If you have come to visit me today in hopes of a new recipe, I fear I will be turning you away empty-handed. This is not a food post but a musing. This is me exploring my inner being to shed light on a subject I find most distressing: my hatred of baking. You can thank Shauna over at Gluten-Free Girl for pushing this to the forefront of my mind by asking "Why do you love baking?"
How incredibly odd, I bet you say, for a food blogger to say they hate baking! After all, it's what they have chosen to write about in their spare time, is it not? I suppose there are food bloggers who concentrate on meals but I believe food is meant to feed more than our bodies. A good steak can only take you so far. Let's all just admit it: it's the baking which feeds our soul. Only baking wraps it's fluffy, sweet warmth around our jagged edges and fills our empty places with memories bought with the scent of vanilla.
I used to know people who hated baking. They baffled me. "How could you hate baking?!" I would cry in despair. In my mind, it is akin to sacrilege. I was the friend who put on an apron and whipped up cookies at 3am because the fancy struck me and a few years before our food allergy and intolerance diagnoses the chances I was using a cookbook while doing so plummeted. I knew what I wanted and no one else had it quite exactly so. Of course, I had my favourites still, don't get me wrong. No one can ever replace my Gran's vinnetarta nor my mom's Black Devil's food cake.
Which is exactly why I now hate baking. I feel out of my depth. Even 20 months into this journey, baking without gluten, dairy, eggs and nuts is far from instinctive for me and I feel I'm losing my knowledge of baking with gluten- though I suppose the latter doesn't matter a whole lot. I can't see myself viewing these foods quite the same ever again.
Then there's the loss of continuity. I had intended to hand down "family favourites" from the past three generations to my children. Baking connected me to my family, my ancestors, and gave me a sense of where I came from. Looking at our family favourites, you could see an evolution of sorts- a pulse- as old favourites came back into favour in successive generations. My gran's favourites were oft-repeated in my generation and my mom's favourites in my children's generation. I can only guess that my children's children may favour my gran's favourites once more and, in a way, she will continue on in the recipes she bequeathed to us.
Only now, she won't. Her recipes are put to rest in my family. My brothers' children may continue to cherish them but that will not be the case for us. The closest we may get is an adaptation, a taste-alike- a fraud. And my soul bleeds.
It's been just over three years since my grandmother passed. On December 8th of this year, she would have been ninety years old. She died on my grandfather's birthday, fifty years after he did. Our family sang happy birthday as we sprinkled her ashes onto his grave. And then we went home and ate the recipes she gave to us. Recipes which she tweaked and trialled and perfected in her own mind, to suit her palate.
Well, that's the crux of it then. The loss of "normal" baking was my last real connection to my gran. Rather than viewing it this way, I need to embrace what she taught me. I need to live with the spirit she had in the kitchen which my mother swears she handed down to me. I need to find joy in the process again- the experimentation. I had come to this conclusion already but the why of how I came to be where I am had escaped me until now.
Perhaps the scent of vanilla, and the adventurous spirit of my gran, will be enough to soothe my soul.
Prune Cake with Crumb Topping
3 weeks ago