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Page 2 of Interview with Cookbook Author Randi Levin
CHEF JAMES: Do you have an amusing kitchen incident to share with us?
RANDI/THE MUFFIN LADY: It was 2 days before Christmas and the hustle in my kitchen was at full bustle. I knew that the county Health Inspector would show up for his inspection before the end of the year but did not think that he would come that day, just hours before the holiday. He had tried to inspect my kitchen several times before, but I was never here, so he would leave a note on my door to call and schedule. I left him several messages with a good time to come by, but I never heard back. Most Culinary folks are aware that it is practically impossible to actually schedule such an inspection, so I just hoped and prayed that he would wait until after the holidays.
That morning I awoke at 2 am, I had 2 hours of sleep after prepping for dozens of muffins, cookies, cakes, brownies, cinnamon rolls and what not, the majority to be baked and delivered fresh to my commercial and private accounts that morning. Although I had the routine down, the additional holiday orders added a bit of stress to my daily ordeal and I had to leave by 6am to make the commercial deliveries on time.
Obviously, the stress factor was alive and well, and you can bet I was rushing all around the kitchen like a chicken with my head partially cut off. There was a cinnamon explosion on the floor alongside of a squished muffin that fell out of the pan, off the table and under my feet; the pans were tossed anywhere and everywhere that they could possible land without much injury, flour was all over the place as was a bit of cocoa, but all got baked, wrapped, stickered, boxed and placed where they needed to be on time.
The roads were still clear of snow, the deliveries went well, all were pleased as could be and pleasant holiday wishes and gifts of joy were passed around generously. I then made my daily deliveries back up the mountain, and came back around 11 am for a quick nap before cleaning up the mornings’ mess and beginning to bake again for family and friends.
As I began to crawl my way into the bed, the doorbell rang. I went to the window to see who was here and lo and behold, the Health Inspectors truck was smack center in my driveway! I then heard him anxiously calling for me to open the door. OH NO, I knew that HE could close me down instantly upon first glance of my mess!!!
So I went to the door, and bluntly informed him that he could not inspect my kitchen at this time. Now keep in mind that he was a nice man, who to me happened to have a lousy job at that moment and literally I was refusing to allow him in. As we bickered back and forth between the thick wood of my front door, he laughed while informing that it is a federal offense to refuse a commercial kitchen inspection from a County Health Inspector. As I was arguing with him, he slipped in the side door and stood behind me laughing.
I flat out told him, in my hole infected flannel shirt and Mickey Mouse PJ bottoms that he could not inspect me at that time, for my kitchen was “trashed”. While laughing he proceeded to walk into the kitchen with me and his new assistant on his heels. My heart was palpitating with thoughts of having my license revoked, even if temporarily, I had more deliveries to make the following week and more baking to do that day. I noticed an open half can of evaporated milk, which quickly hit the trash can, other than that I didn’t say a word, rather held my breath if I recall correctly.
His assistant just followed him around, while sneering at the squished muffin and cinnamon all over the floor.
As the sweat was beginning to run down my back, he went over to my wrapping table, then handed me my inspection sheet which stated that I received a 98% ‘Clean And Safe Kitchen Bill Of Health’. As I looked at him in pure wonderment, he again laughed and stated that he knows it will all be clean later that day. Then he picked up 4 plates of cookies, handed one to his assistant, said Merry Christmas, see you next year and left laughing all the way. You can bet it was a very merry Christmas that year.
CHEF JAMES: What are your favorite foods to cook with?
RANDI/THE MUFFIN LADY: Cinnamon, garlic and dill but then they are the spices, so how about celery, onions, peas and carrots for these lovely colorful veggies can turn a plain old plate of food into one that is flavorful, colorful and just downright good.
CHEF JAMES: If you were stranded on a desert island for a year, surviving on coconuts and seaweed, what would be the first meal you would like to eat after you were rescued?
RANDI/THE MUFFIN LADY: The first 2 that immediately come to mind are totally different. 1. A huge burger, smothered in Brie, avocado, sprouts, mayo with a thinly sliced large red onion piece on top with fries or Wise Potato Chips on the side, served with a Frank’s Whisnik Black Cherry Pop. But I do not want it served on a plain old bun, I’d want it on a croissant or bagel. OR 2. A plain old bowl of plain yogurt, with fresh fruits and honey mixed in, topped off with a Snickerdoodle!
CHEF JAMES: What is your best cooking tip for a novice?
RANDI/THE MUFFIN LADY: Always add a dash of logic and love to all foods, then spice it lightly, take a taste and add more spice until it is just the way you want it to be. But more importantly do not be frightened, it is only food, some disasters can be repaired with a pinch of this and that, and the ones that can’t your dog will gladly devour.
CHEF JAMES: Is there anything else you can tell us about yourself, your career, or the profession that would be interesting or helpful to others aspiring to write a cookbook?
RANDI/THE MUFFIN LADY: Do not give up, follow and listen to you heart; for it honestly is much more powerful than your brain will ever be! When all odds are against you, search deep and hard for there is always a light at the end of the page.