Below is the long version. The Ms Chef in Seattle shop dreams are at the bottom, along with et cetera. “Search” works for biscuit and coffee cake recipes.
My Dutch grandmother taught me to make small royal icing flowers for birthday cakes when I was a little girl and encouraged me to enter baked items into the Puyallup Fair while I was in 4-H, items which gained me blue ribbons. Snickerdoodles, corn muffins and an orange-coconut quick bread. Ages 10 and 11. Now I’m Skype-teaching children how to bake because of the pandemic. We can’t be in the same kitchen for our safety.
My mother encouraged me not only to help cook dinners, but to bake desserts served at dinner and going into lunches the next day. I baked bread often and took a warm loaf across the street to Velda, the lady who ran a poodle kennel and took care of her elderly mother and a WW1 vet who suffered from shell shock. I was paid a dollar for that bread and got to keep fifty cents of it.
As the oldest of six, I not only babysat my siblings but also sat for others who, upon return from an evening out, would find a batch of beautiful, homemade cookies on their kitchen counter.
When I was a student at the University of Washington, I built a small catering business, employing other students as wait and bar staff, doing small dinner parties and an occasional huge cocktail party for university sports fundraisers. My handwritten invoices said “Ms Chef in Seattle, Singing Cateress” and I’ve kept the name but not the stressful catering.
I took many cooking and baking classes and taught such classes, even tutoring one local lady in exchange for lessons in horseback riding, English style, because I was heading off to a foreign land where western saddles were not on offer.
I’ve loved to bake and cook ever since I can remember, but my lifelong favorite time for it was during the Christmas holiday season. My custom was and is to make at least a dozen different kinds of cookies and candies as gifts for family and friends every year. There are a few favorites which I make yearly, but it’s a great way to test the new ones.
Occasionally, I’ve had extra goodies and found there was a market for them. I’ve thought and dreamed about having a bakery with a performance space for as long as I can remember, but … life, responsibilities. We all know there are trade-offs.
Dreams, however? Dreams are another thing, and in my case, many nights I’ve dreamed myself inside an imaginary bakery, seen a cookie or cake that interested me, woken up, written it down, gone back to sleep and discovered it when the alarm rang in the morning. Those cookie dreams plus time and testing have led to lines of actual new cookies over the past 25 years, cookies that are unique, lovely and truly delicious.
They also led me to conclude that it is not necessary to wait for the holiday season to bake them, and market research has shown me that there is a year-round local, national and international market for what I have to offer. When I retired, I put my mind to it.
I’ve been working on a serious business plan for the past year or so that didn’t and doesn’t involve me doing the baking. It was my plan until the pandemic to partner with a good-sized local builder of block-wide apartment complexes, initially the assisted-living and memory care facilities, for senior care, for those who love and need soft cookies and love frosting. That’s what my entire line of Joneses was intended for.
However, talking with others has taught me that many in the younger generations also enjoy delicious flavors and textures in a treat. Working with my mother as chief tester has taught me that there’s many seniors (she’s 91) who also appreciate the many flavors of my Joneses, butter cookies, mini teacakes, chews, Snicks, the newest Wich and candies and on a regular basis! I mail them to her in Poulsbo from Seattle a couple times a month. She gets them the next day and self-rations them until the next batch arrives, knowing full well that she could tell me when she’s out of stock in her hiding place.
Anyway, I’m lucky today because I don’t have a bankrupt chain of small local storefronts on the ground floor of apartment complexes and didn’t join the on-demand, virtual economy which would have begun when those shops were supplied with products made in a commercial bakery from my recipes. The extensive menu was mostly about the wonderful, original cookies but grew to include the specialty caramels and ice creams. (Who knew? Caramels with no corn syrup and artisan ice creams. I blogged about them all.) Time for a new plan.
(The et cetera: I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, lived abroad in Bahrain and England for a good number of years, worked as an antitrust paralegal for 7-8 years, write a lot, have written and not published several each of fiction and non-fiction books, write bluesy, country, torchy music and sing it loud, play piano when I have one and guitar when I don’t [like now], spent many years at universities in Seattle and London writing unpublished academic papers about the Near East and the Persian Gulf which I still follow closely. My favorite sound is little children laughing.)
The little green ladybug appears on baked goods and cards identifying the goody. She’s my special mark.