Bakin’ The Blues Away With Martha!- Blueberry Bonanza Bars!- 97 eggs, 76 1/4 cups of sugar, 73 sticks of Butter, and 85 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 120 recipes to go!

August 21, 2010

Martha's Blueberry Bonanza Bars

André's Blueberry Bonanza Bars

It’s hard to believe that I am fifty-five recipes into this wackadoodle adventure and still have one-hundred-and-twenty recipes to go. How did I talk myself into thinking this was a good idea?

I am in the process of moving to a new position in yet another department at my workplace and I thought one of the best ways to make this transition is to send a sweet and munchable herald to my new coworkers. This is all part of my newly adopted belief in a baked goods/professional development strategy. In fact, I believe most MBA programs should have a culinary arts requirement. A focus in pastry would be my recommendation. After all, who wants to fire the guy who brings in those sweet, crispy bars. Seriously? Get rid of the guy who picks his teeth during meetings or the gal that loudly chats with her OB/GYN from her cubicle so everyone knows the result of her latest pap smear!

I decided I would introduce myself to the group by way of Martha’s Blueberry Bonanza Bars. I love the name. Just like Martha’s Sweet Cardamom Crackers, the name just seems like something Yosemite Sam would utter in one of Merry Melodies, very funny and socially insensitive cartoons. –

“Great Blueberry Bonanza Bars! I’ll get you ya’ dang long-eared varmint!”

“Sweet Cardamom Crackers! You done got me in a mess o’ trouble ya’ ding-dang rascal!”

This recipe had the additional challenge of baking a homemade granola topping. Granola is  really quite easy to make and I’m surprised more people don’t do it.  Coconut flakes, walnuts, oatmeal, and honey are combined and spread out on a cookie sheet then baked till golden. Break the mixture apart after it’s cooled and you have some pretty good granola. For the Blueberry Bonanza Bars, a simple shortbread base is half-baked in a regular rectangular pan. After it’s slightly cooled, the shortbread is then covered in a jar of blueberry preserves which is then covered in the homemade granola. Return it to the oven for twenty minutes until the blueberries begin to bubble through the granola crust. Let it cool completely and then cut into bars. These are absolutely delicious and perfect for an early morning meeting or brunch. Needless to say, my new coworkers were extremely complimentary and sent me a string of jokes about the old TV show, Bonanza with their thanks. I think I’m going to be very happy working along people that are potentially wackier than myself.

I’ve had many jobs in my life. Here’s a list of all the things I’ve done to put money in my pocket: (I’m not making this up, by the way.)

Hardware Store Clerk, Department Store Santa, Circus Clown, Convenience Store Clerk, Casino Cashier, Loan Officer, Lounge Pianist, Composer, Writer, Playwright, Theatre Director, Teacher (K-12), Actor, Nude Model, Semi-Nude Model, Loan Processor, Customer Service Representative, Administrative Assistant, Editor, Editorial Director, Instructor, Singer, Education & Outreach Director, Chairman of an Employee Resource Group, Volunteer Coordinator, Record and Sheet Music Store Clerk, Amusement Park Entertainer, Conductor, Music Director, Music Minister, Set Designer, Theatre Technical Director, Lighting Designer, Sound Designer, Camp Counselor, Accompanist, Telemarketer, Band Leader, Orchestrator, Consultant, Birthday Party Clown, Balloon Sculptor, Short Order Cook, Baker, Cater Waiter, Waiter,  Burger-Flipper, Chicken-Frier and Bartender. *phew* (I’m sure I’ve left something out but I can always amend this list in the future.)

How can someone fit this many jobs into a forty-two year life?

Well, I started work at a very young age. From my earliest of early days the notion of employment and earning a wage was drummed into my psyche. My parents were both born to parents who lived through the depression and their fear of poverty played a big part in my parent’s attitude towards work and finances.

I grew up in a working middle-class family. My father had worked as a taxi driver and as a teamster at one point in his life but after he and mom started having babies he became a life insurance salesman. Mom was a histological technician. A histo-tech assists pathologist by preparing organ tissue samples to be viewed and assessed. This process usually entailed sealing the tissue sample in paraffin, slicing thin portions onto slides and then running the slides through twenty-or-so alcohol-based dyes to color the sample so the can be easily reviewed by the pathologist. It was tedious work, but she never seemed to mind it or, if she did, she never complained to us.

My sisters and I never received an allowance. My parents believed our chores at home were not performed in expectation of reward, but rather were done as part of our household responsibility. If we needed actual cold, hard cash we’d have to find someplace outside of the family to earn it. Luckily, one of my mom’s uncles owned a couple of True Value hardware stores and around the Summer after my fifth grade year I was able to finagle my way into helping out at the store.

