Inspiration Good Enough To Eat

About a week ago I received a surprise package from Amazon.com. I thought it was my new camera, so I got all excited and tore into the box. Admittedly, I was slightly disappointed when I realized it wasn't my camera, but thoroughly delighted when I saw that it was a book entitled "Confections of a Closet Master Baker" written by Gesine Bullock-Prado. I still have no idea who sent it to me as there was no note, so if it was you, THANK YOU.

I was even more excited when I read the description at the bottom of the front cover: "One woman's sweet journey from unhappy Hollywood Executive to contented Country Baker." I held the book up to my husband, Bryan, prominently displaying the cover and exclaimed, "That's just like ME!"

Granted, I wasn't an Unhappy Hollywood Executive. I was an unhappy Advertising Executive. A Strategic Planning Director for a private jet client, to be exact. Sounds glamorous, right? It wasn't. I'd had it with abusive clients, freak-outs over absurd deadlines, impossible requests and overall irrational behavior. For ten years, coast-to-coast, I worked insane hours for potentially insane clients, and finally just burnt out. That's not to say it was all bad, because I've had an incredible advertising career. I met wonderful, smart people, helped create award-winning work, attended groundbreaking conferences and got the opportunity to dig deep into peoples' psyche and create advertising that worked. It shaped me as a professional, as a person and as a consumer, for which I'm hugely grateful.

But then last April everything changed. The economy tanked, Bryan had just been let go as sound effects guru for Adam Carolla's L.A.-based morning radio show and I had just been let go from my ad agency. Then the impossible happened: A week after I got laid off, Bryan was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Our "let's enjoy fun-employment" attitude quickly turned into sheer panic, followed by months of radiation and chemotherapy. Oh, and we were planning our wedding throughout all of it. To say it was surreal is a huge understatement.

So what did I do during the darkest days? The days when Bryan slept for 20 hours, deep in a radiation-induced fog and brain swelling? I baked. I cooked. I spent hours stirring, whisking, pouring, tasting, refining recipes. I baked hundreds of cookies, brownies, cupcakes, pastries and savory snacks. My whisking arm ached, my hand developed callouses and my feet got pins & needles from hours spent standing on our tiled kitchen floor. But I loved every minute of it. It was edible therapy and you better believe every friend and family member we knew got boxes of sweet treats. After a few months, I started getting customized requests. "Can you make me 12 boxes of cookies as a Christmas gift for my colleagues?" "Can you make turtle brownies for my mom?" "Can you make pumpkin cupcakes with a certain frosting?" And as Bryan got better, I kept my promise to myself and finally start this site, Pardon My Crumbs.

Bryan is improving each day and we're starting to look for work again. But this time my perspective is totally, 100% different. I want to do what I LOVE, which is what led me to start this blog in the first place. It's literally been a lifetime of foodie love in the making, as I've cooked and baked my way through 30 years of good, bad and spectacularly unspectacular moments. It was my intention to start Pardon My Crumbs right after being laid off, but then cancer happened. So instead I started
An Inconvenient Tumor, documenting our journey battling cancer. Nine months, 350,000+ readers and hundreds of handmade pastries later, I have reawakened my love for baking, cooking and writing.

So this is a
really long-winded way of saying that Gesine's book, Confections of a Closet Master Baker, has whet both my physical and professional appetite for going after what I know I was meant to do: making myself and others happy, one mouth-watering bite at a time. Whether it's a meal I've personally prepared or a tantalizingly written description of a meal I've just experienced, I hope it makes people equally happy. How I'm going get there remains to be seen, but the fact that I even have this site to share these thoughts is a good starting place. :)

Before I sign off, I want to share two passages from
Confections of a Closet Master Baker that really resonated with me; so much so that it seemed as though I had written them. I actually woke up Bryan one night so I could read them to him. He was thrilled, believe me. :)

In Chapter Two, entitled "To Thine Own Baking Self Be True," Gesine writes,

"There I was in Los Angeles, a place dedicated to the pursuit of economic happiness and grotesque exposure. Where it's de rigueur to drop $2000 on a prestige handbag that's meant to be utilized for a month and then forgotten in a growing pile of once-chic leather sacks. And the cycle starts again. I wasn't witnessing any cathartic bouts of maturity. I was living at the epicenter of an ugly cess-pool of mass consumption. And I was part of it, because although I complained about it and found it repulsive, I wasn't changing it...I didn't want more stuff. I wanted to be more happy. It took a long while to truly wake up and realize that the job and the life I'd been looking for, the one that was fulfilling and that fed my sugar-laced soul, was pastry. Everyone else knew before I did."

Now that Gesine has followed her dream, leaving Hollywood for Vermont and trading her chic studio closet for wrinkled t-shirts, aprons and baking clogs, she has found her niche: making people happy, one pastry at a time. And I thank her for inspiring me to try my best to do the same. This is my vision, perfectly expressed in her book. Except I may not be in Vermont.

"Back in the wee hours in Vermont when I'm alone in my kitchen, I work full of anticipation. Every pastry has the potential of making someone perfectly happy, of momentarily stripping them of adult worries and baggage. So while the world sleeps, I brew my coffee and wake to the reality of my one-woman pastry revolution. With a little caffeine ripping through my veins, I'm conjuring, not baking, creating spells for your every ailment. So don't be offended if I still can't offer you a hug or even a smile as a gesture of warmth, but please take this little pastry. It embodies my goodness and kindness, together as one tasty treat."

Now, back to the book. :)


  1. I'm a relatively new follower and I am amazed by your journey. I lived in Montpelier, Vermont when Gisine opened her shop. The line was out the door and wrapped around the corner! It was quite the talk of the little town.

  2. Shoot, I typed Gesine's name wrong. Sorry, Gesine!

  3. Hi Erin! Thanks for the comment and for reading. I would love to try her shop and love trying the recipes in her book! They're fabulous.

  4. Hi, Christie -- Great post again -- I just love the way you write. You probably already know this, but Gesine Bullock-Prado is Sandra Bullock's sister. They both seem to have their heads on so straight.

    Thanks for pointing me to this cookbook!

    Liz Holmes @ twenty-firstcenturyhousewife.blogspot.com

  5. Thanks so much Liz! I posted a link to gourmet cheese shops nation-wide the other day...hopefully that can hep find you some burrata?? Enjoy the cookbook; it's really great!


Related Posts with Thumbnails