I love to feed people – it’s because I’m Italian and food is a big part of my family’s heritage. I may be indifferent to your physical discomforts if I’m otherwise engaged mentally; however, if you mention feeling a bit ravenous or famished; I’ll immediately stop what I’m doing and get myself to a kitchen. The act of cooking sooths me both physically and mentally; the joy of feeding you and seeing you take delight in food I’ve created gives me pleasure beyond description. Am I altruistic or a narcissist? Who knows; a bit of both, I suspect. But I really, really, really like cooking.
However, it’s baking that I truly love. Anyone that knows me will tell you that during the Christmas season, I’m a bit insane. I start making cookie lists around Thanksgiving and by the 2nd week of December it’s a full-on category 5 hurricane of flour, sugar, butter & chocolate. I like to make upwards of 10 or 11 different varieties. If not every Tupperware in my house is not filled with cookies and bars during the week of Christmas, I feel at loose ends. My son & husband wait for me to start mulling over my favorite baking cook books. We love tradition mixed with a little bit of new.
Typically, I will take 2 days off from work; get my son packed off to Grandma’s for those two days and get to it. Just writing about it energizes me – I am fueled by the anticipation of the taste of a new cookie or trying a different method of creaming, making lists that show me how I’m to organize my time (well, time I can organize – physical objects – not so much)…whatever it is that is related to baking makes me happy. I love to wake up at 5AM, brew a huge pot of strong black coffee, open the back door to let in as much cold air as possible and just go. Baking has taught me a lot – how to use my time wisely, how to plan, how to work through mental stress, how to work with another person in a bakery, how to socialize and work simultaneously – all lessons that I feel have helped shape me as a person.
I even plan what kind of music I will play when baking – because really, that’s one of the most important things that I require in the kitchen. Music makes me happy – deliriously happy. I can’t contemplate how it is that some people say things like “I don’t really like music”…WHAT??? I can’t imagine my life without music. Just in case you’re wondering – The Red Elvises make for great baking music. Pink Floyd – not so much – that’s much more appropriate for long bike rides in extreme weather when it’s most important to get your head into the music to help your body forget it’s 110 degrees outside…but that’s another topic – we’ll get there – eventually – don’t worry.
Anyway – back to the topic at hand. Music. Baking. Unmitigated Joy. I must be happy when I cook/bake. I can bake to calm myself down, but my food is definitely affected by my state of mind. I don’t know how people in high end restaurants can create anything that tastes even remotely edible when people are yelling at them – pans crashing, chaos, stress, noise, anger… I don’t get it. I will never be a contestant in Iron Chef. Ever. I have no desire to share a kitchen with anyone that is not singing, laughing or smiling. I prefer to solo bake – but I love to bake with my friend Leesa Jackson – she taught me everything I know about baking, preparing and losing yourself in magic of a Kitchen Aid mixer (cobalt blue to be exact).
Everyone with a mind to do it can be a great baker – it’s not a specialized talent reserved for the few – but a skill to be cultivated by anyone with the desire to try.
I also don’t believe in the idea of ‘a secret recipe’. And to quote Frank Zappa, that’s the ‘crux of the biscuit’. I will share any recipe and technique with anyone one that asks. Any time of the day or night. The joy is sharing – not holding. I don’t make fabulous cheesecake – I have a fabulous cheesecake recipe – and you can have it too. If you ask. That’s all you ever need to do. Just ask. I feel that life is that way as well. If you want to know something – just ask…There is no secret recipe for life – people that cup that ‘lie’ to their breasts in a secretive fashion and tell you it will only be revealed if you part with your money or ethics are fools. A little planning, some music, joy – that can feed your soul and give you peace. Oh, and a good Kitchen Aid mixer – preferably in cobalt blue.