A New School Year, a Breakfast Candle, and Three Variations of Pound Cake Candles

Teachers in my district were required to physically report back to work on Wednesday, August 4th. Since I’m autistic and sometimes have problems with transitioning from one schedule to another, I had a meltdown while getting ready for work. Uncertainties over the coming year wound up overwhelming me with stress. My inability to get any sleep during the preceding night didn’t help. I lay in bed worrying over what our class schedules would be like since we were shifting from 52 minute pre-Covid daily periods to 90 minute blocks that would have us seeing each class on alternate days. With the delta variant of Covid raging throughout the United States, I was worried about our collective safety since some colleagues have refused to get themselves vaccinated. Towards the end of the last school year, one of my administrators also bullied me and I was worried over whether he would continue serving as my immediate supervisor.

My problems with this administrator began during the last month of the 2020-2021 school year after he asked me to raise all student grades by 10 points. Since we’re not allowed to give grades below a 50, adding 10 points would have passed all students including those who had ditched my classes throughout the semester and who had never completed a single assignment or taken a single quiz or test.

I refused to do this.

The administrator wasn’t happy and during Teacher Appreciation week he began sending me a series of increasingly hostile emails. He accused me of being unprofessional, incompetent, and insubordinate. He said that I wasn’t a team player and suggested that by not changing these grades, I didn’t care about my students. He told me that if I was a nicer person my students would have liked me more and I wouldn’t have had such a high rate of absenteeism. He concluded by suggesting that I needed a “personality makeover.”

I responded by reporting this administrator to the principal. After a stressful week of not hearing back from her and not knowing if or when this other person would stop harassing me, I complained to the teachers’ union. The union told me that I wasn’t alone and that several of my colleagues had already filed complaints about the assistant principal. I was urged to file a written complaint with the district. Due to privacy issues, neither the union or the district office could tell me how many people had complained or what was going on behind closed doors. The principal later contacted me to assure me that she was aware of my concerns. She asked me to trust her in dealing with this problem.

As the start of the new school year edged closer, renewed worry over having to work with this administrator added to my growing sense of unease. On the morning of the day that I was supposed to physically report back to campus, my blood pressure soared to 160. My heart felt as though it was pounding so hard that it would explode After having received an emailed schedule and realizing that the faculty would be physically together in a classroom without social distancing for a series of meetings that would last throughout the day, I had a meltdown and was unable to report to work.

On the following morning, continued worry led me to write a letter of resignation at 4 AM. I didn’t want to work with the administrator in question. Not knowing how this person would interact with me on a daily basis or when he might renew his harassment was causing far too much stress. I decided that it would be a lot easier to find another job and to move away instead of having to continue working with this person.

When I got on-line to submit my letter, I found an email in which the principal had announced the resignation of the administrator in question. I felt like crying over the sudden relief. My blood pressure dropped and having realized that the vast bulk of my stress had been over having to work with an abusive assistant principal, I was able to return to work on Thursday, August 5th.

A New Breakfast Candle

Sometime during the late 19th century, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg of Kellogg’s cornflake cereal fame observed that breakfast was the most important meal of the day.

The term “breakfast” dates back to the 15th century and referred to the fact that people were breaking their night’s fast by having something to eat in the morning. Prior to this time, breakfast was not commonly eaten. During the Middle Ages, Catholic priests preached that eating breakfast was an indulgence that promoted the sin of gluttony. As a result of this belief only two meals were typically served throughout Europe. One was at mid-day and the other was in the evening.

An exception was made for children, the elderly, the sick, and for common laborers. At first these breakfasts consisted of bread, eggs, or porridge. Porridge was made by boiling oats, barley, or even peas. Boiled peas known as “pease porridge” inspired the following poem: “Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold, pease porridge in the pot nine days old.” This rhyme first appeared in a children’s book called, “Mother Goose’s Melody” and was published in England in 1760.

In what would later become the United States, new breakfast items were added to the American menu by fits and starts. Pilgrims who had lived in the Netherlands introduced the production of waffles during the 1620’s. After learning how to grow corn from the Native Americans, settlers began boiling corn mash and frying hoe cakes (pancakes cooked on the end of a metal hoe). In time, wheat flour replaced the cornmeal that had originally been used to make these cakes. Since they were now cooked in a pan, they came to be known as pancakes.

The use of fried eggs with bread and ham was popularized after the end of the Civil War. By the 19th century, hotels were serving an assortment of breads, pastries, fritters, cold cuts, steak, and even whole chickens for breakfast.

