It All Started With A Bald Headed Man

Note: I got very few pictures when my mother passed away, so I’m sending out an SOS to my family to scan and email pictures, of both the cake that started it all and her appearance on the Letterman show.  I’ll do a follow-up post when I get them.

In January 1987, just a couple of weeks before I gave birth to Darling Daughter, my mother opened a bakery.  She was 42, newly divorced, and unsure – or as unsure as my mother could be.  Which probably wasn’t much.

Her business had been open maybe a year, and she was struggling a little, when a staff writer for the weekend magazine that came in the Sunday edition of the Dallas Morning News wandered in.  He introduced himself and explained that he wrote pieces on new businesses in Dallas and would she care to be the subject of such an article?

I think her response was somewhere along the lines of “Does an ursine mammal evacuate his bowels in a densely forested area?”

During their “interview” he discovered that, among many other things, she sold decorated cakes.  Not just your run-of-the-mill sheet cake with a few roses and a border either, but truly unique sculpted and airbrushed cakes.  He asked her to decorate one, and said he’d send someone over to photograph it in a few days.  So she did.  A small, two-layer cake that looked just like the head of a little bald headed man with a fringe of hair.  He even had a mustache.

The week after the article appeared with the picture of the cake, the orders began to POUR in.  It was like a tidal wave.  I was working for my mother by then, and we came in early and stayed late every day for who knows how long in order to bake and decorate cakes in the shape of people’s heads.  It was insane, and the little bald headed man remained her signature cake for the rest of her life, although it didn’t stop there by any means.

A few weeks after the article appeared and we found ourselves awash in all sorts of cakes, plus donuts and pastries and bread and sandwiches and salads and soups and cookies and brownies and pies, some people from the State Fair of Texas wandered in and asked Mom if she would like to do a cake decorating demonstration once a day, every day, during the fair.

For the uninitiated, Texas boasts the largest state fair in the country.  The grounds are located on 277 acres in one of the seedier areas of the city (yes, IN the city), and conservative estimates put annual attendence at 3,000,000 people each year.  It is a three-week-long spectacle every autumn that ensures hard arteries (Fletcher’s Corny Dogs!  Jack’s French Fries!  Saltwater Taffy!  Funnel Cakes!  Just To Name A Few!), an empty wallet, and one a helluva good time.  One of the big attractions is the Arts and Crafts Building (known as the Women’s Building when I was growing up), and it’s many contests and demonstrations.  That’s where Mom’s daily demonstration was held.

Mom, who had more personality in her big toe than most people have in their entire bodies, was a HUGE hit.  She laughed and joked with the crowd and generally kept people in stitches, and ended each demonstration by cutting the half-sheet cake she decorated into bite-sized squares and handing them out to the people who watched.  By the end of the run of the fair, there wasn’t enough cake to go around by half.  She was THAT entertaining.

So it was no surprise when the Powers That Be asked her to come back the following year, which she did – in fact, she made a daily appearance every year until she died.  (She always decorated a burnt-orange and white cake on the day of the Texas-OU game, while she good-naturedly heckled the OU fans, who always laughed and told her how much they enjoyed watching her.)  And it was no surprise to anyone – except maybe Mom – when, on the last day of her second year doing the demo, she was approached by two talent scouts who asked her if she was interested in appearing on Late Night with David Letterman.

I believe her response to that was something along the lines of “Does the Holy Father sport a piece of vertically impressive headgear?”

And so it was that Mom found herself in an NBC studio on Friday, November 24, 1989, attempting to teach David Letterman how to decorate a cake…David Letterman, whom she discombobulated so completely that he threatened her with an icing-covered spatula before her six-minute segment was up.  At the end, she batted her eyelashes at and drooled all over Paul Shaffer.

It was a sight to behold.

Alert the Media

I exercised this morning.

Yes, I got up, put on my sweatpants, a sports bra, socks and walking shoes, went down to the basement and walked on the treadmill for damn near half an hour. I didn’t walk really fast or do any inclines – I know how long it’s been since I’ve been down there and am not real keen on the thought of dropping dead in my basement while I’m alone in the house – but I did work up a light sweat. I glanced furtively at the BowFlex and AbLounge while taking my little stroll, wondering if they were sneering at the fat lady who has been neglecting them for so long. Well, they’ll get their turn.

As you might have guessed, I don’t care much for exercising. In fact, it falls at about #493 on my list of “Favorite Things to Do”, right below “Brushing my teeth with battery acid” and right above “An intimate encounter with my ex-husband.” Why then, you may reasonably ask, did I choose to exercise today? Well, there are several reasons, really.

I don’t like how fat my face looks in the picture I have over at MidLifeBloggers.

I’m also painfully aware of my overindulgence with a bottle of Shiraz and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s while I drooled over Derek Jacobi for a good 4 hours last night (yes, I know he’s gay and I don’t give a tin shit – the man’s voice makes me swoon). While I’m sure Hell will freeze over before I entirely cease with the aforementioned indulgences, they could certainly use a good curtailing and some exercise to counteract the effects when they do happen.

I have no intention of ruining the fact that I’ve successfully quit smoking by continuing to jeopardize my health, risking heart disease and diabetes, because of my weight. Nope – ain’t gonna do it.

I want to be able to keep up with Beloved while we’re hiking when (not if, WHEN) we finally get to New Zealand for a vacation.

And most importantly, I fully intend to attend next year’s BlogHer. ‘Nuff said.

I will also bypass the wine and ice cream today, and eat reasonable amounts of foods with actual nutritional value – a hardboiled, cage-free egg, some fat-free yogurt, fresh strawberries and blueberries, leftover stir fry (no rice). I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do with the pork chop that awaits me for dinner, but it won’t be fried or served with potatoes and gravy. Perhaps another stir fry is in order.

Oooo – I have some fresh peaches – I wonder how one of those would work into a stir fry with some gold bell pepper, onion and zucchini.

I’ll let you know.

My Favorite Fantasy

Does NOT include Patrick Stewart in his Federation uniform, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine or Johnny Depp in any way, shape, form or fashion. Believe it or not.

No, my favorite fantasy involves me waking up at 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning (that is a fantasy in itself), stumbling into the kitchen to make coffee only to find my loving family – my ENTIRE loving family – gathered around the dining room table with half a dozen cookbooks and an equal number of recipe websites on my laptop, our grocery store’s sale circular spread out between them. There’s a lively discussion taking place about individual tastes (especially mine), what meals accommodate the family’s busy schedules, what is cost-effective, nutritious and tasty.

They are planning the menu for the week.

They don’t have to go grocery shopping; they don’t even have to cook any of the meals (lest we leave fantasy behind and enter the land of utter lunacy); just plan them. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for seven days.


Disclaimer: Since my beloved is the most avid reader of my blog, I feel obligated to mention that he does our laundry. Every week. He also has no issues with vacuum cleaners, dust rags, SOS pads or toilet brushes. He does more than his fair share of housework.

See this? It is my ass. It is covered.