It’s a Cookie-Gram From Martha! – Grammy’s Chocolate Cookies! -149 eggs, 108 1/2 cups of sugar, 114 1/2 sticks of Butter, and 136 1/2 cups of flour used so far- 90 recipes to go!

December 3, 2010


Martha's Grammy's Chocolate Cookies

André's Grammy's Chocolate Cookies

Yeah, this cookie has a precious name- Grammy’s Chocolate Cookies. It was a recipe that was submitted to Martha as part of a weekly cookie recipe contest. The contestant claimed it was her grandmother’s recipe. Everyone apparently called the grandmother Grammy. Not a bad strategy for winning a baking contest. Name a recipe after a dearly departed relative and make sure there’s a sad, wistful tale to accompany it. If I ever enter a baking competition I’ll be sure to add Poor Aunt Penny’s before the actual name.

Poor Aunt Penny’s Potroast.

Poor Aunt Penny’s Gnocchi

Poor Aunt Penny’s Head Cheese

Well, maybe not the last one.

Grammy’s Chocolate Cookies aren’t bad. Easy to make with no unusual ingredients, this recipe will do in a pinch. Nothing spectacular about the cookie itself. It’s simply a crisp, chocolate sugar cookie. Delicious with milk or coffee. Plain and simple enough to satisfy young and old alike.

Now on to a completely unrelated story.

I received my first professional acting gig in 1984 at the precocious age of sixteen. Well, that’s not entirely true. When I was quite young, maybe five or six. my cousin’s first wife worked for a local television station and hired my sister and me to appear in a commercial for Wilson’s department store. I remember having to go to the studio where the crew had set up a tree and a few wrapped presents in front of a big blue curtain. I remember being disappointed that the presents were just wrapped boxes containing nothing. I thought these would be the cruelest gifts a kid could ever receive. I noticed there were actors there to play our parents. Well, better-looking, more TV-friendly versions of our parents. The idea for the commercial was simple. It was Christmas morning and we were suppose to react to all the wonderful gifts that were purchased for low, low prices from Wilson’s department store. The woman playing my mom had a close up of her putting on a beautiful faux-diamond necklace and the guy playing my dad was admiring his new golf clubs while my sister and I hugged brand new stuffed animals while trying not to look at the camera. Honestly, I have only the faintest of memory of our day in front of the camera. I remember being fairly unimpressed with the whole process and thought the woman playing my mom was far too young and blonde.

At sixteen, I auditioned for a new theatre company that had formed in Baton Rouge. It was called Playmakers Inc. and it was a theatre for kids. They would perform classic children’s stories and new scripts. I had heard about it from a little blurb in the Friday culture section of our newspaper and decided I’d give it a shot. The auditions were being held at an old defunct fire station turned museum in downtown Baton Rouge. I showed up along with about a dozen or so other curious locals and read for various parts in a play called the Great Cross Country Race. It was an interpretation of the the Tale of the Tortoise and the Hare.  For having limited experience I thought I read fairly well. The director contacted me the next day to offer me the role of Mr. Sett, the Badger. I, of course, excitedly accepted.

Rehearsals began a week later and I had to sign tax forms and a document stating I was at least eighteen years old. I didn’t know, according to child labor laws,  I had to be eighteen years old to perform in a play. This seemed ridiculous to me so I simply defiantly signed the form. This made me worry a bit. Not because I lied. It worried me because this was the first lie I told that had a paper trail. That document was hard evidence of my dishonesty. The worst scenarios played out in my guilty conscience. I’d be standing before a judge and jury as the prosecution handed over exhibit A, a document with my signature falsely stating I was eighteen years of age and therefore competent to effectively play a badger in a second-rate children’s theatre production of the Tortoise and the Hare. Such nonsense. I never gave it another thought after that.

Rehearsals were a hoot. The director wanted us to really capture the physicality and mannerisms of the animals and the costumer  created amazing costumes and make-up designs to really complete the effect.

The show was fun although a bit wordy for most young kids. Children are undoubtedly the most challenging of audiences for a performer just starting out. Unlike adults who may be bored to tears with a production, they will not sit on their hands and quietly slip out during intermission. Children will stand up, call for their mommies, cry, scream, or announce that they’re bored to the entire audience. The challenge for the actor performing for kids is to always have a sense of an audience’s temperature. The actor must listen to their fellow actors, of course, but also listen to the rustling coming from your audience. An actor’s intuition can tell when a roomful of children is about to go AWOL.  When his intuition senses an audience drifting away, the actor needs to be able to carefully direct his energy to regain his audience’s interest. It’s not easy and only seasoned actors know how to do this effortlessly. I can’t think of any better training for a young performer than to spend a good chunk of their early career in front of kids.

This is where much of my early training came from. Not just training as a performer but the honing of my personal instinct and perspective.

By the time I began auditioning for colleges I had quite a few years of children’s theatre under my belt. Most colleges were unimpressed, though. They wanted to see a resumé where I had played a range of Shakespeare characters tempered with a few musical roles and perhaps a Sam Shepard or Tom Stoppard play thrown in here or there for good measure.  They wanted this from a seventeen year old? Really?

Instead my resumé read like the food chain. I had played a badger, a cat, a cockroach, a dragon, a monkey, an elephant, a paramecium, and several different bears. Bears are a popular species in children’s theatre.  What I lacked in sophistication I certainly made up for in genetic variety.

Many serious educators turned up their noses at my brief two year theatrical history and never looked up from my resumé during my many auditions.

I remember my audition for Florida State University’s impressive bachelor’s program. I had driven with my Mom all the way out to Tallahassee, sacrificing attending my Senior prom. The first round auditions were held by a graduate student. I drove almost eight hours to audition for this prestigious acting school and they had the nerve to send a graduate student who was only a few years older than myself? The smug red-head glanced at my resumé and laughed. He seriously guffawed. It was not the sort of laugh to be shared with me but rather the kind that was directed at me. He, like so many other over-educated and pedantic educators, simply looked at the floor while I, in futility, acted my heart out for them.

I realized early in life that resumés should be written on toilet paper. Well, at least that way they would be of some real use.

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4 Responses to “It’s a Cookie-Gram From Martha! – Grammy’s Chocolate Cookies! -149 eggs, 108 1/2 cups of sugar, 114 1/2 sticks of Butter, and 136 1/2 cups of flour used so far- 90 recipes to go!”


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