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Once Upon a Time – How We Became Bakers

February 18, 2021

“You girls should start a baking business!” Mom said for the thirty-fourth time in the past three years. My stomach felt a little uneasy, and the dull November chill outside didn’t help. But my mind was compelling me. It could work, but would it? I glanced at my sister Beka and wondered if she was thinking the same thing. Apparently so. She sent a puff of air at the strand of red hair that always tried to live across her face. She always does that when she is determined, and I could tell she was very much so now. If she was so determined, then perhaps it could succeed. Thus began the adventure.
At sixteen and thirteen years of age and deep in the farm country of southern Mississippi, cash making options were severely limited. But we were good bakers—at least, that’s what our family and friends assured us.

The next few days were a blur of creating flyers, which, I am ashamed to say, I was very proud of, for I thought a little too highly of my computer design skills. Disagreements were had over what to sell, and Beka, having always been better at debate, had the last word first. We baked test batches and our family devoured them quite delightedly. Then came the worst part of all: figuring out all the costs and rounding them up enough to make a profit and still stay beneath highway robbery. How much does one-quarter teaspoon of salt cost, anyway?
Next came advertising: Mom acted as our chauffeur and took us around town to the doctors, lawyers, and other folks who might hire out their baking for the holidays. We had both been shy kids, probably due to being homeschooled, but that was not a good trait, Mom explained, and she had set up many opportunities for us to burst out of our cozy, comfortable zones. This one was no different. (She was and is a good mom.) Our first attempts to sell were painfully awkward. However, as we braved receptionist after receptionist, our confidence grew and so did our creativity in selling our baked goods. By the end of the day, we had a nice amount of orders.

We then stopped by the grocery store, and as we checked out, I reached in my purse and reverently removed our combined savings of ninety dollars. My hands were sweaty and a huge knot came into my stomach. What if it failed? I was throwing away our hard-earned money! Oh, dear! I handed it to the cashier, hoping she could not read the anguish on my face. It was obvious Beka could though, and she mirrored my emotions. But at least if we did fail, we would fail together.

Back home in Mama’s big kitchen we got busy baking. So many pies, dozens of rolls, a few loaves of bread, and cookies. Our little sister Lizzy hired herself out to us as a dishwasher. We figured out how to make large batches of pie crusts all at once. Sprinkling out the right amount of flour to keep the crusts from sticking as we rolled them out became second nature. Before long, things were flowing like a well-oiled machine. It was such an exquisite thing to see the rows and rows of delicate, golden crescent rolls as they cooled.

And then without warning, when we forgot to watch closely, a pan of rolls was burnt to a crisp. We felt so wasteful and discouraged as we gave them to the dogs. But the lesson was learned, and I started another batch, while Beka kept an eye on the rolls in the oven like a hungry hawk circling a chicken yard.

Finally when the baked goods were cool, we bagged, plated, and wrapped them all attractively. It was with great anticipation that we went to town and carried the first delivery up to the door. The lady was delighted with her order and took it to her kitchen. Returning, she reached into her purse and pulled out her checkbook. “That will be $24, ma’am,” Beka got up the courage to say. The lady smiled and I’m sure she filled out the check quickly, but this last step in the process seemed to take an eternity. Her pen worked its way back and forth across the paper, and finally, grasping it firmly, she quickly tore it out in a smooth motion and, reaching out, handed it to us.

It had worked! We tried to maintain our composure like the business ladies we were as we thanked her for ordering and returned to Mom who was waiting in the van. But inside, our excitement was like popcorn in a hot kettle. Neither Beka nor I could hide our smiles as we buckled our seatbelts to go deliver the next order.

For the next few weeks, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we baked our way to a tidy sum of over one thousand dollars. And the Butter Horn Crescent Rolls made us slightly famous in the community. We then retired from our career as professional bakers. However, our experience built up a great amount of confidence, and overcoming the difficulties together made us all the stronger as young women and created a deeper bond as sisters.

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