As a vegetarian, Dr. Harvey Kellogg wanted to create a more healthy and easily digestible breakfast than the meat laden meals that many Americans were eating. In 1894, he filed a patent for Kellogg’s corn flakes. As the director for the Western Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek, Michigan, he began serving this cereal at his clinic. He also made the recipe for this product free of charge to other hospitals.

The use of bacon with fried eggs was popularized in the 1920’s. In an effort to increase bacon sales, the Beech-nut Packing Company hired Edward Bernays, a nephew of the renown psychologist, Sigmund Freud, to promote this product. Mr. Bernay wrote a letter to 5,000 doctors to ask if eating a more substantial breakfast was a good way to start the day. After 4,500 doctors wrote back to say yes, he began running full page ads to announce that “4,500 physicians urge Americans to eat heavy breakfasts to improve their health.” Bacon sales soared.

Pictured below is my interpretation of bread, ham, and eggs as a breakfast candle. It features an open faced sandwich consisting of Texas garlic toast topped with a fried ham steak and a fried egg.

The yolk for this fried egg was initially made using a plastic mold. The whites were actually hand sculpted using a butter knife. This allowed me to dangle the whites off either side of the bread.

After the wax for the whites had set, melted candle gel was brushed over the yolk and part of the egg whites. As a final touch, acrylic brown paint was used to give this product realistic “fried” highlights. Actual peppercorns were then ground over the egg.

The ham steak and egg smell of bacon, beef, hickory smoke, and brown sugar.

Pound Cake Candles:

The same molds that I used to produce the Texas toast garlic bread was also used to make pound cake.

The recipe for pound cake originated in Northern Europe and was literally made using one pound each of the following ingredients; eggs, flour, butter, and sugar. Although today’s pound cakes are much smaller and some ingredients like butter have been switched out for margarine, shortening, vegetable oil, or even sour cream; all pound cakes still follow the basic 1:1:1:1 ratio that was first used.

After chemical leaveners like baking soda and baking powder were invented, these ingredients were added in the 1900’s as a way to lighten this otherwise dense and heavy cake. Over time, other ingredients like cinnamon, vanilla, and fruit have been added to provide additional flavors.

My first pound cake candle was inspired by a picture I found on PinInterest of a blueberry-lemon pound cake.

Real blueberry-lemon pound cake

To make this cake, I first simulated baked blueberries by mixing candle gel with blue, purple, and black dye. The blueberries were randomly applied in splotches to the bottom of the silicone mold. After the blueberries were set, I added Golden Soy Wax 444 that I melted and mixed with blueberry, lemon, brown sugar, and cake fragrances. After the wax had set, I removed it from the mold and used brown colored wax to paint on the crust.

As a final step I added a vanilla crunch scented icing glaze to what would have been the top of this slice if the cake was standing upright.

To make this pound cake look more visually interesting, I added a garnish of some blueberries with a blueberry sauce and a dollop of whipped cream. I simulated the dusting of powdered sugar by applying corn starch through a mesh strainer.

Having produced ten blueberry-lemon pound cake candles, I turned my hand towards making a cherry-lemon pound cake. Although I made this candle precisely the same way that I made the blueberry versions, it didn’t seem as visually interesting as the ones that I had previously made.

To help with making this candle really pop, I decided to top the cherry-lemon pound cakes, I added the leftover blueberry sauce along with an assortment of mixed berries.

As the week passed, I continued working on the pound cake theme and created this dark chocolate pound cake candle. This version featured a milk chocolate butter cream frosting, a chocolate covered strawberry garnish, a drizzle of white chocolate ganache, and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Although I was looking forward to working on candles throughout this weekend, I will have to spend most of my time working on my Canvas virtual platform. Even though I don’t have any virtual students this year (since the principal has kindly determined that Culinary Arts is a hands-on production class that’s not conducive to virtual learning), I was told that I still have a virtual presence.

There are many reasons as to why I have to maintain a virtual presence. Students who transfer to my class after the school year have started would benefit from being able to access past lessons. Since the district has decided that all testing will be done via our virtual platforms, all tests will have to be made using Canvas. My course syllabus and grading policy will be on Canvas. Left unsaid by the district but very much in the news is the fact that with the Delta variant of Covid raging through Nevada, if all teachers were to have a virtual presence, it would be easy for the district to shift from in-person to virtual instruction in the event of an outbreak.

To borrow a line from the musical, Fiddler on the Roof, “Hope for the best, expect the worst.”

Edit: 8/21/2021: Since writing this post I have standardized the production of a chocolate pound cake candle. Instead of a chocolate covered strawberry, I’ve topped this pound cake with a dollop of whipped cream which I have then topped with either a strawberry or a cherry.

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