Stick ’em Up, Martha!- Macadamia-Maple Sticky Bars!- 98 eggs, 80 1/4 cups of sugar, 77 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 88 1/2 cups of flour used so far- 117 recipes to go!

September 1, 2010


Martha's Macadamia-Maple Sticky Bars

André's Macadamia-Maple Sticky Bars

Butter-based macadamia shortbread, covered in a buttery caramel and macadamia nuts creates a rich and decadent confection that can be described in one word- “WOW!”

Baking this treat was a cinch. Butter, flour, crushed macadamia nuts, salt, and sugar are combined and spread across the bottom of a parchment paper-lined pan and baked until lightly golden. Brown sugar, maple syryp, butter and heavy cream are then combined to create a thick and rich caramel. Macadamia nuts are added and the mixture is poured over the baked shortbread. After it cools completely, the entire sheet is removed from the pan and cut into bars. It’s simply a delicious treat to share with any of your friends who are butter fans. I brought these bits of deliciousness into work and had many requests for the recipe that day. If you’d like to make a batch of your own, I suggest searching for the recipe on Martha’s website. In fact, all the recipes in her book are available on-line.

Most Americans associate the Macadamia nut with Hawaii. Mauna Lau is the corporation who really started advertising their product in the early eighties. The fact is, however, that the origin and largest producer of Macadamias is Australia. The first recorded history of the Macadamia was in the late 1800s when a Royal Botanist came across a tree just outside of Queensland. It was unknown by any European botanists and didn’t match any known genus. A new genus was then prescribed- Macadamia- named after John MacAdam MD, Secretary of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria. Before the arrival of the Europeans in the land down under, Aboriginal tribes would congregate on the slopes and gather Macadmias which they called, Kindal Kindal.

Macadamia oils, contrary to popular belief, contain no cholesterol and contain only 12% saturated fat, not bad considering peanut oil contains 19%. Of course butter is 57% and so Martha’s Macademia-Maple Sticky Bars are far from healthy food, sans mental health.

Speaking of mental health, they say that one sure sign of mental illness is the absence of questioning one’s sanity. I must be in pretty good shape because I’ve questioned my sanity practically every hour of every day for as long as I’ve been kicking. Most of my random thoughts start out like this- “Am I crazy or did I leave the oven on?” – or – “Have I lost my mind or was this meeting suppose to be at ten?” – or- “Should I seek help or did I always have this many chins?”  This habit in my thinking might be the result of insecurity, or some deep emotional scarring, or maybe this is really how most people think and I’m no different- or perhaps I really have lost my marbles.

In the Winter of 2002 I found myself living in Indianapolis, Indiana. I had moved there from New York City after the unfortunate events of 9/11. Initially, it turned out to be a good move. I landed significant leads with the two largest local theatres and had picked up a few teaching gigs through the Indiana arts council. The move was stressful, though. I came to Indiana at the suggestion of my youngest sister who had just relocated there with her husband after he landed a really terrific job with a large pharmaceutical company.

I came to Indianapolis with a couple of suitcases and not much else. I had been living a nomadic life for years and my personal possessions were kept to an absolute minimum. It was just before Halloween of 2001 when I arrived at my sister’s suburban home in Indianapolis and both she and her husband seemed very glad to  have me there. Neither had made many close friends at the time and so having someone to talk with and reminisce about Louisiana was a welcomed addition to their household. I quickly settled in and began to make the rounds through the Indianapolis audition circuit and soon found friends in the theatre community, acting work, and an apartment in the quaint little neighborhood of Fountain Square. My sister and her husband soon found out that a baby was on the way and so there was a lot of happiness going around.

With so much going right and an abundance of good news floating about, why didn’t I feel happy? Why was waking up such a chore and falling asleep nearly impossible? Why was I constantly feeling overcome with dread? Why was my energy hovering just above nil? This was how my days started and ended in Indianapolis. Was it the relentless cold? Was it the constant snow? As a Louisiana boy, maybe I just wasn’t emotionally cut out to deal with the isolation of bleak Winters.

