Joni Mitchell Baking Is Coming to Town

It’s mid- to late-October, so it’s pumpkin spice everything, cookies, candles, and shampoo. It’s autumn baking, and it’s either Joni Mitchell or Santa who’s coming to town. I haven’t been to stores or a mall given the pandemic, so I can’t speak to the decorations. But, come Halloween, I’m always remarking, “So early?” when I see sleds and red stockings lining the aisles beside the candy corn. I sound like my mother when I say it, with her same cadence and disapproval. As if it’s some shocking surprise in capitalism these days.

The greatest surprise I’ve experienced this year has come in the form of my daughter.

This summer—having thought that I refused the kids video games and electronics, but clearly not, as this rule was broken outright—Abigail took to cooking and baking as a creative outlet. With Joni Mitchell’s “River” on repeat—no, it was actually seven seasons of Gilmore Girls episodes, with Carole King’s theme song—my daughter baked everything from scratch, no boxes. Bakery style chocolate chip muffins, at least six types of chocolate chip cookies (from oversized Martha Stewart Lexi cookies to Playdate cookies dotted with M&Ms to Food Lab Brown Butter cookies to cookies that required both cake and bread flours), lots of yeasted waffles left to rise overnight.

If you have a subscription to any music streaming service, now would be the ideal time to say something like, “Alexa, play ‘A Case of You’ by Addison Agen.” It’s a Joni Mitchell song, but I love the Addison Agen cover. I have a chapter in the book I’ve been writing with the same title. I could listen to this song forever and still be on my feet.

Joe’s Stone Crab Key Lime Pie recipe she got from my mom. Gooey cinnamon squares. She made me a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting for my birthday, with golden raisins because I asked for them. I’m officially old now. Only old people or really young people who haven’t started to know any better will eat raisins. For L. Beckett and Phil, she churned Cookies & Cream ice cream. For her friends, she concocted galaxy cookies. For everyone, she baked snickerdoodles as fat as hamburgers.

We watched the 2007 Pixar film Ratatouille, which prompted her to recreate chef Thomas Keller’s would-be namesake dish, only it’s called, “Confit Byaldi.” “Whoever named that movie didn’t eat that dish first,” Abigail said after making it. “Uninspired,” she said.

Two types of vegetable soup, a buttermilk chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting—where she used way too much buttermilk, but we continued to eat it as we complained. Toffee, Parker rolls, Spanakopita triangles every single week with fresh dill and mint, Marcella Hazan’s simple but brilliant tomato sauce with onion and butter, Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookies, and then she moved on to meatloaf, after which, she declared herself a vegetarian. Just as I had when I was in high school.

“We know, we know,” Abby said, “you were a vegetarian for nine years before you lost your v-card to a chicken nugget.” She knows my cadence as I know my mother’s.

I particularly love that Phil will now look at a recipe for something he wants to eat, and he’ll say, “I’ll have Abigail make the sauce.” The girl, now thirteen, is fearless. She’s even willing to make shit that calls for a candy thermometer. I told her I’d need drugs first.

I also love the way my daughter now knows not to bother baking with measuring cups. She only bakes by weight, using a baking measurement conversion for common ingredients.

Mid-October and she wants to start in with Christmas now. Setting up a tree, loading up the Joni Mitchell, playing the movies, baking the bakes and cooking the cooks, just as I had with my mother. I wish my mom lived nearer so we could do these things together regularly, make these parchment-lined memories, baked into layers of phyllo dough, painted with butter and tucked into forever. I wonder, do all my best memories happen around a kitchen?

Baking with your Daughter


  1. I love this!! And thanks to you, I love that Joni Mitchell song too!! Abigail is definitely your “mini-me” & she, like you, never ceases to amaze me. Talk about taking all these recipes on & doing it all so well. She is certainly someone who is her own person & that’s so amazing to see at 13 years old when so many kids just want to follow everyone else. You & Phil have done an amazing job with both kids & it definitely shows. I would absolutely try anything any of you made. Your family stories continuously make me smile so thank you for that-)

  2. Did you know Joni is (or was, at least) quite a prolific baker of pies? Especially back in days in that cottage in Laurel Canyon. She fed people like Graham Nash, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Mama Cass, Mickey Dolenz…

  3. Yes, Addison’s version is wonderful. She sounds very much like Joni in tone and cadence. A very talented young woman who can wield a song way beyond her years in probable experience.

    You painted a very cozy scene with the baking and music. This actually had an effect and I found my guitar in hand. Thanks for reminding me of another distraction — another pause — when trying to not just reach for the convenient but potentially WRONG things when I’m in-between thoughts and feelings.

    And not that it will have the same effect as A Case of You, here’s something I wrote/recorded way back when talking about environmental issues was not as popular or believable. Before global warming had a name. Just to say thanks for reminding me — The Color Green by me – for any little kids you may have in your life. I’ll save the grown up songs for another time.

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