Lights, Camera, Cookies!- Sugar Cookie Cutouts- 31 eggs, 32 1/2 cups of sugar, 22 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 29 3/4 cups of flour used so far- 156 recipes to go!

April 22, 2010

Martha's Sugar Cookie Cutouts

André's Sugar Cookie Cutouts

As you can see from the photo above, I have been busy learning all the buttons on my little Canon Powershot digital camera. Many friends have pointed out that while they loved the blog, they thought my photos suck. So much so, one of the local newspapers’ food editors contacted me with an idea for a story. She wanted to pair me with a professional food photographer/stylist to teach me how to properly photograph my cookies. I was a little unsure whether or not to accept this offer. My photos have been pretty bad, admittedly, but that was, in reality, me making a tongue-in-cheek commentary on Martha’s very high expectations and standards. However, in all fairness to Martha, I should show my cookies in their best light. I certainly don’t want to present Martha’s cookies as being unattractive. They’re not, and I hope my photos moving forward will be a little more appetizing.

I chose to feature another cutout cookie and resurrect the ribbon cookie cutter to make sure the article, which will be in the Kansas City Star’s Wednesday Food section sometime in May, did not ignore the reason why I am baking and blogging. This all started as a fundraising idea for Kansas City AIDS Walk and the red ribbon cookie helps drive that point home. I also promised myself that I would bake one hundred red ribbon cookies for the actual AIDS Walk event this Saturday to distribute to the walkers. One stone- two dead birds. Voila!

I’ve spent a lot of my life in front of the camera. From the time I was an infant, really. You see, I am first born. The oldest of four. I have three younger sisters. As first born, you have a lot of photos taken of you. By the time the fourth child showed up, Mom and Dad were over their shutter-bug-syndrome. As a result, I have a lot of photos of me as a baby, a toddler, a young boy, a tween, a teen, and a young man. Are my sisters jealous? Probably, but honestly, that’s why God created therapists.

I think my extroverted nature comes from this ever-present sense that I am the center of attention. As a child, I felt that attention slipping away with each new sister added to the bunch. This spurred me on the track towards over-achievment. I exceeded in everything I took interest in. My thought pattern went a little like this: If I exceed- I will please. If I please- I’m loved. If I’m loved- then Mom will stop having so many damn babies!

I remember in second grade, I became obsessed with Greek mythology. I read everything I could get my hands on. I memorized the names of the Gods and knew the intricate details and origins of their divine powers. I even memorized the names of their Roman counterparts. I obsessed on Homer’s Iliad & Odyssey, much to my parent’s chagrin.  I remember being ostracized for bringing home books from the library that were two, three, or sometimes, even four grade levels above my own. “Oh, André!”- Mom would say, “What are you going to do with those?”  I’m pretty sure my parents were worried that this Greek mythology fetish was going to alienate me even more from the “normal” kids on the campus of my Co-Ed Catholic elementary school. Looking back, I can understand why they were concerned. I was a small, bookish, strange kid that cried often and whined a lot. I was not the kid you wanted at your son’s or daughter’s birthday party. I was, and kind of still am, what you would call, “High Maintenance.”

As a teen and even now as an adult, this need to be the center of attention is always present. I know that I am at my most comfortable emotional state in front of groups of people. Is everybody looking at me? Good. Is everybody listening to me? Good. Honestly, I am surprised that I didn’t jump on the blog bandwagon the day they invented the internet.

This need for attention became a career choice early in my life. My Junior year of high school, I played the role of Tevye in my Drama Club’s production of Fiddler on the Roof. I sang If I Were a Rich Man with such gusto, shaking my shoulders and hips like a deranged, Jewish drag queen right under the ironically-placed statue of Jesus that hovered over the proscenium. I had never known what real applause felt like. It felt like approval. It felt like validation. It felt damn good. At that point, I knew. I was going to be an actor.

“The Hell You Are!” – was my father’s answer to my career choice.  “Theatre is full of filthy people with mental problems who are too scared to work in the real world. And..”- he went on, “…it’s filled with too many of those Goddamned AC/DC types!”

I think once a kid’s mind is made up, the worst thing their parent can say to them is the word “No.” Romeo & Juliet would have ended very differently if Lord Capulet had just said, “Romeo, huh? Well, I think he’s a nice boy. His dad’s a jerk but he is very sweet. Why don’t we have him over for dinner?” Honestly, Juliet would have lost interest in the whole What-light-through-yonder-window-breaks-thing  a week later and life would have been a helluva lot happier in Verona.

