Say, “Cheesecake,” Martha!- Ginger Cheesecake Bars! -229 eggs, 171 1/2 cups of sugar, 170 1/4 sticks of Butter, and 212 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 44 recipes to go!

July 16, 2011

André's Ginger Cheesecake Bars

Martha's Ginger Cheesecake Bars

Cheesecake has to be one of my favorite desserts of all time. Growing up, my mom would make cheesecake from Jello instant no-bake cheesecake mix. It was basically vanilla pudding with cheese flavor added in a sugary graham cracker crust. During refrigeration it would stiffen into a gooey mass protected by a hard skin of milky gelatin. It was awful. As a result, I spent most of my youth thinking I hated cheesecake. When I moved to New York City in 1986 I was introduced to authentic New York cheesecake. What can I say about that? Hmmmm. Earth-shattering, mind-blowing, orgasmic might be a few words to describe those first bites. It was unlike any “cheesecake” I had up to that point. I didn’t know real cheesecake was actually baked. I didn’t know that it was dense and slightly lemony. I didn’t know that the graham cracker crust could be more like crust and less like sugary dust. Thus began my life-long love affair with cheesecake in all its forms. I look forward to my retirement when, much like the Golden Girls, I’ll enjoy late night conversations with friends over steaming cups of coffee and a slices of rich, dense cheesecake. (God bless Rose, Dorothy, Blanche and Sophia)

Martha’s Ginger Cheesecake bars are a simple cheesecake recipe of egg, cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and flour mixed with fresh grated ginger then baked in a crust made of ground gingersnaps and butter. I baked up a batch of these to bring to a party for my partner, Dan’s co-workers. I baked these along with another recipe for Cappuccino bites which I’ll write about in the next post. While these bars were delicious, they weren’t very attractive. They didn’t cut well and looked a bit like a dessert you’d retrieve from under a sneeze guard at a Chinese buffet. Folks have a tendency to eat with our eyes first and therefore people were more intrigued by the bite-sized, jewel-like Cappuccino bites and left the Ginger Cheesecake bars relatively untouched. They were delicious, though. A perfect combination of ginger in the cream cheese batter with the extra shot of ginger from the gingersnap crust. Delectable. Unattractive but delectable. (much like Garrison Keillor) Ah well, so far this was the most winningest recipe that failed in Martha’s Cookie Book.

When You Care Enough (pt. 4)

Marion hired me as her executive assistant. I received the call just a few hours after my interview. I was to be a full-time Hallmarker. I called my partner, Dan to tell him the good news. He was very happy. He’d just taken a management job with a import children’s clothing retailer owned by some friends-of-friends. When Dan and I met he’d been working in fine jewelry for Saks Fifth Avenue which closed their doors just about the time I moved to Kansas City leaving Dan unemployed. Money was tight and the prospect of a regular paycheck with benefits would allow us to sleep a bit easier at night. During my time as a temp, I took an evening job as a bartender at a “Family-Friendly” restaurant chain. I hated it and the work was grueling. Working for tips which never came from the frugal dining guests and usual drunks searching for $1.00 draft beer, proved to be soul-crushing and unprofitable. With the news of being hired on as a full-time Hallmarker I excitedly quit that job only to have to seek out another less than two weeks later.

Dan was not provided with any benefits at his retail job. Without health insurance, we were one illness away from financial devastation. I enrolled Dan onto my benefits through Hallmark.

Most of you probably don’t know this little tidbit about domestic partner benefits and so I’m going to break it down for you. If you are not legally married to your domestic partner, the Federal and State government views company contributions towards your partner’s health insurance as a gift. It is called imputed income. They view this contribution no differently than if my company slipped me a bonus check and therefore taxed it heavily. I had to pay over $2,000 a year in taxes on monies I never earned. In addition, my contribution to his benefits came out of my paycheck after taxes. While Hallmark, along with so many other companies try to do the right thing by offering domestic partner benefits, the government penalizes you for taking advantage of it. The same government that wants to see every American insured? Go figure.

