Portland’s own baking queen, also known as La Reinita, talks to us this month about everything from the messy, gritty aspects of living to the expansive, joyous opportunities we can create for ourselves if we decide to be honest and authentic. Oh, and baking. ;) Cortney Morentin is joyful expression, personified, and we all should take a page out of her book and make space for a good long dance break today. Okay?
Cortney! I’ve had an intense passion for baking ever since I could level a cup of flour so I’m very excited to get to connect with you in this way. Baking can be a soothing and grounding practice, that’s both tactile and cerebral— what needs do you have that are met through baking?
Meditation. Baking is my form of meditation, a time to be present. The practice of using my hands, body, and spirit all at the same time allows me to really be here now with all of my feelings and energy that are translated directly into the food I'm making. I have yet to sit my butt down, be still and meditate, but baking does it for me and it's really special.
Connection. Connecting with the humans who make or grow the ingredients we use, the process of making things from scratch, creating relationships with customers and other small business owners, and having a community that shows up even when you mess up an order. Authentic connection is my north star and I feel incredibly lucky that I get to experience it in so many different forms through baking.
Humility. Every single bake day or prep day something goes wrong whether it's dropping eggs on the floor, missing an ingredient from a recipe, accidentally weighing things out in lbs instead of grams, or forgetting the timer and ending up with burnt product. I am humiliated every time and I allow myself to shame and talk crap inside my brain for about 1-2 minutes and then I move on. It's a friendly reminder mistakes happen and they're always going to happen and how I react is the most important part.
Baking is also soaked in tradition and ritual. How is your baking influenced by your Mexican and Colombian heritage? Besides the yummy conchas y pasteles tres leches, what can you share with us about your family’s traditions and how they’ve shaped you in your work?
My baking is influenced by trips growing up going to the panaderias with my grandpa filling pink boxes with pan dulce and galletas, the time I spent with my mom in Colombia while staying with family, and the trips to Rosarito visiting tortillerias and eating as many flour tortillas that would fit in my belly. This practice is also influenced by my grandma who would cook with what she had, just some beans in the cupboard with some water and salt was enough or a few veggies and short noodles to make fideo soup. Cooking or baking with what you have is an underappreciated art.
My family's traditions of throwing parties, gathering over food, and pushing furniture aside to dance for every holiday and celebration you can imagine is interwoven into my entire being and has completely shaped how I run this business.
Who in your life do you admire, look up to, and get inspired by? Did you always know that you would one day start your own bakery and call it La Reinita, or did the path leading up to this look a little different for you?
Everyone who has made hard decisions because it was what was best for them and not expected of them inspires me, which would be everyone I love dearly- mom, dad, best friends, brother, and other small business owners here in Portland. Those moments have given me the courage to be honest and show up as I am, whether that's a giant mess full of tears or over-the-moon with way too big of a dumb smile I can't wipe off my face.
I had no idea I was going to start my own bakery one day, let alone call it La Reinita. Growing up, I loved everything about food, but mostly eating it. Then in university I changed my major from nursing to nutrition with really no idea what I was going to do with it except revolve my life around food. I dated an aspiring chef during that time who really indulged me in cooking from scratch. Landed a dream job in LA as a product buyer for an online farmers market and was gifted a sourdough starter, then it was all over. I truly believe it was love after the first bake. I couldn't believe this little jar of flour and water could make bread! It was a magical experience and still is.
I think every single step in my career and life has led to this moment and had one thing gone differently I wouldn't be here today. Truly grateful for all of it. I've always dreamed of owning a food storefront where we can celebrate together, shop for delicious food made by mom and pop businesses, smell fresh bread baking, have an afternoon coffee, and push aside some furniture late in the night for a proper dance party. Currently working on bringing that dream to life.
How has the past year of complete and total upheaval affected you emotionally, physically, and within your work? Can you share any rituals or practices you use to stay afloat that you’ve learned along the way?
The past year has completely uprooted everything I knew and flipped it upside down. The pandemic caused my business to completely shift from events and farmers markets to an online delivery bakery within two weeks. The support from the community through social media made that transition possible and incredibly energizing. Last April and May, the business caught momentum I never saw coming and it was such a gift during such a dark time.
While all of this was happening, my dad and step mom decided it was best for them to not have a relationship with me, who I love dearly and deeply. This cracked me open in a way I had never been cracked open before, with the help of therapy of course. I had to be honest with myself that I wasn't quite living the life I knew I should be. I wasn't satisfied in my marriage. I wasn't able to have honest conversations with my husband, which is something I crave deeply. I wasn't open with my people that I am attracted to women and had realized it for a few years.
In short, I finally started being the most honest I could be with myself and everyone around me while upholding boundaries. It has been so damn painful with a divorce, separating my family and splitting up our dogs, losing a relationship with parents, selling a house that was bought 7 months prior, but worth every single moment to be right here right now.
Okay— now talk to us about dancing! We see you dancing on your Instagram so often, and it’s such an inspiring and invigorating burst of motion and happiness. What does this kind of movement mean for you, and how do you make space for that in your day-to-day? (Asking for a busy friend, I mean many busy friends ;) )
Dance is Joy! Feelings! Fun! Self expression! It's a time to be playful and enjoy the moment. It's a time to express any and every feeling that is living in your body. It's a time create joy. Dance is my saving grace.
3 easy steps to fit dancing into the busy schedule. Step one is turning on a record or playing a jam way too loud in your airpods while in the kitchen or hanging in the living room. Step two is feeling the beat and moving to it. Step three is having fun. :)
Yepppp they're gf ;)
Cortney’s Buckwheat Pecan Mexican Wedding Cookies Recipe!
1 cup butter, room temp
1/2 cup cane sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups buckwheat flour
pinch of salt
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup pecans
Powdered sugar to coat (when cool)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
(You can also use your hands to mix if needed!)
Then add the vanilla extract and mix again until fluffy.
Add the flour, salt, and cinnamon, and beat until the dough comes together.
Then add pecans and fold in.
Bake for 8 minutes at 350 then turn and bake for another 8-9 minutes.
Let cool completely.
Then toss on powdered sugar!
Photos by : Marissa Boone