The Food Corner

Getting the Cookies on the Map
Boston, MA.  July 24, 2004--Dancing Deer Baking Co. President and CEO Trish Karter stands in front of the Electoral Cookie Map near Quincy Market. 

Karter: We're based in Boston, in Roxbury, and we're a very active company in the community and we do a lot of philanthropy in addition to making really great cakes and cookies.  So we're boosters and promoters of things that are good for Boston and things that are good for our community and folks that work for us.  We actually do a lot of things with the workforce training and people who live in our neighborhood, which is Roxbury.  We're thrilled that the Convention's coming to town because it's a good opportunity for people here in Boston to show our stuff.

Democracy in Action: Can you talk about some of the specific things you've done [relative to the Convention]?  When did you decide to become a sponsor?

Karter: Oh right away. (>) We stepped right up and went over to the mayor's office and asked if we could be helpful.  We offered to send cake and cookie the selection committee.  We're big boosters of the town, and we were thrilled when the convention came here.  We offered to host a delegate party, which we're doing.  So it's Georgia; we're doing it together with the Shirley-Eustis House, an historic home of a former governor that happens to be right next to our factory in Roxbury.  We're doing cookie decorating.  We're going to have icing and delegates can decorate cookies.  We are all about fun and just the pure joy of life.

Democracy in Action: And what about the donation of cookies?

Karter: We donated 30,000 cookies to all the goody bags that are for press and delegates  and officials coming to attend the Convention.

Democracy in Action: Are those the molasses...?

Karter: Molasses clove, yeah.

Democracy in Action: How did you settle on that one?

Karter: Well it's our top selling cookie so we always get out with our best foot forward.

Democracy in Action: How about a financial contribution [to the Host Committee]?

Karter: We didn't make any financial contribution.  I think we're recognize here for being a tiny company that does a huge amount of work and I don't know that anybody would think of asking us to put any more in.  Proportionately spekaing I bet we're way at the top...  And this thing was just for fun--the cookie map.

Democracy in Action: Talk about the execution.

Karter: It went through a million iterations.  We started out thinking we would have a map of all the delegates.  But of course there are 5,000 some delegates [ed. 4,951 delegates and alternates]--some big number, and you can imagine the scale of it would have been huge because we wanted to use our little gingerbread...cookies--one cookie, one vote, one person--and we just couldn't make the map big enough...

Democracy in Action: How far did you go along that route?

Karter: Oh we were working on that for maybe three or four weeks before we finally ditched it and went toward the Electoral College.

Democracy in Action: Did you gen it out on paper or something?

Karter: Yeah, we scaled it.  We did a lot of calculations.  We consulted with a lot of folks that do this kind of large displays...  We did square area calcuations and we also thought a lot about what the display methodology would be and how it would stand up and how it would stand the weather and where we'd go with it at night and how we could make it relatively durable and not melt in the rain and all those things.

Democracy in Action: So these cookies here are which?

Karter: These are our gingerbread cookies.  They're actually made with Chinese Five Spice and they're very yummy and delicious except that these particular cookies have been dipped in shellac so that they wouldn't melt in the rain--and they didn't.  By some miracle they survived that incredible storm last night and this morning.

Democracy in Action: So after you decided to do this rather than the delegates, what were some of the challenges?

Karter: Well once we brought it down to Electoral College, the challenges then were the same ones that we wre originally dealing with--it's how do you make it, what's the artwork, how do you structure it so it doesn't fall over.  You don't want it to be dangerous.  We want people to look at it and be engaged and have it be tactile and inviting and talk to people about who we are, about what this is.  And honestly I did not know hw the Electoral College was created until we did this map and we did some research--how it's formed.

Democracy in Action: You knew generally how it worked?

Karter:  I knew generally how it worked, but I had never stopped to say oh yes, it's the number of Senators and congressmen in a state.  I think maybe I knew that from civics when I was a kid but somewhere along the line my brain dropped it and then we were researching it and that became fun too.  And so it emerged to us as a teaching tool.

And actually the thing arrived, this arrived on Thursday night; it was three days late.  We had our shop that constructed the wood stuff, another shop that created the large format print out of our artwork, and then it was so late.  It came at about 7 o'clock at night on Thursday night and we had to deliver it the next morning.  And I dragged my kids out of the house...  They were exhausted and they really didn't want to do anything.  But we had to get the cookies on the map.  So my 10-year old and my 14-year old and I and another woman that works for me--because everybody else was busy; we're really a busy little company.  And we did this late at night on the loading dock and we had so much fun...  Just imagine being 10 years old and having this giant map of the United States and getting to put cookies all over it.  What could be more fun?  And they really didn't want to come out that night, and then I had to drag 'em away.

And they had particular ideas about how the cookies should look and how they should be arranged and they were completly different ideas than what I started out with...  I was think that all the cookies should be set at the same angle relative to level and that there should be a continuity, because I was feeling it would be too busy and hard to look at if there wasn't sort of an even spread.  So my kids come along and they started putting them everywhere  in random order and little decorations...and that I just think is wway more fun.  So it just goes to show.  Like somebody else came up with the idea--I'm a surfer, but I didn't think of making the cookies in Hawaii be surfer cookies.

# # #

Copyright © 2004 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.