Monday, May 9, 2011

Full Circle

This wonderful story is from my guy, Satid. Enjoy! ~Meg

I’m the luckiest guy in the world.  Not only have I had the pleasure of sharing the last few years and the same nest with one of these two birds, I’ve had the opportunity to follow them as they set forth on their great scheme to win over the local community, one muffin at a time.  Whether participating in Two Birds “focus groups” (muffin/cookie tastings), or serving as a research and development guinea pig (free cookies), or conducting quality control of the product (more free cookies!), my taste buds have seen many seemingly disparate pairs of ingredients find a happy home with each other and in my belly!  

Featured in delightful muffins and cookies (with equally delightful names such as: Sgt. Pepper’s Strawberry Fields, Midnight in India, and Two Strips and a Short Stack), the meeting of strawberries and pepper, chocolate and curry, bacon and... baking powder?... was fated in the confectionary stars, it was destined.  So it seems, also, that I was destined to play the supporting role in the life of a baker, or bake-tress, as it were.   

An extra-large cake made to feed the whole mall!

For this little skater bird, raised on the beaches of Florida, this wasn’t his first stint in the bakery business (or rather, the business of eating up all of the profits, one pecan sticky roll at a time).  You see, my family owned our own bakery for 10 or so years of my childhood.  I must have been 6 when my dad retired from military service and made the decision to become a baker, himself.  I remember my parents going away for a few months (leaving my sister and I at Aunt Ellen’s house in St. Louis to witness our first winter snow) and subsequently returning to Florida, with us in tow and with them skilled in the baker’s arts. They opened the bakery knowing how to top a perfectly rolled danish, how to create intricate floral patterns out of frosting, etc., and supported us and our appetite through our adolescence.  Everything from fudge nut brownies and apple turnovers to cinnamon-raisin breads and 5-tiered cakes was baked daily from our shop, in our town’s local shopping mall.

Mom in action

I always loved watching my parents at work, using all of the tools at their disposal - multi-bladed pizza-cutter looking devices to cut dough, giant industrial-sized mixers, etc.   Unfortunately, as a 10-year-old, I didn’t get much of a chance to play with their grown-up toys.  In fact, bakery life for me, overall, didn’t involve much hands-on, in the “creative process”, you could say.  They let me do little things, things that were likely to not have violated child labor laws and sanitary codes (as written for late 70s small-town family bakeries). Nevertheless, the sight of me “working” must have been comic relief for the other employees.  Picture this little, then 3-foot-tall Thai boy, donned proudly in his adult-sized apron (while ever-vigilant of said apron’s desire to trip him at every step) and up on a step stool, trying to frost cookies cooling on the countertop. 

Dad in action

With that said, my time spent “on the clock” would ultimately be left to be found at the intersection of airbrushing stenciled-out ETs (as in “ET, phone home”) onto cookies (in other colors besides brown, to avoid copyright infringement) and over-pumping bavarian creme into chocolate eclairs.  That was pretty much the extent of my “hands-on” experience with baking.  I never really had any confidence in making things that I couldn’t microwave or pour milk onto, anyway.  I’ve always been generally intimidated by recipes, afraid to change ingredients or worried that I would measure out the “called-for” amounts incorrectly, down to individual grains of salt.  It always amazes me to watch these two birds, like my parents before them, in the kitchen, working their alchemy.  A pinch of this for taste, a scoop of whatever that was for texture, and so on, taking their elemental understanding of ingredients to a whole new level and creating masterpieces with them.  Nope, it seems that my skill lies less in the preparation of foods and more in the indulgence of them.  Here’s my secret: find food that makes you smile when you eat it, eat more of it, smile, repeat.   

My sister on the left

A whole lifetime (and a bunch of recurring dreams of “the bakery” still being open) later, here I am - full circle, packing homemade yummy cookies into my lunch bag and bragging immodestly of how lucky I am.  And yet, I try not to take for granted how fortunate I am to have these birds (and their concoctions) in my life.  As for this current run of delicious delectables ever-available to me, the gods must be smiling. 

Again, meeting my bird, Megan, must have been destined.  It hit home, literally, on a visit back to Florida.  My mother suggested that I go through the attic to see if there was anything left over from the days of the bakery that could be of use to Megan.  We rummaged through old boxes and found scrapers and spats among other things that were left unused and in pristine condition.  Just seeing them brought back a whole lifetime of memories, invoked nostalgia, and excited me in a weird way that spoke to me  finally getting a chance to use a scraper like a grown-up.  Anyway, I like to think that those items were just waiting there for *both* Megan and I to arrive at a time and place for them to finally be un-boxed and used.  
Yup, destiny. And something about these two birds. Their ability to read tea leaves and then go on to make a wonderfully delicious earl grey muffin out of those leaves (and make me smile) is magical. 

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