The cook and the drummer (Featuring Salted Caramel Apple Roses)

The halls outside the audition rooms at USC’s Thornton School of Music were teeming with anxious parents. The fetid fusion of skittish pre-teen breath, college musicians’ armpits, and floral lotion-smeared moms burned my eyes.

I paced the vinyl floor, squinting in the fluorescent lighting, trying to individuate from the crowd. I was different. I was 24. I hadn’t paid for instruments or music lessons or nagged my kids to practice. I was just a ride.

My brother, Max was led into the music room, drumsticks in hand, with what looked like thousands of other kids (it was probably 30) auditioning for Interlochen’s exclusive music camp.

It would be an afternoon of jazz standards.

I was nervous, but not with the same compassionate disposition as the other families. I had offered to drive Max to this audition when our parent’s schedules suddenly booked up. It seemed like fun, like a rare opportunity to spend a little one-on-one time with my 12-year-old brother. But now I was worried I wouldn’t know what to say after his audition. If it went well, he would have to tell me because I couldn’t see into the room. Even if I could hear him through the door I figured I wouldn’t know how to tell if he was any good. I didn’t know anything about jazz, and truly nothing about jazz drumming.

More importantly, I didn’t know Max well enough to know what kind of reaction he expected. I haven’t ever known what to expect with him.

Max is 12 years younger than I am. We didn’t grow up together as he moved with my father and stepmother (his mother) from New York to Los Angeles when I was 16 and he was 4. I stayed in New York to finish my last year of high school and then college. We saw each other when I frequently visited them in LA, but when he wanted to hang out, I was busy, and vice versa. Max and I had very different childhoods and, though we’ve always had a great rapport, it’s a relationship of chasms. More beats than words, more pauses than actions. He is, after all, a drummer.

I feel like I have been given maps, in one form or another, for every relationship in my life. I know there are rocky paths with parents that open onto wide pastures, exhilarating oceans with lovers, and sun-dappled meadows with friends. I see mountain ranges full of relatives, steady trails with coworkers, and endless woods with panting puppies. But no one said anything about siblings to me. This topography feels surprisingly underexplored with few warnings posted. No one told me we could have such distinctly different interpretations of the same experiences. It feels like a minefield sometimes.

We are polar opposites. I’m an organized, type A- cook (that’s not my blood type; I’m a failing perfectionist) who doggedly shows up on time every time. Max is a musician who is relatively private with his energy and free-wheeling about his life.

I always thought that brothers and sisters had a sameness. I figured since they shared parents, homes, schools, and histories they would share approaches and attitudes. All these years, I have assumed that the discombobulation of Max’s and my kinship was unique, but I am learning how common it is for siblings to feel like complete opposites. Even ones that are almost the same age and grew up together. I sit with friends and marvel at how differently our parents treat us than they do our siblings, how much more judgmental we are in those sibling relationships, how the normal standards for friends or family just don’t apply. There is a burden of proof for that connection that I don’t have with anyone else. Show me you love me, or I’ll kick you in the shin.

I’m such a hardass, I know. I’m a sister.


The audition began. Luckily, the music was easy to hear down the hallways and everyone in the corridor dorkily bopped and swayed. Jazz dads in jaunty caps did little neck shimmies, moms beamed supportively. I judged them silently like a good 24-year-old.

I was thinking about my brother, about how brave he was to be a musician, and how much I loved him. I listened hard. Is that him playing? No, I don’t think so. Next song? Naw, definitely not him. This? Damnit, how will I know?

And then something happened. I felt like I’d been napping and was jolted awake. I was actually dancing a bit in spite of myself. Everyone was. The room was alive in a way I had not thought a crowded hallway could be. People were giddy! Everyone looked surprised. And I knew it was him because I was weeping just a little bit. It’s like my soul took over my brain and the sibling detachments fused for a second. I recognized my brother. MY BROTHER THE DRUMMER. I wanted to shout it down the hall. This is him! This is my brother! And I can tell it’s good! I can tell!!!

Max and I on my wedding day

Minutes later, he exited the room with a Max Tucker signature shrug and said he was ready to go. I was bouncing up and down squealing congratulations. He just nodded. He didn’t say much more because he never does, but I told the story of the dancing hallway to him about 6 times during the drive home and then another 6 to our parents that night. I had seen the real him and had a new appreciation for all the beats we had taken.

Max is still a drummer, now sharing his life with his gorgeous, hilarious, brilliant musician wife, Megan. I watch them play together and I learn more about him than he’ll ever tell me.

Max and Megan on their wedding day

 They had a perfect wedding (yes, I catered it) full of friends and family and so much music. It was a magical day.

Congratulations M&M! I love you both with all my heart.









And here’s the perfect fall treat for you and your loved ones. Even your siblings.

I made this vegan version for my and Francis’ (he doesn’t do dairy) anniversary which was 2 days after Max and Megan’s wedding.

Vegan Salted Caramel Apple Roses

Makes 6 roses

Ingredients for the salted caramel:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons vegan butter
  • ¼ cup oat milk
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


For the roses:

  • 2 Honeycrisp apples
  • lemon juice to spray over apples
  • 1 sheet Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry (which is made with vegetable shortening)
  • Flour for dusting the board


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Have a full-sized muffin tin ready, prepped with baking spray or a bit of oil if it’s not a nonstick muffin pan.
  2. In a small saucepan, stir the sugar with the water under medium heat and cook until the sugar dissolves. Add the vegan butter and bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture becomes deep brown. Turn off the heat and CAREFULLY stir in the oat milk. It will boil violently for a second even though the heat is off. Stir in the salt and let cool for a few minutes.
  3. On a floured board, roll the puff pastry sheet into a 12X9 inch rectangle with the shorter end at the bottom of the board. Slice 2-inch strips horizontally, making 6 2×9-inch strips.
  4. Cut apples in half vertically and carefully remove the core, taking off as little of the “meat” of the apple as possible. Slice the apples into very thin slices, place on a plate, and spritz with lemon juice. Put the plate in the microwave and cook for 30 seconds to soften the apples.
  5. On the first pastry strip, place 7 apple slices, overlapping each other on the pastry. Fold the bottom of the pastry over the bottom of the slices, leaving the tops of the apples peeking out.
  6. From the side of the strip, start rolling carefully. You’ll hear some of the apple slices snap if they’re not that thin, but don’t freak out.
  7. Tuck the rolled apple pastry into a muffin tin.
  8. Continue with all 6 apples roses.
  9. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of salted caramel sauce over each uncooked apple rose and then bake for 30 minutes. Lightly cover the top of the roses with tin foil and bake for another 10 minutes.

If you would prefer the non-vegan recipe, switch the vegan butter to regular butter, the oat milk to heavy cream, and the Pepperidge Farm puff pasty to Dufour all butter puff pastry. The amounts and cooking times stay the same.


Here I am on KATU’s Afternoon Live making these:

Just click the pic

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