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A Note from Marcy

 

 Welcome to the Shall We Dance or Shall We Bake Issue
The Special Holiday Issue of BetterBaking.com

(All recipes follow below)

Dear Friends of BB and Fellow Bakers,

Please take your seats. Observe the No Smoking Sign. We ask that you leave your Blackberry and cell phone off. Suspend your skepticism, to-do list, holiday shopping schedule, and prepare to visit a place that wants to welcome you back. It is the dance floor in your kitchen, your living room, the hallway of your apartment or lobby of your condo. Why? Simply because it is the holidays and I am asking you to. Because, as singer Gino Vannelli penned, ‘People gotta move.’ Does a body good. Haul out the holly and your dancin’ togs - I am not taking no for an answer. Please put on your dancing shoes.

And…..please refrain from telling me you have two left feet, dancing is for kids, you cannot follow, cannot lead, or have no time. Find a CD you like such as George Benson’s On Broadway, Donna Summer’s Last Dance,  Copland’s Hoe Down, Bernstein’s American from West Side Story, Stayin’ Alive or the Blue Danube, or the number 9 cut on YoYo Ma’s new Brazil CD and yes, why not, the overture from the Nutcracker Suite. Take off that apron, tie, suit jacket or too-tight belt. Remove your watch. Stretch. Breathe. Flex your arms; feel your wings.

Ready?

Now, close your eyes. Step to an inner beat. Sway to a tune only you hear. Reach out to a partner that is perfectly, infinitely the right fit. Say yes. Say now.

There is no wrong move, no wrong step on this dance floor. It has the perfect traction. Take that first step and then let go; let fly. Don’t look down. Don’t check the mirror.  If you fall, I will catch you. If you stumble, fake it. Find the beat again.

If someone asks you to dance – do not demure. If you are not dancing, then ask someone else to dance.

In this month’s holiday issue of Betterbaking.com,  after our baking chores are done,  I am taking you dancing. I insist, in an Andy Kaufman take ‘em out for milk and cookies sort of way. It is that time of year. I am sure you are rusty – you have worked hard all fall, all year, in fact, and you need to have some fun. So, come. Don’t make us late.  Leave a note. Tell them: don’t wait up. We will be back before dawn, our dance shoes all worn out but perfectly lined up, waiting for another evening, when the moon is high, the stars are out and no one sees us sneak off for another go-round at the ball.

Is your heart beating yet?

Sincerely,
The Dancing Queen of the Bakery
 

The Dance Really Begins…..

Confession: contrary to appearances, I am not the most perfect mother you will ever meet. On more than one occasion, I have forgotten to pack those little packets of Kleenex, run out of grape-flavored Tylenol, and worse, never, ever have packed carrot sticks in lunches (we do not even do lunch boxes). I am infamous for my resistance to Tupperware and consistently fail to sign notes from school. I have been called the Bill Murray of mothers for my indifference to the garden variety duties that somehow plague me.  As a pastry chef, I am the first one to say, ‘Let’s have dessert first”  Truly, there are but misdemeanors but I take it one step further. As mother to three teenage sons I do something far more unpardonable than these domestic sins. Ready? Ok. Here it is: I dance in public. I dance in the streets. A lot. Regularly. Increasingly without the least modicum of shame. I dance big too – not little subtle shuffling steps no one quite sees and could be mistaken for shifting the weigh of groceries on my hip but full grand jettes, arabesques, tango ouchos, salsa and tap and the odd bit of flamenco. I dance in the car, waiting at stop lights; I dance in the shoe store, trying on saucy black heels, just thinking about the next time I will get to dance.  I dance in the aisles of Costco, of supermarkets in the burbs or core of the trendier parts of Montreal like the Jean Talon Market, at sunrise,  and I dance in the parks, on the baseball diamonds and behind the bleacher seats. I have danced in parking lots, in the lady’s room at my endocrinologist and waltzed in the garage of my dealership waiting for winter tires to be put on my car. Frankly, I can’t stop. Don’t ask me. I used to be covert-wait-til-the-coast-was-clear private dancer. But somehow, once I divorced, I became a full blown, latent dancer, too long held back, on a veritable tear. I installed a ballet bar in my bedroom and spent idle minutes sewing pink satin ribbons on pink kid ballet shoes.   Lord of the Dance rage coincided with my marital exit and for months, between lawyers and all sorts of unpleasantness, I turned Celtic and danced my way through all manner of trials. I bought black leather strappy sort of folk dance shoes and gravitated towards anything in black and green velvet. I started baking all manner of soda breads and never, much like the dancing, have ever stopped. And neither have those quiet, inner, ovations.

