I have been reminded during this holiday season when the kitchen is running on overdrive and the coconut flour is flying out the door faster than I can bring it in, to remember and be anchored by my roots. Remember the connection I have to my work, why my work has meaning, and why I am the person to bring it to the world. As I reflect, I think all my baking started with Carmie.
I may have written about her before as she is the one who taught me to bake. She is my grandmother. I never would have actually called her Carmie, never to her face and never behind her back. She was grandma… or more likely gramma. Carmie is what Pop called her and what her friends called her.
Carolyn Ruth Nagel Dailey was the best baker I knew. She knew everything. How much a pinch was. How to brown butter. How to tell when things were done baking. She and I would pick out recipes of items we wanted to try and then host tea parties with my friends and she would make all the food, with her little helper. She loved coconut, and would laugh when I told her repeatedly that it was worse than eating paper. (I have since changed my mind.) She made me viennese coffee balls when I learned to love coffee and and Pop and I would eat them all ourselves, since we were the only ones that liked coffee.
I only have a few of her favorite recipes these days, but she did give me her Joy of Cooking cookbook from the 1950s that I love to look through. Things were explained so differently back then and I feel closer to her when I read it. But most of her recipes were snipped from magazines. My mom, my sister and I inherited her love of magazines. She would ALWAYS have a few stacks of the latest country magazines on her coffee table. They were full of not only recipes, but gardening tips, country home decorating, and the best places to by Amish goods (all things she loved).
I have been thinking about Carmie a lot recently. My Pop and last living grandparent passed away on November 15th with me by his side. Pop was definitely overshadowed by grandma. I come from a line of strong women and Carmie was strong. I felt very early on after her death that Pop was a new man. He never stopped talking about her and how he loved her and couldn’t wait to meet her again in heaven, but for the first time in my life he was talking. About everything. I remember picking him up from the airport after Christmas in Iowa the year grandma died and he talked non-stop the whole 45 minute ride back to his house. Once we dropped him off, I looked over at Nick and asked him, “Who was that man and what did he do with Pop?” But I loved finally getting to know Pop these last two years.
The one thing I could never understand about Pop was his dislike of chocolate. If there was one thing I definitely inherited from my father, it was the necessity of having chocolate on any item claiming to impersonate a dessert. And while Carmie was alive, Pop never set foot in the kitchen, at her request, except maybe to make himself some coffee or deliver meat from the grill. But after she passed, Pop and I found ourselves comparing recipes for crockpot meals and side dishes. He was even baking his favorites, zucchini bread and bread pudding.
For better or worse, my family has often defined our time together with food. It has shaped who I am (at one point it shaped my waistline.) The love and care my grandmother put into food was always evident. My mother is the same way when she entertains. I try to be that way as well. When I think about this holiday and how much time I have and will spend in the kitchen baking for my family and for my customers… I am happy now to think about the love I put into what I make and how desperately I want you all to feel the love when you eat my food. I also want to educate about food and how it can be healing (and not shape your waistline). That is the next phase of where I want to take my passion and Baked True North as a company.
So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for my family, what they have taught me, and the love they have given. I am also thankful for my customers and how you all have allowed me to be a part of your special times. I pray your homes are filled with healthy food and love this holiday season!
As always… Have a cookie,