Livin’ La Vida Cookie!- Biscochitos-39 eggs, 36 1/2 cups of sugar, 22 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 24 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 153 recipes to go!

May 6, 2010


Martha's Biscochitos

André's Biscochitos

This cookie goes by many names- Biscochitos in North New Mexico, Biscochos in South New Mexico, sometimes referred to as Polvorones, and known in Spain as Mantecados.  They were introduced to Mexico by the Spanish explorers in the 16th century and are often served covered in cinnamon and sugar during Christmastime and covered in white powdered sugar, to represent purity, at weddings- hence the other name, Mexican Wedding Cookies.

I was first introduced to them as Biscochos by a friend from Albuquerque and was pleased to see them included in Martha’s book.  They are surprisingly light and delicate. Lard takes the place of butter in this rich and crumbly cookie. It’s flavored with the seeds of anise, orange peel, vanilla, and orange liqueur, although some recipes forego the liqueur and use red wine or orange juice. I don’t believe in foregoing liqueur. It’s against my religion.

In 1989 New Mexico proclaimed the Biscochito as its official State cookie. I had no idea there was such a thing as a State cookie, but I’d love to sit on any council that makes these sorts of decisions.

This cookie literally melts in your mouth. Sure, it does so because it’s only held together with lard, but honestly, this is one parade in your mouth that I’m not going to rain on.

My partner, Dan, and I recently went to visit our friend from Albuquerque. She and her family recently relocated to Scottsdale, Arizona and we wanted to bring her a treat. I filled a cookie tin to the brim with these delicious Mexican Lard Cookies. (I call them Mexican Lard Cookies  just to piss her off.) They were a big hit and were seriously depleted by the time we left.

There is probably no terrain more foreign to a Louisiana boy than the desert. Where’s the grass? Where’s the water? Where’s the humidity? Honestly, if it wasn’t for the conservative racism, I wouldn’t find anything remotely familiar.

My first encounter with the desert was at age 21 when I took a  job at a Summer stock theatre at The Post Playhouse at Fort Robinson State Park in Crawford, Nebraska. Summer stock is where many theatre majors go to exercise their craft for very little money. They are usually located in places that are uninhabited except during the Summer months. The productions are usually low-budget, light entertainments that appeal to the value-driven tourist.

That Summer, I was to portray: a melodramatic villain, an Australian officer, and two “Teddys” – Teddy Roosevelt and a Teddy Bear. It was good to see my tuition dollars at work.

I secured these roles through an audition in Saint Louis, where I was attending college. The theatre had called and offered me a Summer contract and gave me the contact numbers of others who would be coming to Nebraska to work in case I wanted to carpool.

I contacted another Saint Louisian on the list. She was a fiery red-head with a soothing voice, milky complexion, and petite frame. She offered to drive us to Fort Robinson if I would split the cost of gas. I agreed. It was a fifteen hour drive that we broke into two days. We got to know each other along the way, sharing stories of our schools, teachers, family, pets, and goals. As we entered into Western Nebraska, we would tease each other by pointing to random abandoned barns in the middle of fields and shout, “Oh, look! There’s the playhouse!” We did this several times until we reached Crawford.

As we entered into the Badlands that made up much of North-Western Nebraska, we were struck by the huge outcroppings of decayed stone bluffs, the masses of bison roaming wild on the reserves, and the total lack of greenery accentuated by an abundance of sky.

As we pulled around the bend of a large bluff, a sign greeted us. “Welcome to Fort Robinson!”

I saw an old wood-paneled farmhouse in the distance and shouted, “Oh, look! There’s the playhouse!” We giggled… nervously. As we drove closer we could see the sign-“The Post Playhouse.”

The wood-paneled barn, the place where we were to spend the next two-an-a-half months, this eyesore was indeed, the playhouse.

We both looked at each other with an expression that seemed to say, “Should we go back to Saint Louis?”

We were the first to arrive. Jerry, the theatre director, greeted us. He was a portly man who sweated profusely under the Summer sun. He was bubbly and chatty, much like a veteran camp counselor. I was not surprised to learn he was once a Catholic priest. I’ve met many, many bubbly, chatty, gay men who were once Catholic priests. I’m not profiling anyone, here. I’m just sayin’…

Jerry directed us to the actors’ housing on the other side of Fort Robinson. The two cabins were nestled in the back corner behind rows of guest cabins reserved for visitors to the National Park. They were small houses that remained unoccupied for nine months of the year. One was assigned to the men and the other was, of course, for the women.

