Life, At 170 Degree Celsius, For 20 Minutes
June 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
Baking is a very calming activity.
My limbs were moving back and forth emotionlessly, my eyes and hands and body were coordinating mechanically – according to some written instructions typed in Times New Roman by a chocolate obsessed grandma, and my mind… my mind was galloping between the smooth, slick surface of the batter and a void somewhere along the Milky Way.
My eardrums suddenly picked up a song, a familiar, blue kind of reminder of the heartbreak period from some time back. I wondered if I should feel saddened by it. As if that actually happens by choice.
If you want to be happy, be. A familiar quote. I smiled a little. Leo Tolstoy.
I realized that I haven’t skipped a single song on my iTunes. Only several hours ago on a cab home I was listening to the same playlist and skipping and cutting almost every song, sick and absolutely furious of those overfamiliar tunes blaring on my earphones like a nagging mom. Now the same songs sound like the good kind of company in a kitchen – the kind that doesn’t look concernedly over your shoulder every two seconds and ask if you need help. The kind that just sits on the stool, reads a book, maybe occasionally comments on something completely irrelevant.
Somewhat like a kitchen cat really.
Whereas cooking, say, a piece of steak is part technique (2 mins on each side = medium rare), part instinct (no one ever said it was 2 mins to the millisecond!), baking is almost, all technique. It is all about getting the proportions perfect, getting the temperature of the oven right before you shove the tray in, taking it out before the pie top cracks, but not before the souffle sinks. It is all about following instructions. Thoughtlessly. Following. Instructions.
Which is great as I have come to love doing things that don’t require much thought. Like eating. Like lying on my bed pretending to be asleep. Like sitting on 6 hour bus rides from NYC to Providence. Like baking. They give me excuses for thinking about things that require thought. Like life. Like what to do if I run out of almonds.* Like writing.
Baking, is also the only orderly thing I do in this life. The rest, is the rest.
The oven admitted a series of monotonous beeps. I checked the cookbook. 20 minutes, it said. 20 minutes on the mark it was. I took out the tray and placed it on the stovetop. Stripped naked of expectations, I scooped out a chunk from one of the six dark chocolate cupcakes. Steam snaked out, faint, white, coiling into thin air. The chunk looked uneven, porous, brown, a little ugly. I’ve seen this before, I’ve done this before, I thought. I sent it into my mouth.
And then, baking doesn’t seem so emotionless after all.
*I substituted cranberry trail mix instead. Turned out even better