In the summer of 1989, a middle-aged Michael Keaton squeezed himself into a black latex bodysuit and stole a piece of my childhood. The movie Batman was about to be released, and the flurry of advertising surrounding it had reached from L.A. to Colorado Springs, taking over everything from radio and television stations and clothing stores (I got a neon green Bat sign T-shirt for Christmas that year) to elementary school playground conversations. Most importantly, it took over my Taco Bell.
Taco Bell was my family's savior, a detached larder of sorts. With two working parents -- one night, one day -- Norman Rockwell home-cooked meals were a fuzzy Technicolor dream occurring only on Sunday mornings and snowy holiday afternoons (I have spent more than one Easter at a Shoney's).
As the brilliantly colored menu board slid past the windows of our car, glowing in the twilight, we calculated from the back seat exactly how much we could order before my parents put the kibosh on our greed. A tostada with no veggies for my little sister Lauren, a bean burrito and an order of beans and cheese for me. And of course, for both of us, a bag of Cinnamon Crispas.
The Crispas were a fast food version of the sopapilla, only flattened and fried to the thickness of a tortilla chip. The thin triangles, covered with a heavy dusting of cinnamon and sugar, were as big as our hands. About eight came in a small white paper bag. The last, and best part of the meal was tipping the bag into your open mouth, trying to catch the leftover sugar and Crispa crumbs in the corners without covering your eyelashes and forehead with sticky granules. We knew we would get Cinnamon Crispas with dinner. They were only 59, and most of all, our mom liked to steal a few, claiming parental right.
Then came Batman. As a promotion, our precious Crispas were transformed into Bat Twists -- the same batter, only shaped like a mini churro that resembled a bat, if you squinted with one eye. It was neat for a while, but once the Hollywood hubbub had faded away and it was apparent that the Twists were staying, a gloom fell over our trips to Taco Bell. Twists weren't magical, they just hurt your gums. My mother has never quite recovered from the shock.
The Twists killed a bit of my childhood, but I found it again at Woody's Continental Pastries. Continental is itself a part of my childhood -- my mother used to take me there to get their giant sugar cookies, frosted with a crunchy, sweet icing, airbrushed with whatever design was befitting of the season. The bakery was opened in the Bon Shopping Center over 30 years ago. Continental has since become known as one of the best, if not the best, bakeries in town.
Owners Joan and Woody Woodruff took over two years ago, and have done nothing but improve the quality and variety of the bakery's products. The small storefront houses breads, rolls, challah, cakes, tortes, muffins, bagels, cookies and just about anything else that will fit in an oven.
On my last visit, I picked up a loaf of light and flavorful Tomato Bread, complete with chunks of sundried tomatoes baked in; four buttery currant-laden scones; four absolutely delicious and crusty cheese-onion rolls, so named for the pieces of cheddar cheese and scallions scattered throughout; four of the aforementioned cookies from heaven; a chocolate-vanilla-raspberry-cake-frosting concoction called a Muenster Torte; and last, but definitely not least, ho boy, no, not least, a Bird's Nest -- a mess of flaky pie crust sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar -- all for under $14.
I would have paid that much for the Bird's Nest alone. While lacking the triangle shape, the taste and texture of the sugary snack are exactly that of the long-dead Cinnamon Crispas. The joy I felt at this discovery was enhanced by the knowledge that the treasure was baked fresh that morning, in a clean, thriving neighborhood business, not in some conveyor-belt factory.
The inventiveness alone of Woody's Continental Pastries would keep them going indefinitely, but the quality, quantity, service, history and taste will probably keep them going forever. As long as they don't get any ideas about getting rid of the Bird's Nest.
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