One of the best aspects of Butter + Love is the team of people that help make all the magic happen. Although I've tried to do it all myself - especially in the beginning of the company - it's just not possible. Well, it's possible - it just makes me super grumpy... and nobody likes a grumpy baker.
No, instead I've started to assemble a pretty fantastic team, Team B+L. Some work with me in the trenches every day, some for just a matter of hours each week, one from the West Coast, and one who although she has a full-time job at a magazine, occasionally pops in the kitchen to help us make cookies... just because she likes cookies. Over the coming months I want to introduce you to each one, but today, we're going to get to know this last one I mentioned - our hard-working and talented volunteer, Ellie Nowak.
She first came to us by the recommendation of a friend who told us, "Ellie is an amazing baker, one of our best friends, and she has a baking blog called The Boozy Bakeshop where she bakes booze into things. She's curious how a professional bakery is run, so she'd love to volunteer from time to time." I took a look at her blog and was immediately taken with her - any gal who's willing to throw a little tequila (and a dash of snarky sentimentality) in a cupcake just to see what happens, is A-OK with me! A few email exchanges later, Ellie started showing up to the kitchen and B+L started to benefit from her talent, hard work, humor, and willingness to bring in homemade limoncello ice cream.
So, without further ado, I invite you to enjoy the musings, witticisms, and insight of one Miss Ellie Nowak...
The Tin Man
I never much cared for The Wizard of Oz. Perhaps it’s because, while all my friends were dreaming of being a girl from Kansas, with visions of MGM Technicolor dancing in their heads, I failed to find a connection with the cotton-smocked, pigtailed allegory of Frank L. Baum’s feminist sympathies and whatever it was about the silver standard. William Jennings Bryan and allegory aside, the problem was simple: I’m the Tin Man.
Yep, that awkward, funnel hatted, silver faced woodsman is me. Due to an ill-fated love affair, the Tin Man chopped off all of his own limbs with a wickedly enchanted axe. Clever man, he replaced each part with tin, which makes him tireless, without need for food or drink, but devoid of internal organs. Without a heart, he cannot love. Yet, for all his lack of aorta, the Tin Man is kind of the emotional hot mess of the team. I mean, he cries over accidentally crushing a bug.
Like the Tin Man, I don’t have a heart. Yeah, I have the necessary muscle tissue that contracts and expands - I’m not like Iron Man or made of pig valves - but I lack a metaphorical heart, the one that spurts butterflies and romance when punctured. I tire periodically, but I have an innate ability to run in 4-inch heels. I don’t need food and water; I can subsist on Twizzlers and coffee for days. So what do I do when circumstances require a welling of surface emotion? Like the Tin Man, I cry, then I stress-bake and feed people.
I could make a convenient scapegoat of my family; I grew up in a household that never said squishy, sentimental I love yous. Not out loud, anyway. The feeling was there, baked in a pie, like so many proverbial blackbirds. “Hi, are you hungry? Did you eat?” greets you at the door, promptly followed by an outpouring of pot roast, hand-kneaded bread, and an oh-how-convenient-i-just-happened-to-have-a-sponge-cake-and-fresh-berries-here. We argue about the price of lettuce. For my birthday, I ask for butter. Every important conversation happens at the dinner table, though as a stranger in my family, you might need subtitles. We are generations of cooks, bad and good, and this act of giving, of breaking bread, of making the consumable something beautiful, is in itself a language of love.(Fortunately, we are also a family of fast metabolisms).
I hope that this food/love language translates to the real world, because as an adult, I’m still the Tin Man. I’m jointed, but I rattle and clank; words are awkward and often poor. My jaw gets rusty and I say nothing. But I do my Christmas shopping at the butcher counter. I apologize with a bowl of soup. Chocolate salted caramel cupcakes mean thank you; booze-filled pie is the declaration of love that can’t be spoken. Monthly dinners with my NYC family tree spell out whole paragraphs of I need you/I care about you/I want to know you better/I’ve missed you/someone please open the bottle of scotch. And I make an incredibly seductive Thanksgiving turkey. That's right. Incredibly. Seductive. Turkey.
For me, each dish, each cookie, comes from a place of passion, not just for the culinary, but also for the act of creating meaning in a meal. This food is not for survival, but for living. It is for every value I can’t place, every word I can’t say. It makes it possible to go through life tireless and clever, rattling and clanking, polished to a shine. It is a heart of my own making, sawdust filled, but tender.
And I’ve found that girls from Kansas really do make for nice company.