The Way the Crinkle Crumbles

Back to the Crinkles:

The first issue, was that I proceeded to try and puncture the cookie with the toothy strength needed to break through our family tradition of over-caramelized undersides and dry snappy hardness.

As a result, I overly chomped right through the softness and took a mini-chunk out of the inside of my bottom lip. Reflexively, I attempted to shout like hurt people do, “Oh, ow!” Instead, on the inhale, I vacuumed some of the powdery topping (which, being unfamiliar with Crinkles, I didn’t realize was powdered) into my mouth and throat and very upper bronchials.

I spewed forth a spattering cloud of exhaled wheezing, followed by immediate tears; continuing with a deep barking coughing spell that seemed like it was never going to end. Jeff handed me a cup of presumably water, which turned out to be milk. Not fond of straight-up milk, I unhappily expectorated it before it got too far. Jeff’s eyes bugged wide, eyebrows rising toward his hairline in astonishment.

He grabbed a kitchen chair, rolled it over to me and pressed down on my shoulders until I was seated. Firmly patting me on the back, his face mere inches from mine, Jeff alarmedly asked if I was ok. I shook my head ‘no’ at first, but eventually, croaked out that I thought I would be. “Ok.” Jeff bobbed his head, clearing his face of concern. With my hands in his, hope in his eyes, and an adorable earnestness, Jeff took a deep breath, then asked, “So, how’d ya like it?”

He never did make me an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookie, but believe me: the ones he made were surely enough. Snickerdoodles and Sour Cream cookies. Buttery Sugar Cookies and melt-in-your-mouth Spritz.

Soft Peanut Butter and rich Scotchies. Potato Chip cookies and Billy Goats. Almond Crescents and Thumbprints. Perfectly spiced Gingerbread, both, soft rounds and firm, but not tooth-breaking, rolled.

Anise Stars, which, without fail, he would purposefully mispronounce, then laugh out loud at his own  joke. No-Bakes, which I firmly argued against calling a cookie.

Later on, and only for us, Jeff spiced cookies with various degrees of heat. Habanero shortbread; dark-chocolate cake-based cayenne. Spicy icing and mini-cheesecakes flavored with an awesome heated line of dessert hot sauces called Toad Sweat. 

Oh, and what turned out to be one of my favorites – Crinkles. I would safely lick most of the sugar off of the pretty tops, before delicately biting to ensure injury-free enjoyment.

Quote for the Week:

2018 12 25 For good measure, the proper ratio of sugar and spice jakorte

Cookie Season

I like cookies. I’d say I love them, but that wouldn’t be fair to cake. Especially, since cookies actually fall third to my super love: donuts!

Oh, who am I kidding? Unless it’s got a walnut or pineapple in it, I’ll eat any cookie that comes my way. It’s Cookie Season, now. I’m plumping up a bit, but that’s what New Year’s resolutions are made of.

Cookies weren’t really varied in my youth. Standard homemade choices were chocolate chip, peanut butter and oatmeal. All crispy, all crunchy, all of the time.

With the exception of rarely made and ridiculously rigid sugar cookies, holiday cookies were softer. Concocted of a cream cheese enriched dough; featuring some sort of jelly, preserves or fruit butter. The same ingredients, just presented differently, depending on the celebration.

I had no complaints as a kid, but Jeff taught me about other confections. My contented hard-cookie horizon expanded to a galaxy of undiscovered soft and chewy treasures.

Jeff made marvelously moist Oatmeal Raisin cookies, often. I once (and only once) requested the addition of chocolate chips. He stared at me in confusion for a beat, then simply stated, “There’s not supposed to be chocolate chips in ’em.”

He didn’t understand rather involved Rugelach, but he made them for me, anyway. Minus walnuts, plus my chocolate chips. As far as I’m concerned, he invented the stunning combination: chocolate & unseeded-raspberry rolls of delight.

I’d never heard of a Crinkle Cookie, until Jeff made them for Christmas. They looked so pretty on a tray: gently sloping, round mounds of contrasting dark dough and a bright white, crack-emphasizing topping.

“Try one,” Jeff encouraged.

“What do they taste like?” I wanted to know.

“Like a chocolate cookie,” he answered matter-of-factly. “Try one.”

Death by Chocolate can be a very real thing. That pastry almost killed me.

Quote for the Week:2018 12 18 What's normal for one is novel for another jakorte

Cookies brought to you by J, T, V & Me.

It’s good to know folks who make cookies. Those who makes cookies are usually good folks!

 

Bystanding; Beside You

Little moments change us every day.

Mostly, we hardly notice; adjusting with a four-second, second-thought: next time I’ll…

It’s the tremendous moments that throw us. Moments so life altering, we clutch our chest, gasping it in. Release comes way too slowly; a barely audible woosh, because there are no words and there never will be.

