Back To Basics With Martha!- Peanut Butter Cookies!- 98 eggs, 77 1/4 cups of sugar, 74 sticks of Butter, and 86 3/4 cups of flour used so far- 119 recipes to go!

August 23, 2010

Martha's Peanut Butter Cookies

André's Peanut Butter Cookies

Oh, Peanut Butter, how I love thee. Today’s recipe comes from the Crumbly & Sandy section of Martha’s Cookie Book and they are indeed, crumbly and sandy (and awfully difficult to transport in one piece.) Peanut butter, eggs, sugar, flour, salt, roasted peanut pieces, and butter are combined and scooped onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Once the signature criss-crossed hatch marks are made with floured fork tines, these little disks of deliciousness are baked till golden. Perfect with milk, these cookies were a throwback to my younger years as a student at St. Thomas More Elementary. The cafeteria would serve the exact same cookie to the tiny, uniformed clientele. My partner, Dan wasn’t as thrilled with this recipe. He thought his mother’s peanut butter cookies were the best. They were crisp and far more cookie-like in texture. He didn’t care for the crumbly nature of Martha’s cookies. It made it difficult to dunk them in milk and the sandy texture once chewed produced the same experience as a mouth full of peanut butter, dry and goopy. I, however, loved them. They were exactly as I remembered them from good ol’ STM.

In my last post I spoke about some of the jobs I’ve had in my past. I think the best part of having had so many diverse experiences has to be getting to know all the many people I’ve worked alongside. People always fascinate me. It’s a tough job to be a decent human being and each of us has our own way of doing it. I’ve met some people who have  amazed and inspired me and some who’ve disappointed but I’m grateful for each one I’ve met along the way. It’s through knowing, listening and understanding their point of view that I’ve learned so much.

In the Fall of 1994, I had taken a job as a director for the Dallas Children’s Theatre (DCT). While I loved the talented folks and challenging work at DCT, I was only employed as a contractor. The pay was fair but in no way could it properly fund the basic necessities such as food, transportation and shelter. I took a full-time day job to pay for my theatre addiction, a habit that’s taken me many years to break. I went  to work as a clerk for the Empire Baking Company in the affluent Highland Park neighborhood in Dallas.

The Empire Baking Company was nestled in a small suburban strip mall and was staffed primarily with Mexican immigrants who worked long hours around the sweltering ovens baking some of the absolute best artisan breads I have ever enjoyed. Two large wood-fired ovens imported from France dominated the glass-encased bakery where each worker could be publicly viewed at all hours of the day and night, kneading, cutting, mixing, and baking fresh and crusty breads. My shift started at 5:30 A.M. when I would spend an hour filling the cases and baskets with fresh breads and pastries cooling on the racks in the kitchen. I would also prepare the coffee, and espresso machine, open the registers, flick on the lights and open the door for business sharply at 6:30 A.M.. People lined up outside this quaint and popular bakery each morning for fresh-squeezed orange juice,  perfectly prepared foamy cappucinos, and warm, sweet brioche topped with thick berry preserves and sweet, cream butter.

Everyone who was within a ten-mile radius of the shop knew there was no bakery more superior. The prices were quite steep, particularly in 1994, a time before Starbuck’s had unleashed the $2.50 cup of coffee on the nation.  The clientele was mostly made up of the wealthy neighborhood’s noveau riche and well-to-do hair-teeth-&-nail crowd – you know the ones you’d see at most Republican National Committee meetings.

One of my co-workers, Jeremy, was a tall, lanky fellow with large green eyes encircled by tiny, gold, wire-framed glasses. He had thick and meticulously cropped sandy brown hair and a neat little patch of fuzz under his lower lip. He was a bit of a faux-academic- he had been through some college, but drugs, alcohol, and years spent at gay circuit parties, left him with only a few properly firing brain cells- all of which were focused on gay political issues. Jeremy would spend hours explaining the socio-political ramifications of homophobia and misogyny. I kept explaining to him that he was preaching to the choir, but he would continue to rant through our shift as I was one of the few sympathetic ears he encountered in the great State of Texas.

It was during one of these shifts a local celebrity walked through our doors with his entourage of men in dark suits. The November elections had just concluded and Texas was bidding a not-so-fond farewell to their liberal Governor, Ann Richards and welcoming their new leader, son of the 41st President of the United States, Texas Governor-Elect and Highland Park resident, George Walker Bush.

Shaking hands with patrons and stopping to take a photo or two, George W. Bush approached Jeremy’s register to place an order for a chicken salad sandwich for himself and about a half-a-dozen sandwiches for his entourage. I noticed a short, balding, pale gentleman among his group. It wasn’t until years later I realized this was Karl Rove.

Jeremy stood there. His tan disappeared. He was white, almost green and I could see his hands were shaking. George placed his order and Jeremy did nothing. He took a deep breath and gained focus. Jeremy then did the unspeakable. With a firm and authoritative voice he placed his hands in the air and announced, “Mr. Bush. I did not vote for you. I don’t believe in your policies. I don’t believe in your objectives. I don’t believe in your God and I don’t believe in you. Taking your order would be beneath me. I quit!” Jeremy then reached behind his back, untied his Empire Baking Company apron and threw it on the counter. He then exited out of the front door turning around to give a double middle-finger salute to Mr. Bush and his lackies.

I apologized to Mr. Bush. He laughed and shrugged it off. It obviously wasn’t the first time this sort of thing had happened. The owner came rushing from the back having just got wind that the Governor-Elect was in his store and had just been accosted by a former-employee. He apologized profusely and filled Mr. Bush’s order himself. George and his entorage left, sacks filled with sandwiches, drinks, and cookies in hand. All gratis.

I am not fond of the Bush’s. Particularly little George. As a gay U.S. citizen, I had never felt more marginalized than during his time in office. He made some poor decisions. I believe he never viewed the role of President as being one of public servitude and he never embraced the quiet humility that comes with that responsibility.

I’ve always regretted not throwing my apron down and walking out of the bakery in solidarity with Jeremy. I can never see George’s face without thinking about him ordering a chicken salad sandwich and the wacky controversy it caused on a brisk, November day in Dallas, TX.

I’ve also always regretted not spitting in Karl Rove’s Diet Coke.


3 Responses to “Back To Basics With Martha!- Peanut Butter Cookies!- 98 eggs, 77 1/4 cups of sugar, 74 sticks of Butter, and 86 3/4 cups of flour used so far- 119 recipes to go!”

  1. Sergio Says:

    I was just gonna say peanut butter cookies are my favorite, and then I read this awesome story about Dubya and your coworker at the bakery. Now I’m not sure what to say, other than thanks for sharing this story! Cheers to you and to the cookies!

  2. Eri Says:

    This is a great story. You described Bush’s attitude toward the presidency perfectly. And I’m not a fan of peanut butter cookies, but this story cements my fan-hood of you and your work!

  3. Mary Gemmell Says:

    Loved this story about George.

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