Loosely defined as "something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure", the concept of lagniappe or la napa is Spanish in origin, later adopted by the Creole French.
If you are fortunate enough to be as old as I am, you might remember this concept played out as the baker's dozen: you bought a dozen donuts, and the baker might throw in a 13th donut, just because. Or so you would think. In reality, the practice dates back to medieval times, when bakers would be flogged if they cheated their customers by providing anything less than that for which they had paid. To be extra sure that they didn't miscount, bakers began throwing in an extra loaf, as a precaution against a possible flogging.
Thank goodness, it's not the fear of a flogging that makes us want to include a little something when our customers keep returning to purchase our baked goods. In some cases, we just want you to try a new cookie we may have baked. In others, we know that you may have ordered a dozen cookies, but the temptation to have one 'on the way home' is just too much to resist, and you can't show up with one less cookie for your family (don't worry, Beth, I won't tell anyone).
So, we are bringing back the baker's dozen. Anytime you order a dozen of our cookies, or bonbons, or whoopie pies, we will throw in one on us. Just because we're nice like that. But we are not too nice either - in order to get your lagniappe, we invite you to join our newly minted Baker's Dozen Club. Simply sign up, and every time you order a dozen baked goods from us, you will get one on the house. Bonus, you will also be the first to know about our new products and promotions.
This has really inspired me to think of more old-fashioned customs or traditions we can bring back - any ideas? I'd love to hear your thoughts, and if we like your suggestion and implement it, we'll send you a little something. Now, isn't that nice?
Also, just a little reminder: with a graduation, family visiting, birthdays, and a trip coming up, we will not be at the Midtown Farmer's Market until July 14th. Except for when I'm traveling between July 3rd through the 11th, our ovens are still on, baking up cookie gifts for teachers, graduation cakes aplenty, and decadent pies.
Now, please excuse me while I go cry my eyes out so I don't embarrass my daughter during her Senior Assembly tomorrow, at which she is one of the speakers. Wish me luck!
If my math is correct, Grandma Lucille would have celebrated her 102nd birthday yesterday. I still miss her tremendously, although I last saw her in 2006, when we moved from California to Oklahoma.
Having just eloped with her 20 year old grandson, I didn't know what kind of reception to expect when my brand new husband took me to meet his grandparents. Both 80 years old at the time, they were my first true glimpse into an American family, and they welcomed me with open arms. Grandma Lucille in particular, with her wide open smile and embrace instantly made me feel like I belonged. Given the fact that 57 years and a continent separated our upbringing, we should have had very little in common. But our love of family and food created memories that I will cherish forever.
Grandma was of Norwegian descent, and in fact grew up speaking the language on their farm in South Dakota. One of her favorite memories, and a tradition that she continued for her children was of making lefse, very thin pancakes make with potatoes and flour. Slathered with butter and sugar, they are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. There is a true art to making them, and getting the dough just right. Being Indian, and making rotis (whole wheat flatbreads) almost since I could stand upright, lefse were fairly easy for me to make. Learning how to make lefse from Grandma, and her delight when she realized that I knew exactly what she meant when she said that "the dough just needs to feel right" is hands-down my favorite memory with her.
I understand why we feel the need to memorialize people. Statues do it for some people. Grandiose poems have been written about others. We have an entire day (weekend, really) dedicated to fallen soldiers too numerous to honor individually. For Grandma Lucille, I think a fitting memorial would be to continue making memories - to pass down the art of making lefse to my daughters, to love someone because they love your family, no matter where they came from, to stay smiling until the very end no matter how many hardships you've endured, and to make a big difference in a thousand small ways. We don't have the time for anything less than that.
Making lefse, 2006
Insert emoji with one finger tapping my chin, while I thoughtfully look up somewhere beyond the tree tops. There are lots of things that make me go hmm...such as flip flops with fur on them. That one is pretty contradictory, in my opinion. Then, there are other things like cautionary signs on hair dryers that say "Do not use in bathtub". I mean, that one ought to be pretty obvious, right?
Except, seemingly it's not. Apparently, we have to state fundamental facts like "Smoking Causes Cancer" and "Black lives matter".
