September 2, 2011
If asked what I do everyday, no one would be surprised to learn that I breathe; sleep; eat; read; tell my daughters, “I love you;” have conversations; drink coffee (a whole milk miel latte); check out my favorite Internet sites; try to run; and worry about who knows what (I realize that last one could be interpreted in a number of ways). Many of the people in my life (co-workers, family, and friends) know that I bake everyday, but only a few people have a clue why, and I realize I am not completely sure myself.
What have I baked this week? I made an exquisite freeform Blueberry Tart with a Cornmeal Crust from The Craft of Baking (DeMasco, 2009), Peanut Butter Cup Crunch Brownie Bars from BrownEyedBaker’s blog (amazing), and Serendipity Deluxe Bars from Bakingblonde’s weblog (I brought them to work and earned an employee of the year award within 10 minutes). Right now I have Heartland Turtle Bars in the oven (Baked Explorations, no further citation is needed, I believe). I have plans for lemon bars and PBJ bars for this weekend (and maybe a raspberry tart with golden raspberries from the farmer’s market).
The amazement and questions that I receive when I tell people that I bake every morning (lately at 4:00am, no less) keep me amused. People I know often tell me they NEVER bake anything…no time or talent. How is it possible that you bake everyday? WHY do you do it? Why do I do it? Someone I spoke to yesterday thought it was a concrete task that must engender a sense of accomplishment. Yes. It allows me to be very generous since I share my baking with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Yes. It gives me something I can count on. Yes. It is relaxing. Yes. I am an absolute creature of habit (very few people know that I eat the same thing for lunch everyday—right now it is toast, peanut butter, and banana) and doing something daily is very comforting. Yes. Yes. It adds to my sense of identity. This not only includes letting people know that I am not just a baker, but I am a BAKER. I take my baking very seriously and feel a bit lost when I am unable to bake. On recent trips to NYC and Wisconsin, I felt at loose ends when there were no kitchens available to me at 5am. I had to substitute going to bakeries for baking myself. Yes. And finally, I love being a bit on the fringe. I have always loved describing who I am with labels few people wear with pride. Girl who doesn’t shave her legs or wear a bra? Yup, and was happy to admit it. Feminist when many of my friends were much more concerned with finding a male partner than looking at the politics of marriage in our culture? Yes, again. And now, older mother, going through a major life transition, who has hundreds of cookies and bars in her freezer, yet bakes everyday. Yes, yes, yes.
My daughters love telling their friends that I bake everyday and will often bring the spoils of our freezer to dance classes, teachers, or soccer practices. My oldest daughter has a nightly ritual…”freezer-diving” in which she trolls through our freezer looking for a long-lost treasure and proudly brings it to room temperature with the air of having found a forgotten pair of solid gold earrings. My father and partner shake their heads will slight amusement and tolerance. “Really. There isn’t room for one more cookie in our freezer. Where are we going to put the vegetarian burgers or eggrolls? We barely have room for a carton of ice cream. This is NOT going to work!” Yet every morning when the smell of butter and chocolate slowly seep into our home, the nods of understanding, acceptance, and even anticipation occur.
Is there something else I’d like to be able to say I do every day? Yesterday, my youngest daughter read an article about famine in Somalia. She was horrified (and I think a bit traumatized) by the picture of a young starving girl that accompanied the news story. She must have asked 50 times, “Why did I look at that picture, it was SO horrible?” Then, she began to plan a 7th grade bake sale with profits going to help end hunger in Somalia. She screwed up her courage to develop a way to approach her “scary” 7th grade Social Studies teacher about her plan and left the house triumphantly stating, “Good-bye, Mom. I’m going off to change the world today.” What could I do but cry? Do I change the world everyday? I’d like to think that I do…through my example to my girls, my conversations with people, and the sweetness I bring to others (and myself) through my baking. If everyone baked everyday and shared their creations, how might our world be a different place?