Things began to get worse. I began to lose time. I know that sounds like a strange notion. How does one lose time? Let me attempt to explain the sensation. Imagine you are sitting in a crowded mall and a little voice in your head begins to speak to you just like Jiminy Cricket did in Disney’s Pinnochio. In my case, however, Jiminy wasn’t a friendly little arthropod, he was more like a plague of angry locusts all speaking at once. They were sounds from my personal history. Past failures, shortcomings, embarrassments, inadequacies, etc…  all playing loudly in my head like a recording on a perpetual loop. Something would always eventually snap me out of it- a phone ringing, a stranger asking the time, a baby crying nearby, then suddenly I’d become aware of where I was. The issue became more disturbing when I realized I had checked out and listened to the voices for forty-minutes to three-hours at a time. This new brain-f**k was seriously messing with my sense of time and space. The situation became urgent when I went to park my car in the covered garage at the end of the frost-covered alley behind my wee apartment. As the garage door closed the voices started. I drifted but was startled back to reality when my hand slipped onto the horn. I had checked out for almost an hour, the engine running in the sealed garage. I quickly turned off the ignition and galloped through the cold to the door of my apartment. I felt dizzy, nauseous and light-headed. Enough was enough. I needed help.

I  made an appointment with a doctor and after a thorough and intrusive examination I was immediately sent to see a urologist and an oncologist. My deepening depression seemed to have been a symptom of something sinister that stretched far beyond just an emotionally depressed state. My mind was reacting to some very unpleasant stuff going on with my body and it had been sending out urgent mental-rescue-flares of “SOS.”

The phone rang.

Three of the most frightening words I ever heard-

You

have

cancer.

The urologist suspected and the oncologist agreed that I probably had developed cancer in my right testicle. They would need to do a biopsy to be sure. A biopsy, in this case, meant it would have to be removed. It was an outpatient procedure but the emotional stress of it all was more than I was prepared for. They took it that day and replaced it with a stunt-double called , a Neutical. I didn’t think the name was funny. Is that what I was now? A partial neuter? Was I going to have to take hormones now? Was I going to start growing breasts? Should I consider suicide or the priesthood? The biopsy confirmed I had cancerous cells developing and a series of radiation treatments were prescribed to eradicate any of the cancer cells that may have latched onto the lymph nodes at the base of my spine. The pain was excruciating and constant. Not only did I constantly feel like I had been kicked in the crotch, I felt as though I had suffered second degree burns from the waist down. This did not improve my feelings of depression and soon my constant sadness became more of an issue than any of the physical pain I was in.

I called my sister, but didn’t want to worry her too much. I lived on the other side of town from her and she had a baby on the way. She didn’t need the added stress and I felt like I could handle the situation adequately so I played down the medical treatments as much as I could. I called my Mom but I didn’t want her to freak out and spiral into a constant state of worry, well that and I certainly didn’t want her coming up to Indianapolis to help because I knew that I couldn’t deal with the kind of stress that would bring. Instead, under my doctor’s advice, I enrolled in day therapy for the next few months. I was going to be laid up and not able to work so I thought I might as well take advantage of my vulnerable state and use the time to work on me and deal with these stupid voices and be done with them.

The therapy was outpatient. I would show up at 8:00 on a Monday morning and the group of ten rotating patients would work till 4:30 on cognitive behavior practices and coping mechanisms for clinical depression. I participated in the classes from Monday through Friday for over two months until I was well enough to go back to work. It was the smartest thing I’ve ever done. One thing I can say about group therapy is that there is always someone crazier than you, and best of all, the craziest one in the group has no idea he’s the craziest one in the group so no feelings get hurt.

I’m a very lucky person.

Not many of us are granted the opportunity to step away from our lives for two months and simply examine ourselves, assess where we are, establish where we want to be, and deal with some of the baggage we carry with us each and everyday.

I was very fortunate.

I had cancer.

It’s gone.

I heard voices.

They’re gone.

As a result, I came out a stronger, more self-assured individual. I was changed but changed for the better. Sure, it was a bit like brain-washing, but my brain needed a good cleaning.

Looking back on that awful, sad and lonely Winter, I can’t help but smile at how through a very difficult and unpleasant experience I was able to reclaim my sanity and still end up half nuts.

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3 Responses to “Stick ’em Up, Martha!- Macadamia-Maple Sticky Bars!- 98 eggs, 80 1/4 cups of sugar, 77 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 88 1/2 cups of flour used so far- 117 recipes to go!”

  1. Russ Says:

    Whoa. Scary! I’ve heard that’s a very tricky cancer to treat — glad you made it through.

  2. Tommy Salami Says:

    You’re a survivor, and I mean that before the word got hackneyed and cliche. Glad you beat the big C. I only met you briefly but I don’t know many people so full of life.
    Did you write about this because this recipe has nuts in it? To get all the possible jokes out of the way, you write like you’ve got more balls than most, so it looks like you could spare the one you lost.

  3. Carol Says:

    Funny and poignant. Been there and done some of that. We love you half nuts.


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