Jessie Oleson is a writer, illustrator, gallery owner, and cake anthropologist who runs Cakespy.com, an award-winning dessert website. Her first book, CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life, which was featured on the Today Show, came out in October 2011; she is currently at work on her second book.
Recently, I was contacted by Taste of Home to do a guest blog post about what “Taste of Home” means to me. Not necessarily just the magazine / website (which I adore, btw), but, you know, the concept of my own personal taste of home.
Well, the timing couldn’t be better, because after 8 years in Seattle, I had just relocated to Philadelphia…
which is close to where I grew up on the Jersey Shore…
…and spent my formative years in New York City.
On the East coast, unlike the west, cities are very close together, so you get a lot of crossover with regional foods. So I feel as if I have been “re-discovering” some of the tastes of home…especially with bakery items!
So for me, here’s a little roundup of what foods have made me feel like I have friends, in my new home, in a place that is familiar to me. They’re mostly sweet, but I suppose I couldn’t resist putting a few of my favorite savories in as well!
Black and White Cookies: Possibly the world’s most perfect cookie–a cakey cookie topped with half chocolate, half vanilla icing. My method of eating: first, take the perfect bite right in the middle. Then eat each side, leaving a sliver of chocolate-vanilla which you eat last. Yum!
Rainbow or Italian Flag Cookies: Whenever I am faced with an Italian bakery’s cookie case, full of colorful cookies by the pound, these are my favorite variety. They’re clearly the prettiest, and I’ve always loved their rich, buttery taste paired with thin layers of jam and a chocolate topping.
Cannoli: A crispy shell filled to order with a rich ricotta filling–this is a true taste of Little Italy in NYC or the generations-old Italian bakeries in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia (and notably, in Boston too!). I especially love it when they cover the exposed parts of the cream filling on either end with mini chocolate chips.
Chinese Cookies: I have no idea why they have this name! Nothing about them, a butter cookie with chocolate marbling and a chocolate dollop on top, seems especially Chinese to me. But what’s no mystery is why they are popular: they’re absolutely delicious–vanilla and chocolate and sometimes a touch of almond extract…it’s all you could possibly need.
Crumb Cake: Is there a happier food than this sliver of buttery yellow cake topped with a hunk of fat, buttery brown sugar crumbs? Please, make mine roughly 3/4 crumb to 1/4 cake.
Whoopie Pies: This one you’ll see more in Philadelphia than in New York or New Jersey, but happily it’s been catching on nationwide. Composed of two huge, pillowy cookies which act as cakey bookends to a thick frosting filling, this is all the permission I needed to eat two cookies at once, plus frosting.
Pretzels: Both New York and Philadelphia have their own styles of pretzel-making, but both are extremely carb-o-licious. If I had to state a taste preference I’d go for Philadelphia, where the pretzels taste almost buttery, and the compressed style in which they are baked gives them an incomparable texture. But you know, I am not going to turn away either variety!
Pizza: Pizza, how do I love thee, let me count the ways! My favorite variety is one that you primarily tend to see on the Jersey shore, called “Ziti Pizza”. Imagine baked ziti plopped on top of a pizza slice and you’ve got the idea. You may be tempted to say “it’s just too much!”. But really, one bite and you’ll see it’s just enough to put you into pleasure overload.
Bagels: Is it the water, like some say, that makes New York bagels so special? Beats me, but I do know that if you go to a bagel bakery in the city first-thing and get a bagel that doesn’t require toasting because it’s still slightly warm from baking, it’s an experience that you’ll dream of later.
Wow, writing about all these favorite foods made me hungry! Hope you enjoyed–now I’m off to eat something sweet (and maybe savory too!).
Eat Like Jessie
Craving some of Jessie’s favorite eats? Try our version of some of these culinary classics.
Get this recipe: Whoopie Pie Recipe
Get this recipe: Hummingbird Cupcakes (Jessie’s very own recipe!)
Get this recipe: Rainbow Cookies
Get this how to: How to Make Bagels
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED
We love Jessie, and we want to share that love with you! One lucky Love & Homemade Recipes winner will receive a signed copy of Jessie’s book, CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life.
Entries only accepted on this page. Facebook and Twitter entries do not count.
Giveaway will remain open until Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012 at 12 p.m. CST. Winner will be chosen at random, notified by email and will have 48 hours to respond.
Since we’re talking about Jessie and her favorite homey foods, leave me a comment telling me your favorite homegrown food item!