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A Note from Marcy

A Passion for Home Baking,
The Baker's Batch of New Recipes

October 2003

Reflections on a baker’s beginnings….

People often ask me how I got my start and wound up doing what I am doing or more succinctly, ‘how did you get to where you are”.  It used to be a short story but has evolved as the years have snowballed. If you hate the scenic route, just hold on for my recipe mailer in a few days.

Ahem….

In essence, I was born a writer first, not a baker - but only because I mastered language before I was allowed to turn the oven on and off myself. It is not so much destiny as mechanics.

I was one of those kids that kept diaries, and journals, scribbled poems and at age 12, launched into publishing for the first time with my own street newspaper called The Goldman Times (subscription free to the neighborhood, typing by mom, photocopying by dad, all else by moi – from news, classifieds, to delivery). Apparently, The Goldman Times was ahead of its time.

I still recall the outrage that resulted whenever one of more strident editorials ran (“Water Pistols and Fire Crackers A Danger) or my infamous, op-ed feature (“Ban Bubble Gum in Hockey Cards or Deliver More Gum”). I still have copies of The Goldman Times and nothing quite connects my sons (11, 15, and 18) quite like their being able to see a part of their mom when she was young. That I am still publishing just makes for a great tale of continuity.

I went on to write all sorts of things and ended up at McGill for English Literature. Midway through I decided to work at McGill while still attend as a student and became a secretary at the university while finishing my bachelor’s degree, thinking I would earn and learn. Despite studying Beowulf (my midterm was the menu from that time period; unbelievably/typically, I cooked a Celtic feast, circa 1300; mead figured in each dish), I knew I was going to be a neither teacher nor CBC broadcaster; journalism per se did not appeal. I had no game plan (nor a story to tell) so being a novelist was out. Beyond which I rather imagined writers were people who did not work and lived in garrets. Hardly appealing. As for the earn part of the McGill deal, I had been a secretary before, as summer work. I confess, my skills were lacking, my attitude suspect, and suffice to say, I left an impression in most offices that were hosted me.  I had tried to become an advertising copywriter – the only job that seemed to match my skills and personality. I blame an inherent lack of cool for not ever getting far beyond the toney reception areas of ad places. At this point, being somewhat bright (a smart ass, really), vaguely and cursedly creative, a tad too feisty, and feeling quite thwarted (my friends were all social workers, teachers, accountants), I decided to pursue another passion: baking. Truth is, I was killing them in secretarial.  I balked at everything I was asked to do and seemed only interested in catering and baking the coffee breaks (but not schlepping the coffee). Baking seemed concrete and creative. Knowing when it was time to move on is my strong suit. I was going to be neither a cranky clerk nor an unemployed writer thank-you-very-much.

Happily, my entrepreneurial spirit, which had birthed The Goldman Times, led me to just start baking for restaurants and cafes under the company name of Cuisine d’Or. I trawled through the city, with carrot cake samples and a sales spiel, striking a balance somewhere between the little match girl and a Damon Runyon character. I was both a waif and a freak of marketing savvy.  At first, I baked from my apartment. Soon after, as production necessitated it, I rented a bakery with another chef, a frosty fellow from Brittany called Jean Francois who was as impressed with my American style cakes as I was with his Black Forest tortes (not!). Despite his disdain for my baking abilities, he found me charming (conversely, no man since JF has ever made me quite as queasy) and I spent as many hours tending my cakes as I did eluding his not-so-subtle pursuit, darting over barrels of flour and boxes of chocolate to do so. Jean Francois also had a gallery, in our shared baking premises, of each and every Playboy pinup he had ever collected. I remembered muttering about Miss May and all things unfair while I baked legions of carrot, cheesecakes and chocolate cakes for Montreal restaurants. 

