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Ellen Daehnick

February 6, 2012

Ellen Daehnick is a temptress. She is the magical cooking prowess behind Helliemae’s Salt Caramels. Ellen creates luscious, dark caramels that call to you. You can hide them in the laundry room or in your coat closet, but those sweet and salty squares of rich buttery caramel beckon and it’s impossible to leave them alone for too long. I speak from experience.

Ellen’s background isn’t really in food, but when her husband encouraged her to sell her indulgent treats,  it turned out that she loved it. In four weeks, Ellen was able to get her business up, running, and launch at a local food festival. What makes it all the better is that Ellen is a kick in the pants. She knows what she likes, says what she thinks, and operates with a sense of humor.

Do something nice for yourself and order some of her caramels. Try the new Chili Palmer (just in time for Valentine’s Day)! And if you want my suggestion; order extras. You’re gonna need them.

1. What is your hometown?

Houston. I grew up there in the 80s, when everyone was from somewhere else. I miss the tex mex, Indian food, and open spirit. People from vastly different backgrounds really do deals based on handshakes there. 

2. With what fictional character do you most identify?

Probably TS Garp. I read The World According to Garp when I was a kid, and it basically set my expectations for life.

A friend told me that when she read False Impression by Jeffrey Archer, the main character, Anna Petrescu, reminded her of me. I don’t know about that – Anna’s very resourceful in extreme circumstances, which is how we’d all like to think of ourselves, but I don’t know that it’s me. 

3. In the movie of your life, cast an actor to play you.

Well, before Julie and Julia I would never have said this, but Meryl Streep. In that movie she played tall and goofy really well (in a kitchen no less), so so she could probably do the job. 

4. What work of art speaks to your soul?

I love Tamara de Lemipcka’s portraits, esp Girl in a Green Dress. They also make me uncomfortable. And probably reflect my fondness for circa-1990 Madonna just a bit too much.

5. What books are you currently reading or recommending?

I just re-read two funny, lighthearted books: A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel, and Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Good Omens may be the funniest book I’ve ever read. And it’s about the apocalypse.

6. What song or album is currently in heavy rotation on your iPod?

Rancid: And Out Come the Wolves. This album has helped me through many late night stacks of caramel-coated dishes at the Helliemae’s factory.

7. What’s the last movie that made you cry?

Oh Lord, I cry so easily at movies. Last year, I started weeping at the end of True Grit. It was just so good, and I was overcome with gratitude that the Coen brothers exist and made that particular movie. Have you seen it? If not, you should probably stop reading this and get on it.

8.  Cat person or dog person?

Dog. Allie the Himalayan gorilla-goat-tahr is our rescue giant schnauzer. She thinks she’s a person. Mostly because of how we treat her.

9. What is more important, truth or kindness?

Did you lift that from a Meyers-Briggs questionniare? If you want to know, just come out and ask: I’m an ENTJ. 

10.    How do you define sin?

That’s a serious question. I think it comes down to doing something wrong, when you know it’s wrong, especially when it’s just for personal gain or to create a thrill.

11.    How do you define virtue?

Doing the right thing, even when it’s difficult. 

12.   Design your headstone: What does it say? What does it look like?

There’s a headstone in the Texas state cemetery in Austin that reads: “Never voted for Republicans, and had little to do with them.” Wouldn’t be true of me, but I love the idea of big life, big statement on that piece of rock. 

Maybe: She loved some people a whole damn lot, and they loved her back. 

Bonus Question: Who would you like to see answer these questions?

Becky’s mama 


Helliemae’s Salt Caramels

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