My father had thrown down the gauntlet. I raged against the parental machine for the next twenty-one years. I went to college (several to be precise) and came out an actor. My first real gig out of college was working for Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay, Florida. My job was two-fold. On two days of the week, I was given a ridiculous costume, told to come up with a funny character, and was pointed toward the crowds of tourists on the verge of heatstroke. I was to “entertain” as a good-will ambassador for the park. I was to dance, sing, and make people laugh. On the other three days of my week, I was given an equally ridiculous costume and sent to a pavilion where I was to perform two, alternating, inane scripts of “Improv” comedy for the crowds. One such script was titled “Crocodile Dummy!” and the other was “Dr. Livingston, I Presume!” I performed these shows six times a day for a year and neither was funny the first time. Amused tourists would heckle and hurl insults at me almost everyday. I had been punched several times by guests that had visited the free beer pavilion a few too many times.

The money was decent and my dignity level has never really been very high, so I bucked up and did the best job I could. I did get in trouble a few times. Once there was a kid I had picked to be part of the show, because apparently audiences like to be pulled up on stage and humiliated in front of strangers. You know, because it’s FUN! I had this kid on stage and whatever we asked him to do, he would do the opposite. If we told him to move to his right, he’s move to the left. If we told him to stand, he’d sit. If we told him to say one line, he’d clam up, but he would scream, sing, and make inappropriate sounds during our schtick. He was a pain-in-the-tuckus. I didn’t think we’d get through to the end of the show, and I finally turned to him and said, “What are you? The poster child for birth control?” The audience booed. The kid stuck out his tongue and my scene partner just stared at me in shock. I was called into the office and given a tongue lashing. As punishment, they stuck me in a snake charmer’s costume and I worked the next two months entertaining crowds in line for the flight simulator.

The entire time I worked this job, I thought to myself, I have debts to pay and when they are paid I’ll go back to NYC and become a real actor. My father’s voice would also sneak in every so often to say, “I told you so.”

One of the perks of working for Busch Entertainment was that it was owned by The Anheuser Busch Brewing Company. On payday you could pick up your check and two cases of free beer from the dock- four cases if there was a new product they were test marketing. I thought that this was a strange perk for a corporation to offer. It was almost as though they wanted their entire staff to become hopeless alcoholics.  I then understood why there were so many workers at Busch Gardens who were perfectly happy they had spent twenty years of their life as a ride operator. It was like the Carny Rosetta Stone of job placement.

I knew that I would have to get out the amusement park industry and, with one month left to my contract,  I did. I never looked back at my Busch Garden days. The days where I sweated in the Florida sun dressed as a whirling dervish, a snake charmer, a camel salesman, and other equally racially-insensitive characters. I also wonder how many old memory albums are out there in the world with photos of families crowded together around a guy dressed in colorful silks and gold lamé fabric.  Perhaps, right now, a young lady is thumbing through the pages of a yellowed binder full of vacation photos. She pauses and asks,”Who’s the racially-insensitive, deranged, drag queen between you and granddad?”


10 Responses to “Lights, Camera, Cookies!- Sugar Cookie Cutouts- 31 eggs, 32 1/2 cups of sugar, 22 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 29 3/4 cups of flour used so far- 156 recipes to go!”

  1. Nicole Dubroc Says:

    You were born to play the lead in Fiddler- I still remember how proud of you I was watching that play – I am still your biggest fan- you rock

  2. Robb Traylor Says:

    Thank you André for sharing these wonderful stories with us.

    For me, reading the cookie blog is a perfect way to end the day.

  3. Patti Hough Says:

    Andre’, as an artist and incurable “foodie”, I love your cookie blog. You may not remember me from BREC, but I remember how delightful you were whenever you visited us at the “Main Office”. Good luck with everything!

  4. Sharon Davis Says:

    I liked your photos, they gave me hope.
    On the other hand WHAT THE HECK,why was seven year old trying to discover the mysteries of Greek mythology.
    Thanks for the blog, we love it at work

  5. Russ Says:

    “Are my sisters jealous? Probably, but honestly, that’s why God created therapists”. Exactly. As the youngest, I can vouch this.

  6. The Mutt Says:

    Another veteran of The Congo Comedy Caravan here. I actually loved doing the Crocodile Dummy show. Hated doing the street characters.

    Know who else used to work there? Aasif Mandvi of The Daily Show.

  7. The Mutt Says:

    Nope. The guests usually loved me. I mostly played Doctor Livingstone (this was before there was a Livingstone show) and I carried a spray bottle that I would put in the freezer overnight. I’d go up to the people roasting in the long lines and offer them Doctor Livingstone’s Miracle Cure. Then I’d mist them down with ice cold water. They loooooved me.

    My favorite memory: One bit of schtick I did was putting Band-Aids on little children. I stuck one on a cute little girl. She turned to her mother and said, in the most adorable British accent, “Look, mum. The silly man gave me a bandage.”

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