Just as misleading as “A Year of Memories,” losses pile on.

a daughter, a father and husband, a brother, a mother and friend. pls, a closed head injury, stage 4 lymphoma, melanoma, and some sort of vague, obviously understated, emergency surgery I still don’t know enough about.

This is your year of firsts.

The first day, the first week, the first month. The first winter, spring, summer and fall. The first birthday, the first holiday, the first missed ritual. The first of many commonly ordinary, unspecial wishing days.

It’s ok. It marks time. It gives us a measured outline, a flowing structure. 

It’s ok to have an honest day;  especially, an honest holiday. 

Holes lives leave cannot be filled, cannot be fixed, and are not meant to be, anyway.

They’re yours – to have or to hold or to heal.

I just want you to know: you’re not alone.

I’m walking beside you, because, that’s what love leads to.

Quote for the Week:

2018 12 04 It's ok to have an honest day jakorte

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smokin’ Sweet

Jeff would probably be unhappy that I am sharing these photos.

He adamantly wanted to be cremated, no open casket. “So, no one will have to carry my lard-a**,” he insisted. And, because he didn’t want people to remember him that way.

But, for those of us who loved him, I’m pretty sure we’re not going to get stuck on that. We’re going to be too enraptured by his normal, larger than life joy.

And for those of you who didn’t know him, I hope you might start to feel like you did. 

There are a couple things worth pointing out.

1. He’s got hot sauce everywhere!

2. Some of those spots left slight burn marks on him.

3. That’s his Dad, Roger, in the background. 

4.  Dale Jr. Budweiser hat, MHSC embroidered logo shirt, half-wrapped legs, socks with sandals, and pukka shell choker which he would argue was definitely not a “necklace.’

5. Bottles of varying Scoville. Only a few I can make out: Michigan Hot Sauce Club, Ass-Kickin’, Bee Sting, El Yucateco, and one hot sauce bottle with an eyedropper – most likely Blair’s Reserve or Dave’s Ultimate Insanity – waivers required.

6. A craft table, a tasting table, and the flatbed, still attached to the truck. I still have an awesome handmade raised-potting bed, which I keep full of artificial plants, including a pretty realistic hot pepper pot.

The hard work Jeff put in was impressive.  Even as far back as my initial hesitation, my heart and gut were already swaying me. Not specifically knowing what lay ahead, I somehow chose the path of no-regret.

Following Jeff, I did my best to run behind him and jump ahead of him; proud of his accomplishment and thrilled that most of my worrying was for naught. 

The end result was a jump-up in community awareness and an amazing increase in sales. The financial risk paid off. By the end of August 2006, in just our third operational year, we had broken even  – for the year. Before the holiday season had begun!

The success was smokin’ sweet. We did it, but couldn’t have without  huge amounts of help from friends and family, Tecumseh and Adrian small business owners, and BNI members. Most importantly, we did it together. 

2018 11 13 salsapalooza event

 

It Happened.

When I finally realized it could happen, within our budget, within our time frame. I got to work.

I created flyers, postcards, judging guidelines, tasting labels and signs, decorated donation jars. I made sure we had my emergency event supply kit, as well as a first aid kit. I organized the program and timing of contests. We made many trips to the local dollar store for supplies and décor.

We recruited family and friends to work. The weather cooperated; the vendors showed up. Two of Jeff’s friends came from Ohio with one of those humungous dancing windsocks, and set that up. (There’s a story about these two, I also have to tell.)

When it was time for our live interview, Jeff came and found me. Carting two folding chairs, he walked me over to the outdoor radio set-up. He looked around, and snapped his fingers. Lifting one in the air, Jeff observed another seat would be needed, but first. he had to go check on something.

He wandered away as quickly as a wanderer can, and never came back. So, that’s how I ended up at the tech board, fielding questions about things I wasn’t 100% sure about and providing information, alone.

I didn’t really mind, and had no trouble doing it by myself, but when I asked Jeff what had kept him away, he sheepishly admitted he just hadn’t liked how he’d sounded when we’d recorded a small pre-spot at the radio station studio.

For as loud and happy as Jeff was, he shied away from spotlights. He loved parties, and loved planning. He just preferred to be one of the crowd; in among the people, where the action was.

The hot sauce eating contest began with only a handful of participants. That number dropped pretty quickly. Three rounds in, there were only two. The guy who became the second-place winner finally quit when his tears started to burn his cheeks. He walked away with $25.00. The first-place winner ridiculously took another spoonful hit as a ‘Victory Lap,” and then announced she was off to spend her $50.00 prize at El Chalupin (aka The Grasshopper) in Adrian for a Mexican dinner.

Jeff and pretty much everyone spectating, were astonished by that. I didn’t think it’d be worth it for anyone to go as far as they did. Chili-heads are a fierce, feisty and fun-loving bunch, devoted to fiery foods. The fiery food vendor and selling community were the most enthusiastic folks I’ve ever done business with. Jeff fit right in.