I walked into the musty cabin and claimed a room with a glass door that opened up to a wide field framed by stone bluffs and filled with bison. The smell of manure filled the air at Fort Robinson. The smell, was accentuated by the dry heat. Strong, warm breezes would waft through the open windows carrying nose-full after nose-full of bison manure and dust.

This is what my Summer was going to be like, sweating, sneezing, and smelling of dung.

I threw my suitcase onto the bed when I heard a noise I had never heard before. It could best be described as the sound steam, under tremendous pressure, would make as it escaped from a defective valve. It was loud and menacing.

Did I break a pipe? Is it the hot water heater?

It seemed to come from beneath the bed. Maybe there was a pipe I jarred loose under the bed? I lowered myself to take a look and immediately jumped back ten feet, frozen in fear.

There was a large, scaly, angry, and highly venomous rattlesnake coiled under the bed!

I wanted to scream, but I was too terrified. I wanted to run to the girl’s cabin but I had taken off my shoes which rested just a few feet away from the bed. Oh, my God! I was barefoot in a snake-infested cabin in the badlands of North-Western Nebraska! I was going to die… without ever having portrayed Teddy Roosevelt!

The sound of angry steam from under the bed subsided. In one quick movement, I swept down and grabbed my shoes. The sound erupted again in full volume. I ran out of the cabin and down the path to the ranger station.

Stuttering in panic, I explained the situation to him.

“Heck, we haven’t had a chance to clear out those cabins. Didn’t Jerry tell you that?”

What did he mean “Clear out?”

The ranger informed me that rattlesnakes like to hibernate during the cooler months in the cabins and they usually send rangers in with prods to remove the snakes from the cabins before guests arrive.

“Yes, please!  Could you do that? Remove the snakes from the cabins? My cabin, perhaps? ….NOW!”

The ranger chuckled and called for assistance on his walkie-talkie. Two gentlemen on golf carts showed up thirty minutes later with metal prods and burlap bags. They retrieved the snake from under the bed. It was five feet long. The rangers told me if the snake had struck me, he was large enough to break my leg. “How comforting,” I thought.

They collected another rattler from behind the shower, one from under the kitchen sink, and they found three baby snakes in an old box of paint in the corner of the kitchen.

“Is that all of them?”, I asked.

“Think so.”, they responded.

“THINK SO!?…THINK SO?!”

The rangers chuckled and drove off with their golf cart full of rattling rattlesnakes.

How was I ever going to sleep in the cabin that snakes built? I was still shaking when my roommates arrived that evening. I told them of the snakes, the rangers, and how my nerves were shot. One of the guys produced a bottle of cheap whiskey and poured me a shot. I downed it in a single gulp. Then another…and another.

The tension lifted. We laughed and shared stories till the wee hours of the morning. None of us were feeling really comfortable with sleeping in the cabin.

Finally, as we began to drift off, Aaron, one of the younger members of the troupe emitted a “Sssssssss” from outside the door. Every guy in the room jumped twenty feet in the air.

We exacted our revenge on Aaron the next evening by placing Icy-Hot balm on his nipples while he slept.

I, however,  finally slept that evening knowing that I now had a really good theatre story to tell.

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3 Responses to “Livin’ La Vida Cookie!- Biscochitos-39 eggs, 36 1/2 cups of sugar, 22 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 24 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 153 recipes to go!”

  1. Carol Says:

    Honestly, Andre, you MUST publish this collection of stories. Martha has GOT to jump on this…

  2. Russ Says:

    I would have been at the South Dakota border on foot after the first hiss!

  3. Ross Says:

    Loved your story. I once stayed in a place in Tennessee that at night had these huge, mango size spiders that would iridize in the low light of the house. The handy man for the house said they never went for people and were harmless. I believed him until I saw one gnawing on something in the corner of the house one night. I thought it was a large grasshopper or something, it turned out to be a mouse! I didn’t know whether to be happy that we were in no need of a mouse trap, or to be fearful that all the spiders might convene over me in the night; resembling something from a late 50’s horror flick.


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