My McGill English diploma was prestigious but not half as useful as the one I garnered, later on from the Quebec Hotel School. For four years, I attended hotel school by night, baked cakes by day alongside chef-patissiere Jean Francois, and delivered them somewhere inbetween my two worlds. By this point, I had accrued 1200 hours as a professional pastry chef and countless more as a baking entrepreneur.  I had reached a peak point in my career – it was a time to forge ahead or re-invent myself. I had read about David’s Cookies, Famous Amos and Mrs. Field and awaited fame or a baking venture capitalist. Instead, I had other adventures such as Lawsuit Muffins, recounted in my second cookbook (The Best of BetterBaking.Com).   When I became pregnant with my first of three sons, I knew it was time to choose: daycare and a big loan for a bakery or a better computer and oven at home, i.e. become a freelance food writer and be at home base as a mother. I opted to be with my boys. So the baker became a mother, as well as a writer (once again) and as naturally as a feather that floats down to earth rests on a perfect branch that seems designed to catch it, I became both a food writer and baking author. My two passions were indelibly, forever, fused. As for the production end of things, resurrecting Cuisine D'or is a lingering notion but being home when the school bus rounds the corner carries more weight.

I freelanced at first for the Montreal Gazette but in time, it became evident that American newspapers seemed far more receptive to my brand of writing and baking and thus my career has been largely stateside. I segued from the Gazette to Bon Appetit Magazine, the New York Times and a whole lot for Detroit, Chicago, Boston, Buffalo, L.A. and of course, the Washington Post. One day, the Internet came along and shortly after that, I met Yvan Huneault, BetterBaking.com’s founding webmaster, and BetterBaking.com, my online magazine,

was born. To someone who had her own newspaper at 12, BB is simply the second coming

of just desserts, so to speak. Indeed, the spirit of The Goldman Times is in every crevice of BetterBaking.com. Despite outward changes to the contrary, I suppose I am the same wordy and mildly renegade, baking girl I have always been.

For those of you who want to become professional bakers, I suggest you take whatever courses you can find, stock up on books, tools, equipment, and ingredients and plunge in. Read, learn, bake, do, and experiment. Food, unlike other professions, has no map but a myriad of paths that lead to the same place. Trust your instincts and run with it. So many people want to be in ‘food’ or become chefs but end up in safer trades. How many people write and tell me “ I am a computer programmer or financial analyst or lawyer but my real love is baking”. Don’t watch your passion from a window, looking in on a world you only dream about – whether it be baking or running a vintage music store. You get only one go-round so do whatever is your heart’s desire; just do it. You can do it slow and small – you do not have to loose your shirt; but you can at least start and find some way, some how to do at least part of your passion.  As for the world of food and baking specifically, you may not get rich but you will never starve nor lack for warmth. And for those of you who simply want to bake better, please keep visiting me here. Recipes galore; baking advice 24/7.

And that, baking boys and girls, is how I got here from there

Due to the recent holidays, my recipe mailer is a bit tardy this month. It should be out soon and it is a real treat of more unique recipes including an Indian summer bonus of Rhubarb Raspberry Biscotti that needs its own patent.  For those who caught my appearances on CTV Canada AM (I demo-ed my Oreo Cheesecake) and others who heard me on Colorado Radio, both locally and nationally last Sunday, thanks for the many notes I have received. Welcome new baking friends. In fact, thanks to all of you for the many notes I receive. It is a pleasure to be part of your baking lives and a guest in your kitchens as you are a guest in mine.

Wishing you a wonderful October,

Marcy Goldman
Author and Writer, Head Baker
BetterBaking.Com Test Kitchen
www.BetterBaking.com
Baker Boulanger Online Magazine
Est 1997- 2003

A Passion for Home Baking,
The Baker's Batch of New Recipes


Previous Monthly Essays from A Note From Marcy:

Essays to tickle your funny bone, wake up your inner baker, twinge on your heartstrings, or make you smile and say, Ive know the feeling; I know the place. If you missed an essay, or a season in baking or inner sensibility, we invite you to stroll through our archived Notes From Marcy.

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 BakerBoulanger / BetterBaking.com 1997-2003