    How good to know how well you’ve landed: I look forward to more stories!

  4. Tommy Salami Says:

    I’ve read quite a few- we met at Bill’s Gay 90’s a week or so ago, I’m Sarah’s fiancé. I had a feeling we were the same generation, I graduated in ’89. I miss the grimy NYC in many ways- it had a lot more character- but that’s the price we pay for safety. Now you’re more likely to get burnt by a passing iPhone-obsessed yuppie spilling their latte on you than mugged, but boy is it boring.

  5. Sarah Mueller Says:

    Andre, please, please, please gather all these fantastic stories into a book! I will buy it. And write glowing recommendations on Amazon for it ; )

  6. Russ Says:

    What Sarah said. This is perfect fodder for a book. A book that would sell many more copies than that shit Dickerson wrote.

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