In my last post, I mentioned having turtles during the opening night party of the Big Easy International Film Festival. Now, while turtle soup, a popular New Orleans delicacy, is actually made from real turtles, the kind of “turtles” to which I was referring are altogether different. Essentially thick shortbread cookies, turtles are embedded with pecans and topped with large dollops of fudge – which are then topped with more pecans. Truly, a perfect cookie.
But I must admit – as delicious as Rouses’ turtles are (that’s a regional supermarket, by the way), they just don’t compare to the “deliciousity” (okay, so I made that up) of the turtles that were once prepared by a local bakery chain known as McKenzie’s. Ah, McKenzie’s, how sweet you were. For over seven decades, McKenzie’s was perhaps the most popular bakery in New Orleans. In 2001, however, McKenzie’s closed its doors forever, taking its much-loved recipes with it.
I was living in Los Angeles at the time, so I only discovered this sad fact upon returning for a family visit. In desperation, I bought a cookbook called New Orleans Classic Desserts: Recipes from Favorite Restaurants by Kit Wohl – simply because it promised to contain an authentic McKenzie’s turtle recipe. That’ll teach me to purchase a cookbook before looking up consumer reviews.
Now, admittedly, I’m not the best of cooks, but I follow baking recipes just fine. So, imagine my surprise when my beloved turtles ended up looking like flat little chewy cookies that, while somewhat edible, had no resemblance to the McKenzie’s turtles of old. Boy, did my dad have a field day with that one! I knew I shouldn’t have promised that I’d do the dessert for that particular family meal. Or, at the very least, I should’ve looked up the book reviews first – ‘cause apparently I wasn’t the only one who had purchased the cookbook specifically for the turtles recipe, and I was certainly not the only one who had been burned by the lack of quality control.
As one reviewer, a former New Orleanian, wrote, “Unfortunately, the McKenzie's Turtle Cookies are lacking a few key ingredients. McKenzie's Turtle Cookies were a fond memory of my childhood, which I was hoping to share with my children. As written, the recipe yields a mess of flour. With a little research: Baking soda, Salt, Brown sugar, more butter, and less flour fix the recipe right up. After this disaster, I will have to confirm the rest of the recipes before I set foot in the kitchen. My mother hated cookbooks that were not kitchen tested before publication. My mother and I now have something in common. The pictures are lovely though.”
Although a newer version of the cookbook apparently contains a revised version of this recipe, I’m still skeptical to say the least. So, the moral of this sad little tale is fourfold:
1. Enjoy yummy treats – especially local delicacies – while you have access to them.
2. Do not, whatever you do, purchase that Kit Wohl cookbook unless you have the confirmation of other trustworthy gourmands.
3. Appreciate what you do have – like Rouses’ turtles – even if they are slightly less than the ones you remember.
4. Commiserate with others whenever possible. Joining the “I Miss McKenzie’s Bakery” fan page on Facebook certainly soothes my sadness a bit and revives some wonderful childhood memories, especially the times my mom and I would gorge ourselves on turtles while watching our favorite TV shows.
But, seriously, if anyone knows how to make those little McKenzie’s balls of goodness, you know where I live.
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