Monday, September 24, 2012

For The Love Of Baking ...

My online life is schizophrenic. I have two dominant personalities: Political Beth and Baking Beth. (Or Baker Beth, as Angelo has dubbed me.)

My baker self has met some of the most amazing people in the food world and we've become virtual friends. Some day, I might even meet them. (Not surprisingly, many of them can be found in New York. I've been meaning to make a return visit. I am overdue.)

And so it was today that Gail, cookie artist and appreciator of mentions in blog posts, tweeted a link to this post, a brilliant treatise on the space between the romantic notion of a career in food and the reality.

I read it and thought, "I should write a blog post about this!" and then remembered that I already had.

But not fully. There is more to say.

People, very kind people, tell me on a regular basis that I should open a bakery, I should sell baked goods online, I should do something related to baking and that is very, very – no pun intended – sweet.

I appreciate their appreciation. And their encouragement. It's nice to know I'd have a few customers right off the bat.

But as Stella writes so poignantly:

But however much you love it, let’s be clear: this career will never love you back. It can’t. It’s not a person or a puppy, it’s a job.

I don’t mean to say you can’t, or shouldn’t, love your job. Only that love is a feeling and a shaky foundation for a career. You don’t feel love after a seventy hour work week, when a stranger tears you to shreds on Yelp, or after losing everything in a power outage. If love’s the only fuel you’ve got, those moments will defeat you. When I get to the restaurant to face some fresh disaster, my love for homemade sprinkles doesn’t well up inside and lift me above the fray. What gets me through is an ability to set my emotions aside and say, “I don’t mind.”

I don’t mind the heat. I don’t mind the hours. I don’t mind starting over. I don’t mind standing. I don’t mind washing dishes. I don’t mind feeling tired. I don’t mind working on holidays. I don’t mind the madness. I don’t mind repetition. I don’t mind not having a lunch break. I don’t mind scrubbing. I don’t mind getting critiqued. I don’t mind getting yelled at. I don’t mind staying late. I don’t mind the stress. I don’t mind burns and cuts and scrapes and pain.


When people send me their love letters to baking, I don’t doubt their sincerity. But to give up a job or an education, you owe it to yourself to ask more than “what do I love?” You need to also ask “where do I thrive?”

And there it is: Where do I thrive?

Also, this morning, I read this stunner of a post from my never-met-in-person, English, male twin, Mike, which includes this passage:

I am a product of a certainty culture. Very early on, my parents instilled in me the unquestionable value of having a job, any job, because of the financial security it brought, and it really didn’t matter what I did as long as it translated into a wage. This applied in a wider sense. Experiences were things to be managed, controlled, nailed down. Chaos was the enemy, and it was to be fought with hard-headed predictability.

Oh, the resonance. The brain-rattling resonance.

My father is surely of the "any job" camp. (Yes, there's a lot to be said for income, I'll grant you.) My mom (who reads this blog; hi, mom!) is very much a planner and, as her daughter, I am a planner, too.

And I like planning. But even my planner of a mom saw, from early on in me, that I take planning to an extreme.

Not even planning, per se, but a thirst for knowing, of figuring everything out before proceeding which is, in a word, ridiculous.

I know that now. I've known it for some time. The understanding is in the doing. There is no way to stand outside of the doing and predict how it will turn out. It is possible to look ahead and anticipate turns of events – I'm rather good at chess that way – but it is not possible to look ahead and anticipate every turn of events, given that I am not the only person on the planet and not everyone plays by the same rules, or, for that matter, even the same game.

(You'd think that my desire to script everyone's lines would make me a superlative screenwriter, and yet, the script that I started writing more than several years ago has been hung up around the 60-page mark for a long time. Apparently, I do not thrive as a screenwriter.)

But the baking. Why not the baking?

Because – and mom and I were just talking about this this weekend – I have no interest in running a baking business. I bake because I love to bake. I bake as an expression of love. That I pinch off minute quantities of dough when forming cookies to ensure that each one is as close to perfect as possible is not just about my obsessive need for order. It is, however perverse it may seem to some, an expression of my esteem for those for whom I am baking. They deserve my best effort, these people who so enrich my life.

And so I cannot hand that off to someone else. I cannot have other people bake for me, for others. Because it's not about the baked goods so much as it is about what the baked goods represent, what I mean for them to convey, my love and appreciation for those for whom I bake.

I have never thought about this in such a concrete way before today.

And so I owe a debt of gratitude to Gail and Stella and Mike today. And mom and dad, too. And everyone who has provided input and helped shape my thinking, one step closer to defining where I thrive.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home