I’m Heartless, Martha!- Dried Cranberry Shortbread Hearts! -229 eggs, 172 1/2 cups of sugar, 173 sticks of Butter, and 215 cups of flour used so far- 42 recipes to go!

July 24, 2011

Martha's Dried Cranberry Shortbread Hearts

André's Dried Cranberry Shortbread "Hearts"

Yeah, okay. I know that my shortbreads don’t look like hearts but I couldn’t justify throwing a bunch of scraps away just so I could make heart-shaped shortbread cookies. What are Dried Cranberry Shortbread Hearts? Well, they are exactly that, a simple butter, flour, sugar and salt-based shortbread dough with the addition of dried cranberries. Once baked they are cut into heart shapes.

I think Martha just stopped trying on this one. Honestly, it could’ve been a footnote to the traditional shortbread recipe. “Hey! Try adding dried fruit and cut into fun shapes,” is all she really needed to add. That said, the cookies were delicious. I baked these for my partner’s coworker, Josie’s  birthday. She’s a fan of the blog and a pretty hip chick and so she deserved a cookie.

So there you have it. Martha probably came up short of the 175 recipes she promised and so she decided to throw in some dried berries into her shortbread recipe, suggested cutting them into hearts and marketing them for a Valentine’s Day treat. A clunky strategy. Or maybe I’m being too judgmental. After all, I AM “heartless.”

Speaking of “heartless” here’s a story of me being “not so nice” or “brutally honest” depending on how you look at it.

“That’s fine but I think you’re wasting your talents,” is the response I’ve gotten a handful of times over the past few years. I’ve heard it from several friends and acquaintances after I’d declined being part of their creative endeavors. It is a bit of a slap in the face, a final nudge to let me know how much of an idiot I am for not recognizing and wanting to be a part of  their brilliant ideas. I wasn’t going to write about this but just yesterday another acquaintance called to pitch me their world-changing idea and was put-off by my lack of enthusiasm.

It all started shortly after I moved to Kansas City. Most of my friends at the time were from my work in the theatre. They were designers, actors, playwrights, directors, musicians, producers, etc… . When I went to work for a corporation, many viewed this as my “selling-out.” How could I leave the theatre? How could I escape the lure of the proscenium? How would I feel fulfilled, validated or remotely happy? Truth is, I wasn’t happy working in the theatre and hadn’t been for quite some time. I loved the work and had always been told that if I continued working hard  eventually the work would “take care” of me. I was in my late thirties and had been working hard on the boards for most of my adult life. It wasn’t “taking care” of me unless they meant the mafioso version of  “Take Care.” I was and had been living from hand-to-mouth for years. I worked a ridiculous number of jobs to support an ever-destructive theatre habit. I began to resent the profession. I felt like I was in an ever-abusive relationship with my career. Leaving the theatre, when I did, felt right. It was a much-needed relief. It freed me to focus on things that mattered: my relationship, my emotional well-being, my being able to plan a future, etc… .

Making this decision came at a cost, though. A few key friendships and relationships became bruised. One, in particular, was my friend, Eric. Eric was a wealthy heir. His family owned several large rental properties in the lower-income areas of Baton Rouge. He’d inherited this estate as their only child. He was, in essence, a slumlord with a penchant for theatre and tanning products. He donated thousands of dollars to several producing companies and even appeared in a few small roles in which he was truly dreadful. It didn’t matter if he had any taste or talent. He had money. Despite all of this, Eric was essentially a nice guy. His love for theatre was genuine and when he spoke of his passion to work on the stage, it was in earnest. This only made the sadness of the situation even more pronounced.

He was one of the first people to give me a tongue lashing when I moved to Kansas City. I hadn’t spoken with him in many months. He lived in Baton Rouge and I hadn’t lived near or around him in years. We’d stayed in touch, though. He’d been spending a lot of his time flying between his apartment in Los Angeles and his condo in Baton Rouge then zipping off to his Florida beach house or to one of his vacation homes in Hawaii. Along the way he’d met a few interesting people. Eric had recently decided to come out of the closet and began aggressively dating handsome, young artistic types. He, like the notorious sailors of yore,  had a boyfriend in every port. One was a young playwright in Los Angeles. Eric called me with incredible news. He’d just read a script this boyfriend of his had written and it was nothing short of brilliant. The problem was that it was a musical and it needed a composer as soon as possible. Eric then said he immediately thought of me. He asked how soon could I get out to Los Angeles?  And could I put in my two weeks notice at work to be part of this venture?

