Open Mic Mondays: Motherfudging Cookies

Welcome to Open Mike Mondays. This week, my guest is Nadine Holmes, known to many as MadNad and many more as the Mutherfudger. Nad is one of my cooking senseis, her boundless enthusiasm and willingness to try new things matched only by just how damn good they look (And taste). Plus, she invented worm sandwiches and that’s a permanent win in my book.

Worm sandwiches are frankfurters, cut into quarters and then boiled. The heat curls and bends them and once they’re done you drain then, toss them in barbecue sauce, put them in bread buns and massively entertain both your nephews and your house guests who write about genre fiction and enjoy things like worm sandwiches.

Nad’s also the baker of choice for the British genre fiction circuit, but I’ll let her tell you about that. So, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, welcome the Mutherfudger to Open Mike Mondays.

 

When I was young, one of the first things I learned to bake was bread. Each Saturday morning, I would walk to the nearby store, and buy some fresh yeast, The resulting bread was used for my tea-time sandwiches after school. I gradually moved onto making sweet things, which simply involved melting, stirring and leaving in the fridge to set, such as the ubiquitous tiffin or rice-krispie bars made with toffee and marshmallow. Gradually, I advanced onto tray bakes, such as flapjacks or Australian crunch. I don’t think it was until I left home that I started making cookies.

The first cookie I conquered was the classic chocolate chip. Using friends as willing guinea pigs, I tried a multitude of various recipes and techniques until I found one I was happy with. Since then, I have done many variations of the humble cookie. I like to make homemade Christmas gifts for friends and family. I prefer to give something sweet to eat rather than the alternative of buying useless crap that they don’t want or need. About two years ago, I was putting together a list of treats to include in my gift hamper, and I thought it would be nice to include some small biscuits or cookies. While looking for ideas, I stumbled upon Sweet Sugarbelle’s site, and my tiny little mind was blown. Sugarbelle has a wonderful style that is simple yet incredibly effective. The skill lies in her designs as well as her execution.

These glorious little creations looked as good as they probably tasted. I was instantly intrigued. I quite like to dabble in artistic things, having played around with digital art for a number of years now, but I also love to bake, and this seemed an ideal way to merge the two hobbies into small edible works of art. My first attempt was little snowflake cookies with some icing detail. It was a success as far as the family were concerned, but I nearly crippled myself in the process. I learned the hard way the importance of icing consistency, and I had made it too hard. The result was me trying to squeeze concrete-thick icing through a nozzle with a 2mm opening. It was hard work. I was defeated, convinced I didn’t have the necessary skills, and so gave up on the idea.

After several more months reading every word that Sugarbelle wrote, I decided to have another go. Using a gingerbread man cutter, I made some Toy Story aliens. The outlines were wobbly, and the fill was uneven, but they looked like aliens, they tasted great, and more importantly I didn’t break my fingers trying to squeeze out the icing. Confidence boosted, I then took every excuse I could find to do more iced cookies, and gradually I got better.

Fast forward to earlier this year, and I had just done some Spiderman cookies for another nephew. I proudly posted the pictures on Facebook, when I was contacted by the wonderfully talented author, Sarah Pinborough. She was planning a book launch for a new book called Poison, and wondered if I would do some ‘Poison Apple’ cookies to give away to attendees. Having a lot of friends in literary circles, I’ve noticed a growing trend of supplying a sweet treat at book launches and it is one I heartily approve of. It’s a great idea, and everyone seemed to be really pleased. Who wouldn’t like a free cookie?


This prompted another author, Lou Morgan, to get in touch when the time came to launch her latest book baby, Blood and Feathers: Rebellion. I have also provided ‘blood’ fudge for Joseph D’Lacey and cupcakes for the indie publishers Fox Spirit.


Iced cookies are not as popular over here in the UK as they are in the US, but much like the cupcake came over and exploded several years ago, I predict the same could happen for the cookie. There are already a few UK companies specialising in this. However, I fear the biggest stumbling block to the iced cookie invasion knocking the cupcake off its throne is public perception of the price. Often, a single iced cookie from one of the aforementioned companies can set you back anywhere between £1-£2.50 depending on the size and complexity. A set of about a dozen cookies can cost between £25-£35. Already, I can hear you gasp, ‘but it’s only a bit of butter, sugar and flour, right?’ But consider this; you readily pay £2 for a coffee that took a few minutes to make. Whilst a cupcake is a sumptuous delight, you can expect to pay at least £1.50 each, and a baker can make, bake and decorate a dozen cupcakes in the time it takes to produce just one iced cookie.

An iced cookie takes time, it takes skill, and it takes a steady hand. Next time you see an iced cookie, before you chomp your way through it, appreciate the skill involved in producing this little work of art. Then stuff it in your gob!

 

Madnad is also known as the Mutherfudger, and can be found at www.mutherfudger.co.uk, where she regularly posts recipes, cookbook reviews, and tutorial. You can contact also her there if you have any iced cookie or other requirements for your event.


Thanks Nad. As a frequent consumer of her baked goods I can heartily recommend everything she makes. If you’re even a little interested in cooking, food, cookbooks or learning things that are awesome, go check out her site.

Also I’m hungry now.