At first, it was an ‘at home’ thing which segued to a backyard deck thing, then pretty soon it spilled over to my car, my summer walks, autumn forest jaunts, and I did a total cross over I danced in front of the muscle/weight lifting guys (whose average thigh is the diameter of my waist) in the weight room at my gym. They stared at me, I stared back (plie, jette, grand battement) and a few times, I was kicked out of the weight room. But these days, we (they versus me) are rather like the zebras and giraffes on the African tundra,  who graze oblivious of the other species (i.e. we do not even notice each other) .

I have danced so often, in the most unlikely places (the gazebo in the forest near me is still the best spot) that my sons, bless them, hardly even notice and better yet, I believe I often spy a covert and benign smile thing happening. Truth is, a happy mom, however daft about dancing, is not a bad thing. I mean, however weird, most kids can stand happy.

Now, many of you are aware that I am a tanquero masquerading as a baker and so it is no surprise, to hear me wax lyrical about tango (and I intend to do so again, quite soon, look out for two more Tango essays over the holiday season), but the dance love affair goes way, way back.

It started in Miss Elsie Solomon’s Dance Class. Other little girls went to ballet school. I also did briefly, as well as dance camp,  but looked totally wan in pink and never could get the conformity thing down pat – which in those days, was what ballet was about. You might say I tossed the tutu but kept that fabulous posture.  Instead,  I went to Elsie Solomon’s Dance Studio. Elsie, a once, on the verge prima ballerina who really was an exceptional modern dancer way before her time, had a school that was unlike any other dance school.  What made it different were her particularly passionate and artistic sensibility and a similar predisposition in being, like me, unable to conform. Had she been in the States and had it been 1980 or so, she would have been another Martha Graham. Because she was Canadian, she ended up the sort of dance teachers they do movies about – sort of a Prime of Miss Jean Brody/Bob Fosse film.  Elsie taught the daughters of counter culture mothers like mine who shunned ballet and we were blithely ladled over at a crucial time of our development, along with scads of requisite black Capezio cut off leotards. Elsie, as you could expect, totally shunned the established pink tights and scoffed at toe shoes. Only when dye tie things hit their first stride, did she relent and finally I allow us to wear colorful dancewear to class. But that is a small niggling point. (Besides, black is so…..slimming).

Now, Elsie Solomon, classically trained herself, was no slouch, you should pardon the pun. She insisted on bar work, center floor work and all manner or rigorous modern and ballet warm up. But then, 45 minutes in, the magic began. The lights would dim, our piano accompanist began a quiet, vamp til cue in the background and Elsie would talk about this or that – about the advent of snow, or falling leaves or how stars look and then one by one, she shut the flood lights, and light a spotlight, filmed with different colored gels. She would nod to her pianist (Phyllis, then Roger, and a great introspective accompanist called Nicolas) and the musical improv began. The lighting altered the room, the music snaked its way into our bludgeoning dancer’s psyches and off we went –improvisational dance in a room soaked in turquoise and sunrise pinks. When the music stopped and we held our poses (caught in the act of being a star or reenacting fire, no less), I scarcely remembered where I was. That is how powerful it was. I have never flown but I suspect, those afternoons, being 8 or 9 or 11,  being totally, absolutely creatively free to be …..anything, is as close to having wings as one can be – unless……

Cue me at sixteen. Dating girl. No matter how great the date, the minute I arrived home and bid whatever suitor goodnight, good NIGHT!, I snuck out again – ah, the nice part of having no curfew – and danced yet again. This time, I did the Cinderella thing – dancing under the midnight moon (which is why I love that poster of Moonstruck so much – that pretty well sums it up), using the corner street light on our block, as my spotlight. I danced in Keds and jeans and no matter how romantic a night I thought I had, dance took me to another place – a place I could not seem to share…..until…….

