Bottoms Up, Martha!- Buttered Rum Meltaways! -223 eggs, 169 1/4 cups of sugar, 167 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 207 1/3 cups of flour used so far- 47 recipes to go

June 26, 2011

Martha's Buttered Rum Meltaways

André's Buttered Rum Meltaways

A friend and coworker, Myrna was scheduled to take a leave of absence from the office. She was scheduled to have surgery. I didn’t ask what the surgery was for. It would have been rude to do so. Myrna had successfully battled a bout of cancer months ago and I figured this was somehow related. Our office wanted to do something nice for her so we put together a care package. We collected magazines, crossword puzzles, books and teas. Tucked in among the goodies was a bag of Martha’s Buttered Rum Meltaways.

I was looking for a cookie that had a prolonged shelf life since I didn’t know how long her recovery would take or how soon afterwards she’d be able to eat solids. Buttered Run Meltaways are a simple shortbread cookie with a kick of dark rum and a generous dusting of powdered sugar. They are buttery and sweet with a lingering warm, smokey flavor of topical dark rum with a salty finish. They are absolutely delicious and are a breeze to make. The dry ingredients are added to the wet and combined into a stiff dough which is rolled into an inch-and-a-half-in-diameter log. The dough log is then placed in the fridge to chill until it’s quite stiff. The log is then sliced into disks which are baked until golden. Once cooled the cookies are rolled in powdered sugar.

I’m glad to report that Myrna’s surgery went well and she’s back in the office. I’m sure her speedy recovery was due to her quality of care and infatigable perseverance but I’d also like to think that maybe the Buttered Rum Meltaways helped a little, too.

“I’m pretty sure hard work kills people all the time”- Chris Conti, Hallmark Writer

I work with some very kind and thoughtful people. I’ve not written about what I do for a living as I have tried to keep this cookie endeavor separate from my work. The cookie blog is quite personal and allows me to write far more candidly than anything I would consider writing at the office. I just tipped my hand a bit with that last statement. My current profession is that of a writer in a very niche field. I have one of those iconic jobs that has been the source of envious ridicule in our culture for many years. I work for a company that is synonymous with the greeting card industry for over a hundred years, Hallmark. My job title is Senior Writer. Yes, folks. I write greeting cards for a living. One would think it’s my job to come up with another ten-thousand clever ways to say “Happy Birthday”.  To a certain degree that notion is correct. The job, of course is much more than that but I’m not going to give away all our secrets. No, rather I’d like to share with you how I fell into this line of work.

When You Care Enough (pt 1)

It was the Fall of 2004 and I was living in a rent-controlled two bedroom in a brownstone on a private street in Jersey City, NJ with my flamboyant, funny friend and drag queen, Alan. I was working through a temp agency  in Midtown Manhattan at a firm that provided continuing education services for lawyers around the globe. I worked in the call center. I learned quite a bit about lawyers those few months answering their angry calls. Lawyers make their living by proving their right. Over time, many lawyers develop a sense that everyone else is wrong. Especially the poor guy who works in the call center at the company that got his classes all screwed up. I knew that every time I picked up the phone I’d be speaking with an angry lawyer. Having grown up with my Dad who, although not a lawyer, was a very angry man, I knew the best thing to do was to put on my very best obsequious voice and take their abuse in stride. I hated this job. I hated the people I worked with. I hated that when a poor soul in the building across the street decided to leap to their death, my soulless manager let out a gleeful whoop and called all of us to the window to gawk and laugh at the brouhaha that ensued. I remember thinking that the poor guy must’ve worked with lawyers.

I received a call from my old friend BK who I’d worked with for nearly ten years at Swine Palace Productions in Baton Rouge. He had a gig for me. He’d landed a tenured position in Kansas City, Missouri at a local university and was hoping I could come out his way to music direct the play Good.  This was the first play BK and I ever worked on with each other back in the early nineties. Anything was better than another day in the call center. I accepted and two weeks later BK picked me up from the Kansas City International Airport. Driving through downtown Kansas City towards the extended-stay-hotel that was to be my home for the next two-and-a-half months, BK pointed to a series of buildings. “Kansas City is the home of Hallmark Cards,” BK said with a chuckle. “Oh, so what you’re saying is that Kansas City’s main export is sentimentality?” I responded. Both BK and myself laughed. Neither of us held sentimentality in high regard. “Sentimentality is simply emotion with advertising attached,” remarked BK of several occasions. I knew what he meant by this. In the theatre, sentimentality is deadly to a scene. It is an inauthentic way to explore emotion by leaning heavily on finding “preciousness” rather than honesty. As I grow older I find myself being sentimental from time-to-time. This, however is quite different than wallowing in sentimentality. I had no idea that Hallmark was based in Kansas City but the notion of a city that exported preciousness was all to amusing to me. We giggled all the way to the hotel.

Rehearsals began and it quickly became apparent that the production was going to be mediocre at best. The cast was simply too young to play such complex characters and too distracted with the thought of one day being famous actors to actually do any of the work needed to make the play work. Instead, I focused on a new relationship I’d started in Kansas City with a guy named Dan. He worked at Saks Fifth Avenue just a few blocks from the hotel I where I was staying. He had a full head of cropped silver hair and was always impeccably dressed and I loved spending time with him. This relationship developed against my better judgement as I was going to be heading back to Jersey City in a couple of months and back to an ongoing relationship I’d left behind with a Behavioral Psychologist at Columbia University, Dr. Greg.  I was hoping in my absence Dr. Greg would fall out of love with me and start seeing someone else. After all, absence makes the heart go wander. This, unfortunately wasn’t the case with Dr. Greg.

I finished the run of the play to meager audiences and smatterings of applause followed by tear-filled goodbyes to Dan, who I’d fallen head-over-heels with. Upon returning to  Jersey City, I broke things off with Dr. Greg. I half-heartedly looked for work in the city knowing that I’d left something very special in Kansas City. After much debate, I decided to move to Kansas City with the intent of getting a masters degree in Music Composition at the local university. Dan and I knew we were taking a risk with our relationship by taking such a big step. Little did we know that this would be the first in a long line of little commitments we’d make to each other over the years.

I packed most of my belongings in boxes and stored them in the basement of my brownstone in Jersey City. I arrived in Kansas City with two suitcases. I stayed with Dan in his apartment above a coffee and gelato shop in a cute little area of Kansas City near his workplace. Things were bumpy for the first few weeks. Very bumpy, in fact. If you’d like to read more about that mishigas you can do so here.

Dan and I eventually settled into a loft above an art space in the downtown crossroads of Kansas City. I called my temp agency in New York. They put me in touch with their Kansas City branch. Days later I was given an assignment. On Valentine’s Day of 2005 I went to work as a temporary administrative assistant in the Seasonal Card department of Hallmark Cards, Inc. Little did I know that this little assignment would put me in close proximity to the people that would profoundly change my life.

I’m going to leave off there because I have to start baking another batch of cookies.  I’ll have part two up this week. Promise.


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