I was dumbstruck. “What’s the script about?” I asked. Eric then went on to describe a story so incredibly bad that the only way it could be made worse is by setting it to music. In a most-serious tone Eric pitched me the idea of creating a musical based on the Terri Schiavo case. A musical called Right To Life. He enthusiastically described the flashback scenes of a happily married couple juxtaposed to a woman in a vegetative state in a hospital bed. He described a musical fugue of opinions from the Right Wing and the Left as men in suits literally played tug-o-war with her feeding tube. He tearfully described how in the end the music, like the beeping of the ever-present heart monitor simply slowed into one turgid drone of a flat-lined note. There was a long and awkward silence after Eric’s enthusiastic pitch. I was at a total loss of words. I finally broke the silence with a tiny chuckle. “So, It’s a comedy?”

Eric didn’t find this response amusing. “Fuck no! It’s a moving, profound, relevant piece of edgy contemporary theatre, you smartass!” I had to giggle to myself. Eric’s glowing assessment of this show that had yet to be written is usually reserved for critics and audience members to decide. But fine, if he wanted to set out to produce a profound and edgy piece of “theatre” then who am I to stand in his way.

“So, can I send you the script? How soon can you start?” Eric impatiently asked.

“Eric, if you send me that script I will never speak to you again,” was my response.

I then went on to explain my reservations:

  • Exploiting the story of Terry Schiavo and her family as fodder for a contemporary, edgy piece of musical theatre was just an exercise in bad taste.
  • Why make this a musical?
  • Would it work better in Kabuki?
  • Should we call it Terry Schiavo- Turn Off the Dark!
  • It was possibly the worst idea I’d ever heard.
  • South Park had already done a parody where the Kindergarten class of South Park Elementary had put on a musical version of the Terry Schiavo case. Proof that this subject matter is beyond tasteless.
  • Terry Schiavo was a real person not a political or ethical ideal.
  • If I were a member of the Schiavo family, I’d sue.
  • It sounded like Annie  without the song, Tomorrow

Eric listened and begrudgingly accepted my response to which he added, “That’s fine but I think you’re wasting your talents.” To which I snapped, “Better me than you.”

Eric and I haven’t spoken much since then. I think he broke up with the brilliant young playwright and so Terry Schiavo, The Musical was never staged.

It wasn’t long after that uncomfortable exchange with Eric, I was contacted by my friend, Alan with an offer to compose the music for an Off-Broadway production of the Greek classic, Agamemnon and just yesterday another friend of mine, Allison contacted me about staging a theatrical piece based on battling heroine addiction set to the music by the bassist of Motley Crew.

I’ll fill you in on these ventures with the next cookie. It’ll be good for a laugh.

Meanwhile, I’m going to “waste my talents” baking another one of Martha’s cookies.

3 Responses to “I’m Heartless, Martha!- Dried Cranberry Shortbread Hearts! -229 eggs, 172 1/2 cups of sugar, 173 sticks of Butter, and 215 cups of flour used so far- 42 recipes to go!”

  1. Jocelyn Says:

    Thanks for the cookies Andre! I loved them

  2. Thomas Pluck Says:

    Oh yes, drop whatever you’re doing that’s putting food on your table, and come be a footnote in my project. Would you like to direct the trailer for my book? If I wasn’t turning into a lardass, I’d send a cookie tin and some scratch, and ask for a batch of cookies to eat while I revise my novel. In exchange for a dedication of course…

    I had a friend want me to pitch a reality Food TV show, which he spent about five minutes talking to me about. I should’ve researched it better; I thought we were going to be in one episode, not pitching a show. So when I got the phone call i realized I’d have to quit my job to try to be the next Guy Fieri… and i backed out. He still won’t talk to me. I ruined his dreams, even though he expected me to do all the heavy lifting, because I was a prolific food blogger at that point, and he dropped out of culinary school (his contribution).

  3. Rachael Says:

    Mötley Crüe, dude, Mötley Crüe.

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