Do you have a blog, photo, short movie, comic, piece of audio, small dog, time displaced thunder lizard or any one of a dozen other web-able objects you’d like me to run here? If so get in touch at the email address this very line connects to, and we’ll sort something out.

Where’s Al?-The Bigger on the Inside Edition Part 1

It’s been a busy few weeks, so busy, in fact that ‘Where’s Al?’ needs to be broken up into two entries. First off, let’s take a look at what’s been going on at Hub, Pseudopod and Escape Pod recently..

Podcasting
Orrin Grey’s ‘The Worm That Gnaws’ followed Mark Felps’ ‘Raising Eddie’ at Pseudopod. It’s a great piece, a period story about the very real and very supernatural dangers of grave robbing.

Blake Vaughn’s ‘The Leviathan’ was up next and is one of my favourite Pseudopod stories in a while. It’s a piece about what it’s like to brush up against something unknowable on both the intimate and the supernatural scale and reminded me more than a little of Ray Bradbury’s classic ‘The Foghorn’.

Things got meta the week after that with the debut of the first ever Escape Artists metacast. It’s interesting listening, with Ben our CEO, Steve, our founder, Rachel the co-editor of Podcastle and myself all contributing with details of where the company stands, what processes go into making an episode and how we feel about doing the work.

The week after that, Felicity Bloomfield’s haunting ‘Wave Goodbye’, a story that balances first world guilt with third world horror to terrifying effect.

Regulars’ was up next, with Frank Oreto deftly using the social contract between barkeep and customer to focus the deep, personal horror of the piece.

Jim Bihyeh’s ‘Reservation Monsters’ followed it, exploring Navajo culture with tremendous subtlety and atmosphere.

Most recently ‘Got Milk?’ by John Alfred Taylor explored what happens when you don’t notice reality start to curdle until it’s much, much too late. I narrated this one as well as introduced it and it’s a blast, simultaneously very funny and utterly revolting

I also spent a month in the woooorlld of tomorrow! Or Escape Pod as we like to call it, where I guest hosted four episodes. The first ‘Cathargo Delenda Est’ by Genevieve Valentine is a story about what happens when something is about to happen, that moment before the singularity, before everything changes.

Skinhorse goes to Mars’ by Jay Lake was up next, a highly entertaining combination of demented pulp invention and grounded, almost Firefly-like universe building.

The Monkey Will Never Get Rid Of Its Black Hands’ by Rachel Swirsky followed it, which I also narrated. This, to my mind, is one of the best stories we’ve ever run, a fascinating, troubling combination of alternate history, seething fury and vast human tragedy.

Finally, ‘Sinner, Baker, Fablist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast’ by Eugie Foster is yet another in a run of massively inventive, intelligent stories from Eugie. This and Rachel’s piece are two real highlights in what’s been a very strong year for all three podcasts.

Hub

Issue 95 kicked off with ‘Last Flight’ by Malin Larsson as well as a look at the Vampire in fiction by our new columnist Janet Neilson and reviews of Star Wars: The Clone Wars episodes 19-21 by Richard Whittaker.

Issue 96 featured ‘Obsession’ by Jo Thomas as our story and featured my look at Ivan Reitman’s flawed but fun Evolution in our Big Screen Future feature. It’s not a perfect movie, but I’d contend any film which allows David Duchovny, Seann William Scott and Orlando Jones to sing ‘Play That Funky Music, White Boy’ has got to have something going for it. The issue is rounded out by a review of Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode 22 by Richard Whittaker.

Issue 97 featured ‘The Locked Room’ by Gaie Sebold and Martin Owton. The reviews section was given over to a Blockbuster round up covering Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Terminator: Salvation, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Orphan. The issue was rounded out by Gary McMahon’s excellent Bleeding Words column, looking at the difficulties of transitioning from the small press to the big leagues.

Most recently, issue 98 featured an exclusive; ‘The Clockwork Hunter’ is a short story by Andy Remic set in the same universe as Kell’s Legend, his new novel from Angry Robot. It’s a fantastically nasty, very odd fantasy world delivered with Andy’s usual flair and this story is a perfect chance to see if it’s your thing.

The reviews cover Sarah Pinborough’s superb The Language of Dying, Neil Blommkamp’s fascinating District 9 and a combined review of Inglourious Basterds and Shorts. I’m a big fan of movie reviews at the best of times, you may have noticed, but the Inglourious Basterds review is something genuinely very special. I don’t agree with some of the points raised in it but I’ve yet to see another review approach the film as an exploration of film itself in quite so much depth.

The other stand out review this issue is a double header, as both Janet and I take a look at Personal Effects: Dark Art. A fascinating, transmedia novel that comes with a packet of documents that inform the story and sits in the centre of a cloud of websites that allow the reader to interrogate the story, it’s the print debut of podcasting giant JC Hutchins. Check out the reviews to see what we thought of it.
The issue is rounded out by another Big Screen Future, this time looking at James Cameron’s The Abyss. To my mind it’s not only Cameron’s best film but also the one that his new movie, Avatar, appears closest to in terms of approach. Whether Avatar will be instantly successful, in the way The Abyss wasn’t, is going to be fascinating to see.

So that’s what’s been going on with the podcasts and Hub recently. Check back tomorrow for a break down of what else has been going on.