Many of our vendors were just as dedicated, just as friendly. I have many stories to share about them. That’ll be coming up.

Thought for the Week:

2018 11 20 Share your enthusiasm cultivate and curate jakorte

 

 

 

 

 

Peppered; with Doubt

Truthfully, I still doubted we’d be able to pull it off, but Jeff’s enthusiasm continued to rise.

A few things made it easier for me to delegate. Trust that he’d try. Lack of Time I could devote. And a little bit of doubt that it could be accomplished in the first place. I figured the worst that could happen was we’d have to cancel. But, then, we’d at least have a head-start on planning for it next year. 

With a detailed list of questions and tasks, I handed Jeff the reins and went along for the ride.

Have you gotten permission from the mall?

Will it hurt the other stores’ business or are they ok with it?

Power – can we run bounce houses and band at the same time without blowing out the mall?

What type of permits do we need?

What type of permits do our table/craft people need to have?

Is there be enough parking in our small lot?

Do we need traffic control on the busy two-lane highway?

Are we sure the tables and chairs and tents will be at no cost?

Who will judge the homemade salsas, and how many judges do we need?

How will we handle entries so that it is an anonymous vote?

Do we want to categorize? Sweet salsa, savory salsa, spicier than normal salsa?

Should we ask winners or all entrants to share their recipes, so we can include them in the next monthly newsletter? What is the prize?

Who will handle hot sauce eating and contest registrations, run the register?

Decide how many fan favorites we want to have people voting on? 5? 10?

Then, invite suppliers to provide one type of salsa product for tasting,  let them know the votes will be 25 cents each and donated to ARC. Might need a few jars from each.

Revise the regular waiver for extreme heat sales to address participation in the hot sauce eating contest.

What are the prizes? One winner or 1st, 2nd, 3rd?

Update the membership list, add new customers.

What do we want to say in our mailing to members? On website? On radio?

Do we want to give a discount or a special favor to our members? Do we want to include this for new sign-ups on the day of the event, too?

Can we really use ‘palooza’?

I’d like to change the name from Sauceapalooza to Salsapalooza. Our store name has hot sauce in it, so that part will be obvious. Not everyone likes hot sauce, but most people like salsa. Plus, it would encourage salsa entries.

What if it rains? Or pours? Or is windy? Or nobody comes?

By the conclusion of one more BNI meeting, in one week, he got it all done, all laid out and all planned. Except for the weather, of course.

Quote for the Week:

2018 11 20 two things make it easier to delegate

All Fired Up!

When Jeff had a dream, he dreamt big. He’d laugh and call it a vision.

And it would always begin with, “Suppose…”

All of our Michigan Hot Sauce Club store open house events began that way. We held tastings. Jeff made snappy dips, fiery cheeseballs and poured crab salsa over cream cheese. We’d line up 5 jars of salsa or 5 bottles of hot sauce or 5 bowls of fiery snacks/candy/cookies, labeling each with a heat index. Mostly, to protect the mild lovers from accidentally dipping into anything Blair’s or Dave’s Insanity.

He developed some unique chili – bean and corn, no-bean burger, smoked jalapeno brisket, and an amazing white bean chicken bright green chili, that took its color from an awesome sauce named Swap Scum.

My favorite heated creation was the Spicy Texas Sheet cake.  Such a perfect combination of cocoa and sugar and spice. I tried to make it once without him. It just wasn’t the same. I followed his recipe verbatim, but it lacked Jeff’s magic touch.

That’s not a flighty compliment. I firmly believe everything came out scrumptious simply because Jeff believed it would. Just as I know, he truly meant it when he said everything will be fine, even though it most likely wouldn’t. It was an admirable trait, which occasionally annoyed me to exasperation.

Yes, GOD would provide, but He gave us brains to figure out how we could help ourselves, as well. I was a disaster planner. Jeff was a ‘let’s see how this goes’ guy. Stress begets stress, but Jeff deflected well.

I’d say, “If this… then that.” He’d say, “Ok.”

I’d say, “But, if that, then this other thing.” Jeff would say, “Ok.”

I’d say, “Unless that other thing turns into another thing.” Jeff would say, “Let’s just see what happens.”

His weekly BNI meeting had incubated an idea he was all fired-up about. Pun intended; that was Jeff’s favorite tag line.

In fact, each meeting he would come up with a variation or punny description. “MHSC, the biggest little hot sauce store east of the Mississippi!” On Thanksgiving, it was the biggest little hot sauce store west of Turkey. On Halloween, it was the scariest little hot sauce store in Tecumseh. It became his trademark – members would look forward to what he would say next.

One evening, I came home to Jeff’s biggest “Suppose…”, yet.

Quote for the Week:

2018 10 23 theres no reason to dream small jakorte