There is a bill called The Domestic Partner Tax Benefit Equity Act which would waive the outrageous taxes associated with these benefits but it has been stalled time and again in congress. The last time it was presented was as part of the Healthcare bill last year when, like so many other articles, it was edited out of the bill. If you have the time, encourage your local representative to support this bipartisan bill and work towards bringing it to the floor.

Yay! I had a new job and Boo! I needed another job to keep a roof over our heads. Hallmark is situated next to a shopping mall called Crown Center. In the middle of this tiny mall was a toy store. I applied after work on the day I found out how small my post-tax Hallmark paychecks were going to be and was hired a week later. It was about this time that our President, George W. Bush held one of his carefully orchestrated Town Halls filled with handpicked and adoring audience members. During this town hall he spoke with a young woman and single mother of three small children. He told the President of her struggles with the economy and low wages offered. “I work three jobs in order to take care of my family,” she said in a grief-filled voice. “Isn’t that wonderful,” said the President with a smirky grin to the audience who applauded loudly.

My heart broke a little when I saw this. It gave me little hope that things were ever going to change. Here was a poor woman who has three children to take of. She has no choices. No options. She must sacrifice her time with her children in order to provide them with food and shelter and our President thinks this is wonderful?

My first year at Hallmark I worked from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. and then walked over to the mall where I worked at the toy store from 4:30 P.M. to 9:30 P.M. On the weekends I worked both Saturday and Sunday. I did this to make up for the tax money the government was collecting from earnings I never received. The same government that thinks a single mother working three jobs is wonderful.

Even though I was exhausted, I loved my life. Dan and I had settled into a comfortable coexistence with each other. I was learning to excel at Hallmark and Marion proved to be an excellent tutor. She brought me into the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Allies Employee Resource Group at Hallmark where she was a Corporate sponsor. She spoke eloquently and emotionally of her lesbian niece and how her love for her fueled her desire to become more involved with the LGBTA community at work. She taught me the value of accuracy and precision. She pushed me to be better and think ahead. She schooled me in the art of troubleshooting and provided me opportunities to grow each and every day. She knew I wanted more and believed I could one day stretch beyond my current role.

An administrative assistant’s duties were relatively simple: file, collate, print, schedule, place orders, transcribe, fetch, heel, sit, roll-over… the usual stuff. It would’ve been very easy to settle into this position as a lifetime career like so many of the other admins who told me in no uncertain terms, that admins don’t ever move up in the company. I refused to believe this.

Half-way through my first year as Marion’s assistant, Dan suddenly and without warning, lost his job. The arrogant and often angry (AKA Parisian) owner of the children’s retail business became frustrated and impatient. He wasn’t seeing an increase in sales and was furious that his surplus inventory was so outrageously high even though he was the one who placed the orders. In a fit of frustration he decided to clean house. He fired Dan replacing him with another manager who’d eventually permanently close the store a few months later. When I heard the news I knew Dan and I were about to head into an even more financially strenuous situation. I couldn’t let my worries show, though. Dan needed me to be strong. He needed me to spin this misfortune into something positive. I needed him to see this as an opportunity and not a loss even though inside I was having a total “Oh, Shit!” moment.

Our next course of action would require a radical change and presented some unique challenges and I’ll be sure to cover those tomorrow in the final installment of this story.

Thanks for reading and come back tomorrow for the last part of When You Care Enough…

One Response to “Say, “Cheesecake,” Martha!- Ginger Cheesecake Bars! -229 eggs, 171 1/2 cups of sugar, 170 1/4 sticks of Butter, and 212 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 44 recipes to go!”

  1. Kriesa Says:

    Thank you for explaining about the taxation on domestic partners’ benefits. No one explained that when my company began offering them this year, and I was temporarily baffled when my paycheck suddenly dropped so much. I’d calculated what my contribution would be, but I hadn’t anticipated the tax hit. I really appreciate the benefits, but it does seem very unfair.

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