Years later, and it is audition time and I try out as a dancer for chorus line after chorus line. Newly married, I become a dancer, (eighties style, ratty clothes, layered stuff, but mercifully, no headband)  when I am not baking or writing. I order the record (the record! Can you imagine?) Fame and the A Chorus Line and dance until…….

I became a mother. Of one, then two, then three boys. No one told me to stop dancing. I just figured I should. I hung up my shoes and tucked away the warm-ups. Until……I found dance classes that offered daycare yet somehow, no matter what class I took at that point – be it modern, ballet, jazz, Broadway, nothing clicked. Until I saw the ad for tango and that was lucky seven years ago and like the gingerbread man that leaped out of the oven with the town’s people chasing him, I have never, ever, let myself stop dancing again. I tango with many wonderful partners, and I tango on my own. I rent dance rooms on occasion (budget that should have gone for Tupperware) and some days, no matter how replete they are with my sons, friends, work, and other wonderful things I cannot wait to fit at least 10 minutes of dance in. 

A day without dance is a day without flying.

What is different about ballroom dance, which Argentinean tango is, more or less (a dispute for another day), is that you do it with someone else. You trip the light fantastic too much and you will trip yourself and your partner. No, couple dancing is another freedom and another experience and at some point up the road, I will let you know exactly how exquisite it is.

If you have seen Shall We Dance,  (yes, both the original and the newer Shall We Dance are both great and worth seeing), then you begin to appreciate that dance supercedes everything else. What I mean is, you might think it is about romance on the dance floor, or living out a dream of Broadway or finding grace or gracefulness. But it is really about the absolute, universal thing that happens to you the minute you move to music. You smile. You forget your cares. You might start self-conscious and inhibited and then you graduate to ‘who cares/Snoopy on top of the dog house’ happy dance that says: dance is joy and life is joyful. Ah – wait – there’s that great scene in Strictly Ballroom, which has to go on your must-view list along with Mostly Martha and Wedding for Bella. In this particular scene, there is a middle aged dance studio owner, dancing to Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time, on the rooftop of his school, oblivious to everything but his own spirit. He forgets – heck you forget, he is middle aged. You just see a man dancing and the total absorption and his own completeness in that solitary act. See what I mean? The joy thing. Many roads lead to it but one that always does is dance. We’ve known this since cave times.

Now, if you are like Richard Gere in Shall We Dance you might have a hidden agenda: find a partner off the dance floor (been there, done that, will probably fall prey to it again), or court a reluctant spouse back to romance via the dance. Forget both agendas. Take yourself to dance. Find another partner or wake up the reluctant spouse with your own overflow of energy. Register for salsa, ballroom, elementary ballet, intermediate jazz and modern,  sink into Argentinean tango,  find a bar with line dancing, a YMCA or YMHA that offer folk or a crash course in pre-wedding dance classes but FIND A PLACE.  Don’t wait for January – you will change your mind by then. Reality or something like it, will set in. No, find a place that has a wood floor, mirrors, and lots of other people who glow with the secret that dancers, both amateur and pro,  from 5 to 115 know: there is no faster way to find your spirit than on the dance floor. It is like crossing over into the eternal party room – holiday season or not. 

Please do not say you have no sense of rhythm or ‘were’ a dancer. No one ‘was’ a dancer anymore than anyone ‘used to bake’. It is always in you. Please do not think dancing is for lean people or young people or artistic people. It is for human people. You. Yes, you dancing around your dishwasher, waiting for sugar cookies to cool. Yes, you who secretly want to make that Cinderella entrance to the ball. Don’t wait for an invitation. Go. Tie on those glass slippers, pat down those wings so no one sees just how magic it is, and just how magic you can be. Welcome to the ballroom of life. You sugarplum, you.

