A Fire Drill, A Birthday, A Chicken Parmigiana Candle, and A Launch Date for Tasty-Candles

“Could I plug my laptop in to recharge it?” asked Dustin (not his real name) at the start of my 4th period class.

“Sure,” I said. “Just pull your desk over to the wall so that you have someplace to put the laptop.”

“Could I use this desk?” The freshman in my Culinary Arts I class put his book bag on an empty seat.

“HEY! That’s MY SEAT!” complained Monica (not her real name), who had just entered the classroom.

“You can’t use somebody else’s desk.” I pointed at Dustin’s seat. “Use your own desk.”

Dustin moved his book bag to another seat. “What about this desk? Could I use this desk?”

Enrique (not his real name) erupted out of his seat. “WHAT PART OF ‘USE YOUR OWN DESK’ DID YOU NOT UNDERSTAND? HOW MANY TIMES DOES CHEF HAVE TO TELL YOU TO USE YOUR OWN DESK?”

I wagged a finger at the angry student. “Thank you for your concern but please don’t yell.”

“BUT HE’S SO ANNOYING! Don’t you think he’s annoying?”

I pretended not to hear Enrique as I finished taking attendance.

The fire alarm in the hallway chose that moment to go off. WWWWAHHHHHHHHHH! WWWWAHHHHHHHHHH! WWWWAHHHHHHHHHH!

“Leave your things and line up at the door!” I told the students as I grabbed my classroom’s evacuation kit. After escorting the students out of the school to our designated fire drill evacuation spot, I dug through the bin to find a two faced laminated sign. One side was red and the other was green. Since all students were present, I held the sign overhead with the green section facing the school administrator who was standing on the sidewalk to monitor the drill.

I was one of the only teachers on my side of the building who remembered to bring the fire drill sign. Since I’m autistic and tend to get stressed out when schedules are disrupted, part of my workplace accommodations include having building admin give me a timely heads up about any pending drills or changes to our daily schedule. As a result of having been forewarned about this drill, I had my classroom evacuation kit ready and waiting for the alarm. I had also mentally prepared myself for the fact that my class would be interrupted with one of the mandatory drills that we have to do each month. The bin that holds my evacuation supplies includes a clipboard with a copy of all class rosters, a pen, a first aid kit, bottled water, extra masks, tissues, sanitizer, and the aforementioned fire drill sign. After holding up the sign, I waited with the rest of our school for the school administration to announce the all clear so that we could return to our respective rooms.

While we were waiting, Ms. Leslie (not her real name) came over to thank me for the four strips of bacon that I had given her on Tuesday. Ms. Leslie is the librarian’s aide. She also handles office supplies, photocopying, laminating, and all of our audio-visual equipment. Since my school issued laptop had gone belly up on Tuesday, she had helped me by switching out the laptop. While she was setting up the replacement computer she told me that Tuesday was her 62nd birthday. The poor woman said she would be spending her birthday alone because her husband had to work late.

Since I know that one of Ms. Leslie’s favorite foods is bacon, I put some bacon on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. While my culinary students were producing and baking chocolate chip cookies, I baked the bacon at 350 degrees F. in the oven. After the bacon was cooked to a crispy perfection, my class joined me in the library where we presented these crispy treats while singing Happy Birthday. Ms. Leslie was thrilled and when we left she was beaming from ear to ear.

“Thank you again for the bacon,” said Ms. Leslie. “IT WAS SO GOOD!”

Her pleasure over the birthday bacon got me to thinking about my 61st birthday which will be coming up in mid-October. Although age is said to convey wisdom, I don’t necessarily feel any wiser than I did when I was in my 40’s. As I age, I’ve noticed that while I’ve gotten physically slower and sometimes can feel my knees creaking; from an emotional, creative, and intellectual perspective, I pretty much feel the same as I’ve felt over the past 20 years. The difference between my current self and my middle aged self is that the past two decades of life experience have made me more confident. Having been clinically diagnosed with high performing autism when I was 55 has also helped by making me aware of my limitations so that I could then develop coping mechanisms and work arounds to compensate for this disability.

