Monday, May 9, 2011

At home Head Chefs, Sous Chefs, Foodies, and Officianados, Hear Ye:

In 1999, there was a mission entertained by 3 hopeful and hungry friends trotting through the barrens of the Southern United States. Looking into their satchels for scraps of what was once a bag chocked full of dried fruits and nuts, jerkies, and crackers, they came up with a collective 28 grams of crumbs. A substancial amount for just a little nibble, they thought, yet their stomachs turned and gurgled in disagreement, protesting this lack of nourishment they had gone through. Finishing off their share of food for the day, they rolled their burlap satchels closed yet again and pursued their destination.

Despite his comrades' apparent contentedness, one friend knew that this was not enough to keep them all going. How could they possibly be happy, with their hollow spaces consuming little more than a breatharian's dinner? If we could reach a town with anyone willing, we would no longer need to continue this mission. All we would need is a little food, and all of us would be content to stay and settle here, where we put our satchels down. And so, he swayed the thoughts of his friends, and they all considered his idea with great mediation and finally let their wills meld into his plans.

They reached a shack just two miles shy of downtown, somewhere in the desert. In this shack lived a rifle-carrying old lady. Less frightening was the gun than the fact that someone her age could still legally posess one in her wrinkled, somewhat shaky hands. She held them at gunpoint when they arrived on her lawn, calling out to them to put their "mexican paws down on the ground." Their dark features had her bewildered and her racist streak shown before her sweet sassiness reminiscent of  Betty White. What could they do but follow her orders?

When she realized they spoke perfect American English, she invited them into her home, still untrusting of their American blood, but digressing. She offered them some Lemonade in plastic cups, because she had always dropped the glass ones her daughter bought her for Christmas in 1989. With flour-coated hands, she reached out to put their cups on the table just in front of their feet. One friend asked what she was baking that her hands were floury. She explained that she had just been starting on a recipe her grandmother gave her as a newly married woman, and the recipe yielded 12 perfect cinnamon buns, coated in a rich cooked caramel glaze that was unique to her grandmother. She went on to what it contained ('nothing but real butter!'), hand ground cinnamon, raisins, and her grandmother's secret : orange zest, and only a little in the frosting. She explained that she had made it habit to use her grandmother's recipe for every social event, and she was headed to a picnic at the local YMCA where they all awaited her cinnamon buns. "They like my buns, what can I say?"

When they heard this, instantly they all wanted to know if they too, could come along. Since it wasn't appropriate for a woman of Southern Hospitality to say no to a guest, there was something odd about 3 strange men asking to help a stranger, a little old lady, anywhere if she wasn't in the company of someone able to fend them off, if they decided to steal her precious little Maude-mobile. She called ahead to the YMCA, demanded to see the I.D.'s of all the men, and gave them the names as a precaution.

When they all arrived, they reached the small brick and vinyl siding building that was located downtown. After she parked, they helped her to the door while one man took the tray of fresh cinnamon buns to the table for the event. When inside, he noticed that this seemingly embarassing thing had happened; like women wearing the same dress to an event, it seemed she wasn't the only one to bring the spicy sweet rolls of her grandmother's. It seemed that everyone had brought one dozen rolls, some more fancily adorned for the occasion. Looking not to displease the woman, he put the tray down and walked off, in slight amazement at the odds.

At further inspection, each of the trays seemed slightly inauthentic, as if they lacked the breath of a timeless tradition that the old woman's had glowed with. Perhaps it was just the orange zest acting up with the yeast...Or, maybe, these other rolls were nothing but imitations. After trying to of the nearest rolls, the one man knew there was something familiar to them. Another bite, and the glaring sweetness echoed throughout the following bites. Finally, in a moment of splendor akin to a scene in a Jeunet movie, the man bit into one of the old woman's buns. Years of scarcely any contact with his own family began to come to his mind, oh the joy of those memories with his own grandmother, and all the times she had cushioned him from the blows of a disciplinarian mother. All the warmth she had inside her, was there in the cinnamon center of that roll. A taste of this and all the others, seemed lifeless.

This man knew there was something special to these rolls. Despite the woman's typical lackadaisical disregard for the experience of discourse over her own culinary strengths, the man wanted everyone to try one. There weren't enough, and with all the others they were sure to pass up on this one individual batch, professed to be the best of all, but with the humbleness that home baked goods so often possess. After eating another, in disappointment at the lack of recognition, the man scooped up the rest and snuck them into his satchel for the other men to try. They too, had those feelings of splendor, each going back in the surge of their memories to find something with them that had also connected to this delightfully unpredicted experience.

Fast forward to the present day, and the man has since attained a copy of the recipe after begging and pleading with the old woman. She caved after his promise of companionship and loyalty to her and her tricks and tips, the spread of butter covering the pan instead of cooking spray, the hand ground cinnamon, the freshest organic orange zest, and so on. These tricks have been in his hands for years, and he has since mastered the recipe under the old woman's guidance, while the others went on to find their way back home to tell of the wonderful experience at welcoming parties and events.

What fortune it was to meet this woman, whose exterior proved to be just like that of the buns, and whose insides proved to be the same as well.

In all of our lives we pick up tricks, tips, and guidance from those who know them best, often people close to us. I would like to extend this invitation to you to share your culinary experiences with the world and give us your videos of cinnamon rolls, or baking/cooking/decorating, or whatever you feel has helped you in the kitchen. Home Appetito is for the home made to shine, so please email all contributions to