Warmest greetings from my kitchens, both personal and professional, to each and all of you. Wishing you happy baking and sweet times, always,

Marcy Goldman
Wheat Siren, Writer, and always a Dancer

www.BetterBaking.Com

Some last minute New Year's Treats and New Year's Brunch Recipes

 

New Year's Eve or New Year's Brunch 'Big' Cheesecake For noshing before or on midnight, or serving up the next day, at a glamorous New Year’s Brunch with friends.
Weekend Breakfast Cinnamon Crumb Coffeecake Crumb cakes – always welcome – like a cinnamon dream come to life. Cue the coffee. Brew the tea.
Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins Muffins are a mustVegetable Dip in a Bread Bowl Quick and easy and impresses ……without stress
$250. 00 Chocolate Chip Cookie Gotta have a cookie and why not start the year with a fun one?
Salmon Cream Cheese Hor D'Oeuvres Roll Lox on call…..only it is canned salmon, cream cheese, liquid smoke and a magical recipe. Someone spring for the water biscuits.
New Year’s Day Scrambled Eggs and Camembert Eggs: humble or heavenly and your best source of iron…..and instant main dish
Bistro Style Lasagna Bistro Style Lasagna
Restaurant Style Caesar Salad With Oven Roasted Garlic Croutons One of those star attraction salads
Quiche-in-a-Loaf Elegant, slices of crustless quiche. Serve as is, hot, warm, cold, with or without salsa
Potatonik Over 1000 people who downloaded this and made it can’t be wrong. A golden wonder
Hungarian Scalloped Potatoes Serve with salad and eggs – a standard in the brunch repertoire

Some more recipes for subscribers' holiday baking!

Antipasto Bread A saucy, stuffed bread to wow anyone
Orange, Almond and Vanilla Baby Scones Just a wee, sweet thing, the Krispie Kreme of scones......
Asian Style Tofu For a respite from turkey! (My gift to a vegetarian friend, SC)

Chianti and Parmesan Biscotti Rustic and gourmet all at once
Beer and Cheddar Biscotti Nippy, sharp bites or shavings to go with that Bud....
The ‘O’ List’s Key Lime Bundt Cake A winner is unveiled. Paradise in a cake.
Dulce de Leche Chocolate Enrobed Biscuits Quick and dirty, elegant, no sweat, gift-able treats

Be Mine, Sweetheart Cherry Blossom Cookies Worth the price of subscription. Indescribable, one of a kind, stupendous cookie. Totally awesome.
Village Baker’s Holiday Cranberry Orange Bread Moist, sweet, gourmet taste but easy.
Egg Nog Biscotti A timely mix of spice and crunch
BetterBaking.Com Test Kitchen Holiday Mandarin and Chocolate Chip Glazed Scones Pretty, buttery, high rising elegant scones
Vintage Fruit Cocktail Cake Great company cake, incredible glaze
Overnight Cinnamon Buns How to look like Barbie and bake like a doll.
Bakeshop Doughnut Muffins A gift or a morning bite, or guest fare.
Classic Almond Christmas Stollen Elegant old Europe in new world simplicity
Baker's Best Panettone Who need's an import? Bake domestic. Save the economy.
Egg Nog Biscotti Perfect spice, perfect flavor.
Bar Nuts Sometimes you feel like a nut

 

 

 

Some last minute New Year's Treats and New Year's Brunch Recipes

 

New Year's Eve or New Year's Brunch 'Big' Cheesecake For noshing before or on midnight, or serving up the next day, at a glamorous New Year’s Brunch with friends.
One-Bowl Cinnamon Crumb Coffeecake Crumb cakes – always welcome – like a cinnamon dream come to life. Cue the coffee. Brew the tea.
Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins Muffins are a mustSuper Bowl Vegetable Dip in a Bread Bowl Quick and easy and impresses ……without stress
$250. 00 Chocolate Chip Cookie or Almost Mrs. Fields Gotta have a cookie and why not start the year with a fun one?
Salmon Cream Cheese Hor D'Oeuvres Roll Lox on call…..only it is canned salmon, cream cheese, liquid smoke and a magical recipe. Someone spring for the water biscuits.
Scrambled Eggs and Camembert Eggs: humble or heavenly and your best source of iron…..and instant main dish
Bistro Style Lasagna Bistro Style Lasagna
Restaurant Style Caesar Salad With Oven Roasted Sour Dough Garlic Croutons One of those star attraction salads
Quiche-in-a-Loaf Elegant, slices of crustless quiche. Serve as is, hot, warm, cold, with or without salsa
Potatonik Over 1000 people who downloaded this and made it can’t be wrong. A golden wonder
Hungarian Scalloped Potatoes Serve with salad and eggs – a standard in the brunch repertoire
 

 

Some more recipes for subscribers' holiday baking!

