Nice ‘Stach, Martha!- Pistachio Lemon Drops-43 eggs, 39 cups of sugar, 27 1/4 sticks of Butter, and 28 cups of flour used so far- 151 recipes to go!

May 11, 2010

Martha's Pistachio Lemon Drops

André's Pistachio Lemon Drops

And now for a cookie that’s a little healthier. No butter, no egg yolks, and minimal flour makes this cookie one of the most health-conscious treats Martha’s book has to offer. Crushed pistachios, toasted, of course, are added to one beaten egg white. Brown sugar, lemon juice and a tablespoon of flour round out the batter to bake a tangy, little cookie with a gummy, taffy-like texture. One of my co-worker remarked upon tasting it, “Oh, my. I feel like I’m eating nature.” Another co-worker from Korea remarked that she found it reminiscent of rice candies commonly served in her culture.

As for me, I didn’t like them so much. I think if it looks and smells like a crispy cookie it should be crispy and crunchy, not gummy and chewy. It’s like biting into a donut only to discover it’s a bagel. Not that there’s anything wrong with bagels. I’m very eccumenical when it comes to carbohydrates. It’s just that a bagel doesn’t deliver on the sugary, sexy promise of a donut.

What can I say? C’est la vie! I’ve bitten into a lot of bagels expecting donuts. I’m speaking metaphorically, of course… except that time when I actually bit into an bagel expecting a donut. I remember thinking to myself that I could use that as a metaphor one day and (TA DA!) I just did.

In early 1992 I enjoyed Springtime in Gainesville, Florida, a college town of no particular culture or character. I had accepted a contract as the conductor and pianist for a production of Nunsense, a silly, little musical about an order of nuns- The Little Sisters of Hoboken.  The premise was the sisters were performing on the set of Hoboken High School’s production of Grease, to raise the funds to bury the last four “blue nuns” they had been keeping in the cafeteria freezer after the convent’s cook, Sister Julia (Child of God) poisoned a majority of their order with a bad vichyssoise. Hilarity was to ensue.

The five-woman-cast included one veteran actress of stage and screen, Mary Jo Catlett. While her name might not have been well known, her body of work, and her familiar face and hearty laugh certainly was. She had played the last maid in the Drummond household on Diff’rent Strokes and had portrayed one of the nurses on M*A*S*H*.

It was a joy to watch her perform. She really knew how to work the audience and milk a laugh till its udders fell off.

She was also a huge animal lover. One very fond memory was taking our usual Monday off to visit a retirement farm for horses just outside of Gainesville. Mary Jo and I were given a “celebrity” tour by the owners, stopping to feed the old racing horses an apple, or give them an affectionate pat on their warm muzzles. The owners’ affection for animals extended far beyond just horses. There were cats, dogs, birds, and a small, injured fawn. All creatures found refuge on this kind couple’s farm. Mary Jo and I took turns bottle feeding the baby doe. I can’t think of a more happy or perfect memory.

Back at the theatre, after many extensions of the run, we began to wind down. Life in the theatre always leads to that bittersweet moment, the final curtain. For months a family of artists come together to create something special to share with the world only to tear it apart and go separate ways. The cast and crew of this particular show were exceptionally close. I think it had to do with the fact that we had anchored ourselves around Mary Jo. She was so kind, thoughtful, sincere, and gracious. Not only did she play Mother Superior, she had become a superior mother to us all.

The cast and crew of Nunsense dispersed and I stayed behind. I was to teach a Summer musical theatre class to local children at the theatre. Just before the class sessions were to begin, I received a letter forwarded from my last address in Saint Petersburg. It had the return address, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College.

During my stint at the “Conservatory for Ultra-Serious Actors” in Saint Louis, I had enjoyed a class taught by a member of the Ringling faculty. The workshop was significantly more interesting than the Text Analysis class taught by a narcoleptic-relic-with-a-lateral-lisp the university had tenured. I loved clowning and because I loved it, I excelled. The instructor told me that if I ever had the chance to audition for Clown College I should go for it.

I was always attracted to the art of clowning. Real clown clowning, not Yamma-Yammas or R.C.s (recreational clowns) – you know, the well-meaning adult who dons a rainbow wig and smears red lipstick all over their mouth much like fresh kill instilling an intense and eternal fear of all things “clowny” in the children he has traumatized – but an actual, genuine, red-nosed, big-shoed, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s “Greatest Show on Earth®” Clown.

While in St. Petersburg, Florida and working as a Sheep in a touring production of Charlotte’s Web,  I read a notice that the circus was in town and holding auditions for their world-renowned, but now defunct clown college.

So there I was. I had reached the bottom of my artistic well. I had just finished my 230th performance of E.B. White’s beloved classic and was ready for a challenge.

I arrived at the arena where the circus had performed the previous evening. It was a hotbed of activity, animals  being groomed, wires being inspected, sawdust being spread, etc… The smell of straw and elephant dung with just a touch of popcorn butter hung heavy in the air. A clown with shoulder length, bright yellow hair á la Rosanne-Rosanna-Danna (for those of us who remember Gilda Radner’s character) emerged with a man in a dark business suit drawing heavily on a cigarette clinched tightly in his moustached mouth. A photographer followed closely behind them. I could see by the photographer’s identification badge that he was from the local paper.

The clown introduced himself as Danny. He explained that in the circus, clowns generally went by their actual birth names. I breathed a sigh of relief. I had been worried that if I were accepted and became a bonafide circus clown, I would no longer be known as André but rather as BoBo, or Binky, or Bunky The Clown. I didn’t know if I could have dealt with that kind of humiliation (having taught public high school theatre classes since then, I know I could have.)

“Pretend to be a fried egg!” ordered Danny. The room fell to the ground and began to sizzle. I looked about at the other auditionees. They varied in age, weight, race and mental stability. After all, what kind of people actually wanted to be circus clowns? Some had shown up in their Yamma Yamma suits with resumes and newspaper clippings documenting a lifetime spent entertaining at birthday parties and Bar Mitzvahs. These eager red-noses were dismissed early in the audition process. Many rainbowed heads hung low that day.

Danny turned his attention to me. I quickly put on my sunglasses and reclined as though sunning myself on a deserted beach. Danny knew what I was up to and grinned while the man with the cigarette and the moustasche leaned over his shoulder. In his gruffest voice the smoking man demanded to know “What Kinda’ Egg are Ya?”. I rolled slowly onto my stomach, looked up, tipped my sunglasses to the end of my nose and replied in my best surfer voice, “Over-Easy Dude.”. The moustached man chortled and shook his head, wrote a few notes on his pad and returned to the audition that continued for another forty minutes or so.

Danny came up to me afterwards and handed me a booklet. It was the thirty-page application/psychological test that the college implemented to see if I could truly be serious about being silly.

Months later, there I stood in the mailroom of The Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville, Florida, holding a letter with a small homemade device enclosed that spewed confetti when the letter was opened. It was a certificate announcing my acceptance to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College under full scholarship.

Later that day I called my Mom to give her the news. “André!” she blared. “YOU’VE spent the last SIX months as a SHEEP and NOW you want to be a CLOWN?!” “But Mom!” I replied. “I need something to fall back on.”

Mom never had a sense of irony.

Probably because I was always giving her bagels when she was expecting donuts.

3 Responses to “Nice ‘Stach, Martha!- Pistachio Lemon Drops-43 eggs, 39 cups of sugar, 27 1/4 sticks of Butter, and 28 cups of flour used so far- 151 recipes to go!”

  1. Robb Says:

    Top dollar could be offered for any photos documenting this educational adventure…

  2. Congrats on your appearance in the Star, Andre! Bake on!

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