Wow! What a year it has been for me. Truly, this year has been the stuff of dreams and I can’t quite believe I’ve had the opportunities and experiences that I have had. I am truly a lucky person who has been blessed with so much.
I plan to tell you more about everything, but as my final post of the year, I want to tell you about a special person who has enriched my life in ways I never dared to imagine. Her name is Nancy Baggett and I am proud and thrilled to call her a friend and a mentor.
The story actually starts for me 20 years ago when I was in grad school (wow, I can’t believe that was 20 years ago). I was at NYU and my dad and his family lived in Connecticut. So, I would take the bus up to CT on a regular basis to hang out with them. My stepmom was an avid cook and baker like me, so we spent many happy hours in the kitchen, hanging out, making food, and chatting. One day she said she had gotten a new cookie cookbook and as far as she was concerned, it was the best cookie book out there. Well, of course I had to get it. The book was The International Cookie Cookbook, by Nancy Baggett. And my stepmom was right—this book was a winner! It immediately took pride of place in my tiny NYC kitchen and I turned to it whenever I needed to make cookies.
Later, when I moved to Seattle in 1990 to start my new position at a local university, I kept baking cookies. And I roped in a new friend of mine, Carla, who also worked at the university, to bake with me. I don’t remember how we started, but Carla and I developed a tradition of baking cookies each Christmas, using the recipe Nancy has in her book for Iced Sugar Cookies. We spent hours and hours rolling out, cutting, baking, and decorating cookies. To be honest, I have no memory of what we did with all of those cookies (other than eat them)—I think we each must have brought in our cookies to the university for our students to eat. But, I remember so fondly the afternoons of sheer cookie baking bliss.
10 years later, I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance and had to start adapting wheat baking recipes to gluten-free. Of course, one of the first books of recipes I adapted was Nancy’s book. By this time, she had another cookie cookbook out, The All-American Cookie Book, which I also started adapting (she is a prolific writer–she also has several other, non-cookie cookbooks). I couldn’t live without cookies—and especially, without Nancy’s recipes. And when I switched my blog over to focus on gluten-free baking (instead of knitting and chickens), I posted my adaptations. One day I posted an adaptation to her Jam-Filled Butter Cookies, from her first cookie book, which she mentioned were also known as Hussar’s Kisses in Hungary. In my post, I wondered why they were called Hussar’s Kisses. To my surprise and delight, Nancy sent me an email saying that she could never find why, either. Wow! One of my baking heroes actually commented on my site! I couldn’t believe it!
As it turns out, Nancy has a daughter-in-law who is celiac. So, we chatted every so often over email about how to adapt baking recipes to gluten-free. And we ran into each other at food conferences. And as time went by, I started to think about writing a gluten-free baking book. And, I always had the thought in the back of my head that I wanted Nancy to write the foreward to that book. Don’t get me wrong, I had no real idea how or when I would get the opportunity to write a baking book, but I just knew I wanted Nancy to be a part of it, should it ever come.
Eventually, I got the opportunity to write a baking cookbook! Wow! And after the book was written and most of the major edits were done, I screwed up my courage to ask Nancy if she would consider writing the foreward. Amazingly, she said she would consider it—but she needed to try out some of the recipes in the book to make sure she liked them. I sent her some recipes and waited. I didn’t have to wait long—she got back to me very quickly and said that she was amazed at how good the recipes were that she tried and she would be happy to write the foreward. I was over the moon!! This was the icing on the cake for me. And she ended up writing a foreward that I think it written in diamond dust. It’s just exactly what the book needed. I am still amazed and thrilled when I open the book and read the foreward!
But the story doesn’t end there. This past August, Nancy called me with a proposition. She said that since her new book, Simply Sensational Cookies, was coming out at the same time my book was coming out (in mid-October), she asked if I would like to come to Maryland and share her book launch party with her. My answer, of course, was a resounding, “yes!” I couldn’t get over what a generous offer this was. So, in the first part of October, I flew out to Maryland to share her book launch. On top of everything else, I stayed with Nancy, her husband Charlie, and their dog Remy. Nancy and I spent the next couple of days baking recipes out of our books for the party (me, baking in Nancy Baggett’s kitchen—wowee!). It was such a special time for me. I loved hanging out and feeling like part of her family.
On the big night, we went to her son’s spectacular vacation house, which was the location for the party, to set up. Let me tell you, Nancy is the consummate party-thrower. The location was lovely—an amazing house that overlooked a beautiful river–the food was terrific (she even had the caterer make gluten-free crab cakes for me!!), and the guests were wonderful. On top of everything else, I got a chance to meet some talented folks I had previously only known online, including Monica Bhide and Domenica Marchetti (who are in the background of the photo above) and Jules Shepard. It was an evening I will never forget. I still can’t quite believe it all happened. And it happened because of Nancy. I now consider Nancy a true friend and a mentor. And, I continue to be in awe of the exquisite work she does. She is the author of many cookbooks and each one is amazing, well-written, and well-tested. Her recipes are bullet-proof. Not only that, she is fun and funny and someone I just plain old enjoy hanging out with. Who knew? I am so lucky and blessed to be on this journey—and I still can’t quite believe how the thread that began in the late 1980’s led me to the link I now share with Nancy. This is my way of saying: Thank you, Nancy! I am honored to have you in my life.
One last thing: Nancy’s new book, Simply Sensational Cookies, is fabulous. Of course it is—it’s by Nancy Baggett and it’s on cookies. I highly recommend it—I’ve been baking from it all fall and I just love it. It’s another classic that has pride of place on my bookshelves.