Let me introduce you to Mr. B, a former student from the culinary class I teach at the downtown men's shelter. These men are homeless for various reasons, and the reasons they are there is of less concern to me than the necessity to equip them with skills so they can get employed, and stay employed. Believe me when I tell you, not a single one of them wants to be there. Mr. B., who was initially quiet, emerged soon enough as the fastest learner in the group, and witty to boot. His interest was obvious from the keenly intelligent questions he always asked, and his quick comebacks kept class light-hearted.
One day I was teaching knife skills, and expounding on the various types of knives, their uses and specific functions, as well as the importance of keeping them sharp and at peak performance. Mr. B's voice piped up and said, "so you're saying chef's knives matter". Of course that got the intended laugh out of the class (I will admit it took most of them a minute to understand that he was, in fact, alluding to the slogan of Black Lives Matter). Have I mentioned that Mr. B is a young man who is black? I thought his 'Chef's Knives Matter' quote was awfully clever, and the more I've thought about it, the more appropriate it seems. We are all different, with various experiences and unique skill sets which, when applied properly, enhance the melting pot of our society. But, in order to contribute to society, we must first, as children and then young adults be taught our purpose. Be nurtured, taken care of and cherished, so we know to do the same. In other words, be honed to peak performance.
It should go without saying that all lives are of equal importance, that we as human beings matter. If ought to be shameful to us as a society that we have to talk about the fact that lives other than our own matter. I prefer Mr. B's take on it, his tongue-in-cheek approach that we can say anything we like, but it's what we do that matters. I liked it so much, in fact, that I put it on a shirt. Multiple shirts. And have decided to offer them for sale. Available for now at our Farmer's Market booth in North Hills, we are going to use every cent of the profit from the sale of these shirts to benefit children and youth who are not being taught their own value. I have a few ideas, but would like to hear from you, if you know how we can make an impact.
Do something. For someone. I promise you it matters to them.
Don't call attention to yourself. Don't smile at boys. Always be ladylike. Don't laugh too loudly. Don't run/jump/ride a motorcycle/take chances because you could hurt or disfigure yourself, and then who will marry you?
We, as girls, keep getting told that we should let other people's expectations define us. That we should be careful about our behavior, so we don't cause negative, derogatory or lustful thoughts in other people's minds.
My older daughter and I had a wonderful time while watching the musical Waitress last night. As entertaining and funny as it was, it brought on some pretty strong emotions because of the underlying theme of battered women - some emotionally, and some physically. Jenna, the main character, is stuck in an unhappy, controlling marriage, where she does everything she can to placate her abusive husband on a daily basis. Her only outlet is in baking - specifically, baking pies with true-to-her-situation themes like Betrayed By My Eggs pie - when she finds out she is pregnant.
Happily, I am not in an abusive marriage. But, the message of burying oneself to please others definitely dredged up the words, thoughts and old wives' tales brand of wisdom employed in my upbringing, and in the upbringing of almost every other girl I knew. And as I sat there watching, with my daughter at my side, and thinking of my younger daughter at home, I realized that to some extent, I had tried to teach them the same things that were taught to me. Not to repress them, but to protect them. To keep them safe from culture and society's portrayal of women.
But safety never has, and never will be in just staying home. To stay in a box made of society's expectations. We are safer when we are vocal, together. When we have each other's backs. While I observe plenty of young men who follow centuries of rules for the roles they are expected to play, I've encountered enough teenage boys who don't follow those rules. I see them treating young women as equals, and with dignity. Being open with their own feelings, and being vulnerable to getting hurt. Recognizing that while they might be physically stronger than some girls, they can't hold a candle to a woman's inner strength. And for that, I thank their mamas. The ones who changed the dialogue. The ones who taught them that paying attention to a girl's feelings doesn't make them weak, it gives them a partner. And to the dads, who are raising boys and teaching them how to be men of character.
I think I need to make a Time For Change pie: two equal layers of dark chocolate and white chocolate mousse on a baked graham cracker crust made just nutty enough with ground toasted pecans in it. Topped with a mixed berry compote that is sweet and tart, for fruitiness. Finished with cloudy, cardamom scented whipped cream, for the dreamers.
Is this post a little over the top? Yes. Do I hear my mother's voice in my ear saying, "it's too much, you're going too far, don't call attention to yourself?" Yes. Am I posting this anyway, for the women who won't, or can't say anything? Yes.
Oh, and Happy Mother's Day.
Wife, mother, baker, jam maker, hug dispenser, reader.