My uncle, Enaut (pronounced- Eee-No) had three sons – Ronnie, Eddie, and Mickey and two twin daughters Janette and Janelle. Uncle Enaut was married to my grandmother’s sister, Lucille – Lou for short. Enaut was, and still is, a quiet, gentle and kind man. An inventor and entrepreneur, Enaut has always cared greatly about the welfare of his community. Even in his late 90s he continues to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and, in fact, invented many tools to add speed in home construction and donated the patent for these tools to the organization. Habitat for Humanity was so thankful for all his work through the years they recently named one of their new facilities after him. I am so proud to be related to him, and can hardly believe this caliber of person is in my family. His children are all equally kind and soft-spoken. I think their quiet nature can be attributed to my Aunt Lou. She passed away a number of years ago but I do remember her always having an opinion in one hand and a martini and cigarette in the other. She always smelled of olive juice and nicotine. She wasn’t fond of children, particularly me and made no bones about letting me know it.

Like I said, I began my work at my Uncle’s hardware store in the late 70s the Summer before entering into my sixth grade year. My cousin/godfather, Mickey would pick me up at the crack of dawn to open the store at 7:00 A.M.. We’d stop at  McDonald’s which had just begun offering a breakfast menu then we’d head off to Chenevert Hardware (pronounced- Shen-uh-Vair). My Uncle had two locations at the time and his son, Mickey managed one while his other son, Ronnie managed the other. Neither of them had children. Enaut’s son, Eddie had a slew of kids, though- all boys and all named after a book in the bible. Eddie floated between the stores as needed since he was a family man. I floated between the stores as well. My responsibilities were menial and tedious. Mostly sweeping here, dusting there, straightening this, pricing that, weighing and bagging bulk nails into one and five pound bags, filing paperwork, etc… In exchange, I was given a free lunch, breakfast and $5.00 for the day. Between this gig and cutting our elderly neighbor’s grass, I was bringing in almost $50 a month and was the youngest person at my school who had their own checking account. I never wrote a check but  I carried my booklet of checks to show off to my friends.

People thought it was cute to see me working in the hardware store and my parents were glad I was out of their hair for a good bit of the Summer and the weekends during the school year since I had three younger sisters to deal with. I enjoyed work. I enjoyed making a bit of money. I liked saving it. I liked the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. As the years went on, I continued to help at the store and saw slight pay increases as well as increases in responsibilities. When I reached the age of sixteen I was legally able to work and suffer income tax.  I soon found out about minimum wage and was shocked. I couldn’t believe I had worked for so many years for so little. Why hadn’t my parents let me know that I was working so far below a decent pay scale? Why did my cousins take advantage of my naivety? On the other hand, this was family. Who else would’ve hired me, an illegal, underaged worker? If you can’t take advantage of family, then who can you take advantage of?

I look at my nephew. He’s eighteen years old and has lived a fairly privileged life. He has never really gone without and has wanted for nothing. He has never earned a paycheck. He has never done anything that would generate compensation. It worries me. He could be 22 years old and fresh out of college before he ever earns his first paycheck. That thought is so foreign to me. This, however, seems to be the norm these days. Most middle and upper class teens don’t work. Sure, they have cars, designer clothes, video games, insurance, fuel, pocket money, credit cards, cell phones, and bank accounts but no idea of how those things were acquired (outside of begging relentlessly to their parents.)

How will my nephew ever know how money works? How will he know what it’s worth? How will he know what each cent earned feels like? Has he missed a part of growing up? Personal enterprise is essential to drive us towards success. I don’t know if that is something one can learn. I don’t think it can be taught. Maybe it has to be experienced?

I’m curious about how he’d react if I hired him to separate, weigh, and seal five-hundred pounds of bulk roofing nails into one pound bags and then paid him ten bucks for his hard work. Would he hate me? Would he think it was unfair? Or would he be proud that he just earned his first ten bucks? I think I know the answer to this one.

5 Responses to “Bakin’ The Blues Away With Martha!- Blueberry Bonanza Bars!- 97 eggs, 76 1/4 cups of sugar, 73 sticks of Butter, and 85 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 120 recipes to go!”

  1. Nicole dubroc Says:

    I worry too. I hope it’s not too late for him to learn.

  2. Tommy Salami Says:

    I worked here and there from a young age and can’t wait to have kids and put them to work. By then making your kid clean the bathroom may be considered a human rights violation.

  3. emile huesmann Says:

    andre i’m sure you know that uncle enaut is gone now. i am uncle enaut’s nephew and live in cottonport, la but grew up 6 miles away in plaucheville. i would go to baton rouge a couple of weeks each summer in the late 50’s and work mostly in the furniture store. i was 15 t0 17 then and eddie was two years younger. we would deliver furniture and frank valenti would feed us then argue with us at the end of the week and argue with us about the pay ($20-$25). it was a good experience. i later in life owned a convenience store. my five children learned to work as adolescents through their first two years of college.

    everything you said about uncle enaut and more was absolute correct.

  4. emile huesmann Says:

    Went to funeral yesterday. Saw plenty of cousins and the local Kellys were there also. Visited for a short with your Mom and Dad.

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