1.25.2008

If it wasn't for my mother...

On Thursday evening I had the honor of joining 14 other aspiring food writers at the home of Diane Morgan. An award-winning cookbook author and freelance food writer, Diane resides in Portland and hosts a yearly six-week course on The Art of Food Writing. I was lucky enough to jump at the opportunity when a former high school classmate and fellow food blogger, Keith, put the bug in my ear that Diane was registering attendees. The first night proved to be interesting, entertaining, and inspiring as the group did the classic round table of who we were, why we were there, and what we wanted for our paths to becoming food writers. We also received an in-depth, live biography of Diane's road through the industry. I am eager to embark on the remaining five classes of learning and developing and watching as all of our skills grow.

Diane wasted no time with a few exercises. One was focused on the art of recipe writing, which was an assignment due for the next class. But the first was a five-minute, free-writing exercise. I've done free-writing exercises in the past and for some reason always seem to forget how helpful they are when my mind is stuck or I'm avoiding my laptop surrounded by books and an abundance of topics that I could write about. Pick a topic, any topic, and with the five minutes that follow, write whatever comes to mind without stopping or critiquing any possible spelling or grammar errors. Diane gave us a topic, 'If it wasn't for my mother...' and then started the clock. Below is what I wrote...

If it wasn't for my mother, I would have never received the wonderful attention I received today at FOODday for bringing in her famous peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. I remember Allen asking me last week what my favorite childhood recipe was. I told hm it was probably my mom's, her "Mrs. Fields", cookies. I promised Allen I would bring them in. Days past and I finally gathered all of the ingredients I needed. Last night I composed the batter, but waited until this morning to bake them. I wanted the cookies to be fresh and in their absolute best light; for this was their day to shine, and in a sense, my mom's day to shine at one of Portland's most well-respected authorities on food. So I popped them in the oven at 9:15am and carefully stood by for the nine minutes of baking. They were each perfectly uniform and looked like heaven. (End of five-minute free-write, but I decided to continue on this morning...)

The smell was just as I remembered when my mom used to make them; warm semi-sweet chocolate chips, brown sugar, vanilla, and creamy peanut butter. What more could you want on a cold winter day? And still today, just as when I was a kid, it's incredibly tough for me to refrain from nibbling on the remaining cooking dough sitting in the bowl, waiting for its time in the oven. I tell everyone that, in my opinion, the dough is the best part. By the time the cookies are done, I've had so much of the decadent cookie dough that I have no need for an actual cookie. And lucky for those in the newsroom, that was the case yesterday. I did two-and-a-half sheet pans, yielding 35 cookies. For some reason, three came out a bit more toasty than the others so those stayed behind, about five went to my good friend and artist of my freshly sculpted eyebrows, Ingrid, so that left about 27 for the paper. I placed all 27 on one of my new, white, square plates with the rounded edges and carefully wrapped them with two layers of plastic wrap. The plate slid perfectly inside my Culinate cloth grocery bag and were ready for the trip to the transit center, a ride on the Max, and the walk from Pioneer Courthouse Square up Broadway to 1320 SW Broadway.

When I arrived in the kitchen Allen was heating up his lunch in one of the microwaves. "Allen, I have something for you today," I said and carefully placed the bag on the counter. I was a bit hesitant to bring them out too quickly, though. Why? The day prior I had chatted with Mike Davis, photo editor for the Oregonian. Mike often times doubles as the actual photographer and shoots many of the shots featured in FOODday and MIX magazine. I had an idea. "How cool would it be for my mom to have a couple of stylized photos of her famous cookies?" I asked him with a look on my face that most likely resembled that of a five-year-old little girl asking her father for the doggy in the window. Mike immediately agreed the idea would be a great one. So before announcing the arrival of the cookies to the newsroom I was glad when Mike walked into the kitchen for another photoshoot planned for the day. While Linda and Danielle discussed the recipes for the "real" photoshoot, I asked Mike if he wanted to "warm up" and shoot some photos of the cookies. He, of course, said yes, and we snuck into a corner of the studio to shoot. It is amazing what the magic of a camera, and cameraman, can do. The cookies are delectable on their own, but with a few clicks and minor adjustments to the cookies, Mike took them to a new level of stardom.



And one for the dunkers; catching the actual drop coming off the cookie...go Mike!

And I'm glad Mike got the shots. Once word spread that they were in the kitchen, they were being gobbled by the second, and after a quick walk through the newsroom, they were gone for good. And Allen nearly lost his chance, too, but snagged one just in the nick of time.

Now as most food bloggers always supply recipes for their sweet and savory creations, I must refrain. This is my mother's recipe and it's always been her wish that it stays in the family...sorry. Maybe someday she'll decide to send it out to the rest of the world, but that will be her decision. For me, it's not my recipe to give out; I guess I'm just lucky to be in the family!
Thanks, mom, and all the mom's out there who create those special, one-of-a-kind goodies that last from childhood and beyond.

Cheers,
JF

6 comments:

Alejandra said...

What a beautiful story! (And beautiful cookies!) I completely agree that some recipes must be kept secret until the time comes to pass it on to just the right person. Food bloggers or not, we all deserve to keep a few recipes to ourselves.

Carrie said...

Yummy! Those pictures so make me miss your mom's cookies! What a beautiful hand model as well! (-: Sounds like Food Day is funand you're learning a lot! When's brunch? - C

Sheila Saltmarsh said...

Ohh my gosh! I remember eating that cookie dough out of the bowl at your house on the golf course! Your mom created great memories for me as well. Thanks Anita! Are your hands/nails ALWAYS that beautiful? Love, she

Keith said...

hey,thanks for the shout out. See you in class.
ps. I like your new banner.

James & Susy said...

We love the story and the photos! And yes the hand model must have been a hired professional, right? :)

Jennifer said...

Ha. Thanks for the hand model compliments. I guess I have my mother to thank for those as well. ;) I don't know if anyone saw the Feb. 5th edition of FOODday with the chocolate bark. I was the one stirring the tempered chocolate on page FD7. So now my hands, arms, and stomach are famous...hee! ;)

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