When I was a kid growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, my favorite food in the whole wide world were sugar cookies from Savage's Bakery in Homewood. Made fresh daily, from before I could even walk, I used to go in there with my mother to buy bread and other baked goods, knowing that every trip to Savage's always ended with a big fat old-fashioned buttery cookie, cooked to the perfect yellow consistency and coated with the best flakes of sugary sweetness that would melt in your mouth.
Old Mr. Savage used to laugh everytime I came in the door saying he remembered me coming there when I couldn't even open the door by myself, always wide-eyed in hopes that there was a fresh batch of cookies hot out of the oven. Whenever he or one of the women behind the counter saw me walking down the street, they would usually greet me holding one out for me as soon as I walked inside.
Through the years, Savage's sugar cookies have been the one sweet constant in my life. As I grew older classroom outings, trips to the zoo, birthday parties and cub scout meetings were made even better by the fact that they were accompanied by Savage's sugar cookies. And as I got older my bike and eventually my car somehow managed to find their way there as often as possible. As I started making my way in the world, whether it was as close by as going to camp or as far away as going to college, my mother never failed to send a box of cookies filled with love and a reminder of the joys of home.
When I moved to New York in the late 1980s, Mom continued to diligently send me boxes of these delicious treats, helping to curb a bit of homesickness and ensuring that I was not "starving" as I was trying to succeed in the big city. And now, at the age of forty-three, she still sends me boxes of sugar cookies from Savage's, and my friends and family all herald their arrival. But the sweetest thing about going back to Alabama, along with the joy of time spent with family and old friends, is the greeting of a big white box tied with red and white string and the words "SAVAGE'S BAKERY" written in red ink across the top. And inside awaiting me are a dozen five inch round disks infused with my idea of sheer perfection, and a reminder that there truly is no place like home.
2916 18th St S
Homewood, AL 35209
Seale "Brother" Ballenger is a twenty year veteran of the book publishing industry and currently works as the publicity director for Harper Entertainment and William Morrow at Harper Collins Publishers. He is the author of HELL'S BELLES: A Tribute to the Spitfires, Bad Seeds, and Steel Magnolias of the New & Old South. Seale, his partner Chris, and their two French bulldogs, Maddie and Petey, live in New York City.