Prior to the start of the Covid pandemic, I used to enjoy dining out whenever it was my birthday. Since I tend to be reclusive outside of work, whenever I eat out I typically sit by myself while reading an e-book on my Kindle tablet. The last time celebrated my birthday at a restaurant was back in 2019 when I went to the Olive Garden to order chicken parmigiana. Pictured above is the Olive Garden’s version of this delectable dish.

As with so many other ethnic foods that we enjoy in the United States, chicken parmigiana is an Americanized adaptation of an Italian recipe for melanzane alla Parmigiana. The original Italian dish featured eggplant that was breaded and fried. Italian Americans on the east coast are thought to have adapted this recipe to the production of chicken parmigiana.

As to why this dish is called parmigiana when it doesn’t include Parmesan cheese as a main ingredient is anyone’s guess. While some food historians have speculated that the original fried eggplant dish originated in Parma, Italy; others have noted that melanzane alla Parmigiana was actually created in the southern part of the country and was never popular in Parma or other northern parts of Italy.

Thoughts about the chicken parmigiana led me to create this chicken parmigiana candle after the work week ended. Since I’m on a keto diet, this candle is about as close as I’ll be getting to a real chicken parmigiana since I’m not supposed to eat the breading or the pasta.

The candle smells of fried chicken, cheese, and a Marinara sauce. I improvised the Marinara aroma by blending tomato, garlic, and other herbal fragrances.

If I were to make this candle again, I’d make the breaded chicken less thick. Chicken parmigiana is made by using the flat side of a meat mallet to flatten a chicken breast which is then breaded and fried. After topping it with some Marinara sauce, sliced mozzarella is then placed on top. The chicken is then slid under a salamander or broiler to lightly melt the cheese.

This one of a kind prototype will be sold with other production test models in my virtual store which will likely be launched on October 23rd at Shop Nevada. Once the store has been established, I’ll include a link on the home page of this blog.

Although the Arizona Autism Coalition had coincidentally invited me to be a guest speaker in Phoenix on October 23rd, I decided that I’d rather stay home making candles instead of spending six hours on a round trip drive to the Grand Canyon state. Assuming the weather has gotten cooler so that my candles won’t melt in transit, I also decided that Saturday, October 23rd would also be a good time to launch Tasty-Candles as an on-line business.

Other prototype candles that I’ll be selling include the above products. From top left going clockwise, some of my limited production candles include: orange chicken and shrimp, beef with broccoli, mac and cheese, steak with bacon and roasted chicken, and chicken curry.

At this time it looks as though my main stock in trade will include variations of pound cake, Texas toast, sliders, full sized hamburgers, and pie slices. I will likely continue making a limited number of candles similar to the ones pictured above; partially because I enjoy the challenge of creating new candles and also because this would ensure that my shop will always have some unique one of a kind candles to sell.

One of my weekend projects is to make a tart mold. The crust for the tart pictured below was literally hand sculpted with a butter knife that was used to spread softened wax into a tart pan. Although this wasn’t particularly difficult to make, it was time consuming. Having made a clay sculpture of an empty tart shell, I plan to make a silicone mold to facilitate the production of tart candles. Since pricing my candles includes compensation for my time at the rate of $40/hour, reducing the time spent in producing a tart candle will also result in a lower sales price.

berry tart candle with a sugar cookie scented crust

Having recently found a supplier who makes a cumin candle fragrance, I also plan on making a silicone mold of kidney beans so that I’ll be able to make a container candle of chili con carne. I already have a pepper sauce fragrance in stock which I could blend with beef, tomato, and garlic aromas. The use of a cumin fragrance should allow me to replicate the mouth watering aroma of a diner style chili.

real cup of chili

Chili is one of my favorite comfort foods particularly on cold winter days. There’s nothing more delectable to my way of thinking than to enjoy a large cup of warm chili when the world outside is gray and chilly (no pun intended).

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