EAST TAWAS – Since she began cooking, part-time East Tawas resident Michele Griesmer knew she wanted to have all her recipes in a book for her children someday.
“I love to bake and I love to cook so I thought well this is something I want to leave for my kids, so that was the importance,” she said.
In June 2019, she did just that. She published an only cookie cookbook called “How to Make the Best Cookies Easy As 1-2-3!”. The process of creating the book took her two years from the time she started writing to the publishing process.
“I think that the most challenging part was getting all the puzzle pieces together because I didn’t know that you have to have an editor, paginator, a graphic designer,” she said. “I didn’t know you needed all this, I thought I could just type my cookies and cook my recipes and send them off and that would be that.”
The recipes are a collection of her grandmother, mother, mother-in-law and husband’s grandmother’s, along with her own. The oldest being one called Sonja Heines which Griesmer recalls her mother making when she was just a child. The cookie resembles a thumbprint cookie with jam filled in at the end. She said, however, that this cookie isn’t like your regular thumbprint cookie. Another that many have requested her to bake the most is her double chocolate chip pecan oatmeal cookie.
“They are amazing and I do dearly love them,” she said.
Surprisingly, Griesmer was not always cooking and baking in the kitchen as it may seem. She said she enjoyed cooking and baking, but didn’t do it very often in the kitchen as a child because of her mother’s wishes.
“Mother was very possessive of her kitchen and it was her territory and I was occasionally allowed to be in her kitchen,” she said.
Because of this, Griesmer didn’t pursue baking as a career until much later in life. Actually, she originally went to school to become a biologist, which she did. Through biology she met her husband David while doing research on Lake Huron.
She pursued biology for many years and said she really enjoyed it, but she got to a point in her life where she felt like she needed something that required more human interaction.
“Biology was wonderful, but it’s kind of quiet. I needed to do more than that,” she said.
Following her career of being a biologist she had a variety of jobs from being a perfume buyer to working in sales. It was around her middle 50s that her best friend suggested that she be a personal chef. She said she didn’t know anything about it, but did a lot of research and later became a personal chef around 2003.
While working as a chef she said people would ask her if she could do parties of one to 100 people. She said before she knew it she had become a caterer.
“I found a commercial kitchen and the parties got bigger and bigger,” she said.
Shortly after catering she got into meal assembly around 2012 and after that she decided she wanted to do something different. Throughout her life and the different careers she’s held, one thing remained consistent. Through her whole journey from her first job to the last she would make cookies.
She said while she was catering people would ask her if she could make an assortment of cookies for funerals and church services. She said every time there was a bake sale or coffee was being offered at church she would bake cookies.
“I was the cookie lady, so at church I would always bring cookies,” she said. “I just became known for my cookies because they were extraordinary.”
She said her love of cookies and being constantly asked to make them for events led to the idea to make a cookbook solely revolved around cookies. There were also a number of other things that contributed to helping her decide to write a book. One being a class she stumbled upon on how to write a book called “Never Work Again Unless you Want to.”
She took the class in North Carolina where she spends the winter months with her husband. She said she’s been traveling to her East Tawas home for the last 40 years, but it was just a few years ago that the pair decided to retire to Topsail Island, N.C. for the chilly winter months. After stumbling upon the class she knew she wanted to write a cookbook.
“I’m at the right place ‘cause I want to write a cookbook. That was the beginning of the journey and then I started,” she said.
While enjoying the warm sunny weather in the winter months, Griesmer also teaches cooking classes at The Seasoned Gourmet in Wilmington. She started teaching about three years ago when she walked in and they asked if she’d like to teach classes. She agreed and has been doing it ever since. She has taught ages six to 70 on how to get dinner on the table in an hour or less, to healthy meals and everything in between.
“Its great fun to work with people, great fun to work with kids and to share my passion and my love with others,” she said.
Even though early in her life her mother didn’t allow her to be in the kitchen very often, that didn’t stop her from bringing her own kids into the kitchen with her.
“When I became my own mother. It was like from the time they were tiny it was like get on the counter, measure this, pour this in. I wanted to make sure they all had an experience to do that,” she said.
In writing this book, she stressed that she wants the person who purchases it to do exactly that.
“Throw your kids in the kitchen, let them get dirty, spread the flour around it doesn’t matter and they are only little for a little while and you make an impact,” she said. “That’s kind of just important stuff you do with kids.”
Her other goal in writing the book she said was if someone purchases if and they contact her she’d like to email them a recipe every month.
“I would love to do that,” she said.
Her love of cooking and baking doesn’t stop at just desserts, however. Griesmer said she has tons and tons of cookbooks and has made hundreds and hundreds of different recipes from Thai and Chinese to Greek and Italian and a lot in between. Even being an avid cooker and baker; however, she said that there’s actually still a lot of recipes that she’s never tried before that she would like to.
A few being from her mother’s 3-by-5 note card collection. She said when her brother was cleaning out her mother’s house before they moved to Texas, Griesmer stressed that she wanted her mother’s recipes which included long and deep drawers filled with 3-by-5 note cards that she’s never tried.
“Like I want to do this one, Orange Coconut Refrigerator cookies, there’s just a whole bunch,” she said. “ These are just the little ones that I pulled out that I have not tried that I want to make and there’s still so many I haven’t gone through.”
Along with the note cards, Griesmer also said within her cookbook collection she has books that date all the way back to the 1900s, one being a white house cookbook filled with recipes to a Boston cooking school book.
“Its kind of fascinating how they baked and cooked and again they didn’t have all these lovely convection ovens and all this stuff that makes life so easy, so I can see it would be a little more challenging,” she said.
Although she enjoyed the journey of writing the book to share with her family and friends, she said she’s not sure just yet if she’s ready to write another.
“I’m not sure, maybe, but not now. I really am enjoying teaching the classes down in Wilmington,” she said.
She did say, however, if she were to write another in the future it would be on how to get dinner on the table in an hour or less.
“I think if I was going to do another book I would probably do that. In conjunction with teaching these classes, I’ve learned a lot about people and how they respond to recipes, what they like to do, stuff like that,” she said.
The one tip she has for those who pick up the book and bake regularly, put out all your ingredients and measure everything out before you start.
“Everything’s proportionate and you’re all set to go and you don’t mess up that way,” she said. “It’s a really good thing to do, so you dirty a few more dishes, but it does make a big difference so you don’t screw up a recipe.”
Griesmer’s book can be found on amazon.com.