When I think back on my life it occurs to me I’ve always been kind of a “foodie” at heart. In high school my first “real” job, other than babysitting, etc., was working in a bakery. It was a family run business, with me being the only non-family employee. I remember we had to wear hairnets, which at sixteen was worse than being seen with your parents in public wearing matching shirts.
The owner and his wife were from Germany. The Mrs. (as she liked to be called) stood about five feet tall and was equally as wide, and the Mr. (what can I say) wasn’t much taller but didn’t look like he’d ever eaten any of his own baked goods or anyone elses for that matter. They brooked no frivolity, baking was a serious business for them, and they saw no humor in it whatsoever. Two sons filled out the family album, one with a raging case of acne, largely due to the fact that he was constantly shoving eclairs in his mouth I believe, and the other with a raging case of hormones which kept me constantly in motion trying to avoid his seemingly uncontrollabe urges to “accidently” touch and feel the hired help.
I was informed on my first day that I was welcome to eat as much as I wanted from the display cases. No limit. Whoa, the mother lode. Being a bit of a sweet freak then, this was as close to the perfect job as I could imagine. The first few days I gorged myself. No cinnamon bun was left unturned. The first week I ate my fill but after finding a fly in the display case and watching one of their sons swat it on a donut and remove it with the fly swatter leaving the donut in place, my interest in their food was definitely dimming. However, the following week was the clincher. The property management group decided to retar the roof. The smell of tar mingled with the sticky sweet smell in the bakery created a disgusting blend that literally put me off sweets for years and most probably kept my waistline in check.
For the first few weeks they kept cheat cards for me behind all the display case offerings. It was easy to figure out a dozen of an item, or a loaf of bread but sometimes people would ask for only three or four cookies or bars, and for a girl that was repeating algebra for the second year, this created issues.
One Sunday I was scheduled to work alone. They were only open half a day so I figured there wouldn’t be much traffic. When I arrived at the shop and opened up I discovered that The Mrs. had removed all the cheat sheets. This was definitely an oh-oh moment. Then I realized that I had no clue how to open the cash register and people were now coming in the front door. Now five deep in front of me and placing their orders I had no idea what to charge so I just winged it. This was working fine until they tried to pay me and I couldn’t open the register. This being the after-church crowd and kind of heart they began making change among themselves and accepting the prices I was charging on face value even though I had no idea if they were right or wrong. There really are angels in the world.
There was a large plate of marzipan on the counter. Usually there were samples of whatever cakes or sweet rolls they were pushing. I assumed this was the case, so freely offered my helpful customers a taste or two until they were gone. Who knew marzipan was expensive? Who knew what the hell marzipan was at sixteen? How many of you know what it is now? Okay, I see you in the back.
Finally, my stepfather came down and got the cash register going. I closed up feeling satisfied that I’d done a good days work and went home to relax. The following day I was asked to hang up my apron. Live and learn.
My parents allowed me to create my failures, but helped me to clean them up. They weren’t perfect, but they were there for me. I managed to figure out for myself (well, figure might be the wrong word) that I could stand on my own and fail if necessary, but at least make the effort.
Fall, or the hint of fall, makes me think of baking. As I’ve said before, I don’t have a white finger but these cookies are great.
Chocolate Butterscotch Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup shortening
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 pkg. semi-sweet chocolate (4 oz.), melted and cooled
2 tsp. water
2 tsp. vanilla extract
6 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups butterscotch morsels
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, shortening and sugar until fluffy. Beat in chocolate. Add beaten eggs mixing well. Beat in vanilla and water. Combine dry ingredients. Mix gradually into butter mixture. Add morsels and pecans.
Drop by rounded spoonfulls onto greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-25 mins. until a light golden brown. Cool.