It amazes me some times what brings me comfort. I used to love to bake and cook and make lunches for the kids. They hated cafeteria food, and a brown bag lunch from mom was what they wanted to open every day. I did what many moms do, threw in an apple and a home made chocolate chip cookie — knowing the apple was either traded or thrown in the trash. Occasionally I’d drop in a short note, “Have a great day!” or a chocolate candy kiss. They would buy their carton of milk and gobble down the same turkey sandwich day after day, year after year.
As a child I walked home for lunch every single day. It was the “old days,” and I think we had a cafeteria if kids lived too far to walk. Plus back then we had enough time for me to walk the 8 or 9 blocks home, eat lunch and get back in time for a last minute game of jump-rope or hop-scotch. Amazing when I think about it! Mom made very thin bologna and cheese sandwiches cut in half, but somehow they were worth the walk.
I loved the days when I came through the front door after school and smelled baking. Back then it was several times a week. We had dessert with every evening meal. Chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, pineapple upside-down cake. I especially liked the smell of cookies in the oven because I didn’t have to wait until I’d finished every speck on my plate. I could have one cookie with a jelly- glass of milk before I sat down to do homework. So I guess that’s where the comfort of baking began.
I wanted my children to have the same experience of walking in the door and being hit with the scent of vanilla, sugar, chocolate. They too preferred the cookies, and I was generous and let them have two before dinner. I always hated the fact that I’d eat as many as they would. I was an adult female nearing menopause and I knew I didn’t need the calories or the sugar. So when the kids went off to college, I baked and mailed them off, keeping a half dozen in the pantry for my nighttime nibbling. Then college graduation came and went, and I no longer had a way of getting rid of them. On occasion I’d box them up in plastic containers and drive them over to their respective houses, leaving them on the front door step if they weren’t home. I’d save a half dozen for my nighttime nibbling.
It became a habit, a pattern. And now that they’re adults and both on diets, I ask myself why I am in the kitchen this afternoon baking muffins and brownies. I don’t need the calories or the sugar. If I freeze them, I’ll eat them frozen. If I hide them, I will find them. If I try to pawn them off on the kids, they’ll decline them. I know that I will end up eating them. And yet —.
Today it is cloudy, overcast, cool for Arizona. I am a little bit tired and a little bit bored and a little bit avoiding work (writing). So here I am at the computer smelling the just baked poppy seed muffins with lemon frosting that are cooling on the kitchen counter. I am angry with myself for giving in. I’ve had the mix for weeks and managed to leave it on the shelf. And now?
I can smell the faint ‘burny’ smell of muffin tops, the sweet, sugary smell of almond and a slight tang of lemon. I am making bets with myself on how long it will take me to eat the first one. I am making bets with myself about whether or not I can stop at one. I am making bets with myself on how long it will take me to eat the entire dozen. And yet…
I loved stirring that flour and sugar and eggs and milk and oil. I loved dipping my half cup container into the batter and filling each of the paper cups in the muffin pan to the exact 2/3 full. I enjoyed licking my fingers and the spoon and made sure I scraped the very last of the batter into my mouth before the dirty bowl went into the sink to be washed. There is still something so comforting about baking. It’s almost tangible. It’s in my blood. Love and care equal food. And today I needed some love and care I guess. I deserve this feeling of accomplishment, this feeling of sensuality. These calories that will stick to my hips five minutes after I eat the first one.
Anyone want to make a bet on how long I hold out? I’ll let you know.