I am a terrible glutton- greedy through and through- and so it is natural that I should love baking. I am not merely a glutton for treats mind you, but a glutton for praise and attention too. It is equally delicious to parade my wares in front of others as it is to eat them. And when you parade them in front of the best sort of people (fellow gluttons) you can get a reception that is nothing short of a hero’s welcome. Some of the finest moments of my life, so far, have consisted in me marching proudly around a coffee-tables displaying what I have been up to in the kitchen.
The skill of being able to make a cake out of, say, a jar of Nutella and few bits and pieces, is a skill that can mask all kinds of character flaws. It must be: all kinds of discerning and lovely people like me despite my many affectations, prejudices and vanity- despite, even, my propensity to march proudly around coffee- tables loudly declaring my own baked goods to be “a triumph”.
Being a glutton, I would have loved baking regardless, but there are all kinds of excellent reasons to love baking on top of this. I hope to explore all of them in time. Here is one: The endeavour to bake something is always an act of bravery. Baking takes courage. Now, let’s not get carried away. There are far more courageous things to do than bake a cake and baking is at best a small act of bravery. But most of us, and most certainly me, have compact lives of just the right scale for small acts of bravery to matter.
All kinds of things can go wrong when you bake. You walk a fine line. The laws of chemistry and physics are not forgiving: and even the slightest moment of negligence can leave you sobbing woefully into a unsalvageable mass of ingredients .
“No one will love me today- I have overworked the pastry.”
Baking is not cooking- which, as far as I can tell, is a matter of indiscriminately chopping all manner of things and slopping them about in some hot liquids until they change colour. When you bake you have a rare opportunity to really make something- to transform things (and all from the comfort of your kitchen), but it can go very wrong. Putting your apron on in preparation for an afternoon’s baking is to open yourself up to failure, to invite difficulty into your Saturday afternoon. Worse, if you do fail somebody is likely to know about it. Those gathered in your lounge with empty plates and full tea-cups will act as if it doesn’t matter but you know, oh you know, that their esteem for you is slightly diminished (your flaws are starting to show) and, of course, you will miss your hero’s welcome to the coffee table.
Most of my recreational life is passive and comfortable. Baking is my chance to be just a teensy bit of a hero (a hero of the coffee- table) and for a glutton such as myself what could be more delightful.