A saucy, stuffed bread to wow anyone
Orange, Almond and Vanilla Baby Scones Just a wee, sweet thing, the Krispie Kreme of scones......
Asian Style Tofu For a respite from turkey! (My gift to a vegetarian friend, SC)

Chianti, Black Olive and Parmesan Biscotti Rustic and gourmet all at once
Beer and Cheddar Biscotti Nippy, sharp bites or shavings to go with that Bud....
The Oprah or O List Key Lime Bundt Cake A winner is unveiled. Paradise in a cake.
Dulce de Leche Chocolate Enrobed Biscuits Quick and dirty, elegant, no sweat, gift-able treats

Worth the price of subscription. Indescribable, one of a kind, stupendous cookie. Totally awesome.
Moist, sweet, gourmet taste but easy.
A timely mix of spice and crunch
Mandarin and Chocolate Chip Glazed Scones Pretty, buttery, high rising elegant scones
Vintage Fruit Cocktail Cake Great company cake, incredible glaze
Overnight Cinnamon Buns How to look like Barbie and bake like a doll.
A gift or a morning bite, or guest fare.
Golden Almond Holiday Stollen Elegant old Europe in new world simplicity
Gourmet Shop Panettone Who need's an import? Bake domestic. Save the economy.
Perfect spice, perfect flavor.
Bar Nuts Sometimes you feel like a nut

December 2004

Some special things for dancers……and friends of dancers….
What to get in gifts for the Fred and Ginger in your circle….

Here are my picks:

Best dance clothes in the world or where to get that Lilac Sweater Jennifer Lopez wears in Shall We Dance? www.kddance.com.
I found out about Kddance years ago and ordered their incredible off-the-shoulder ballet/fashion sweaters any time I can. The ones I already have are so threadbare that a Broadway gypsy would throw them out but I will never part with them. Each Kddance item is totally precious. The colors! The fit! The look! Pure treasures not just for dancers. In Shall We Dance, Jennifer Lopez wears a stunning, lilac sweater. When I saw it, I thought – that has to be a Kddance design. It was! I ordered the same sweater that Jen wore (I look better – honest) and you can too (Kddance makes them to order and yet they are shipped out within a week, tops). Miramax should be promoting that sweater – it made the movie! It stole the scene.  Instead, you heard it here first: BetterBaking.com gets to say bravo Kddance – you deserve it. To order the sweater, visit the www.KDDance website, . Designed by dancers, they also have street wear clothes, yoga, spa wear and ballet togs. Kddance folks are also great bakers.

Best tango and dance shoes? www.taratangoshoes.com
Best shoes for tango, ballroom, or simply ordinary women who want goddess-like yet comfortable gams this holiday season,  are the dancer-designed, dancer approved shoes by Robin Tara herself, of South Portland, Maine www.taratangoshoes.com.

 These shoes are equally about looks and style but offer 4-6 hour pure dance comfort (which is the equivalent of 8500 cell phone minutes without recharging a battery) Visit the site, and choose shoes, and the best personalized (they phone you as soon as you email!) service on or off the net. How do they know your size? They are experts and while you return until you find the fit, it is rare they even goof once. And for online sales and operations manager of TaraTango shoes,  Katherine Clark who asked, How will you combine baking and dance in an essay? Well it’s like this: I asked Katherine if she liked to baked. She admitted that for over two decades, she had been in fact, the chocolate chip cookie queen/entrepreneur of Portland, Maine. She was, in a previous life, a baker turned dance shoe promoter. So, that is, how one combines dance and baking. No sweat.

The Tao of Tango, almost a cult book on tango by Joanna Siegmann, who found dance and its connection to Taoism and made it into a little book everybody in tango should have a copy of. A great gift for anyone, a super stocking stuffer for a dancer. Available at www.Trafford.com and amazon.com.


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, ‘I’ve 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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