I had a hard weekend. It started out with a party on Friday night for the neighbor’s 5-year old that was full of pregnant bellies and babies, not to mention uncomfortable interactions with “friends” that have chosen to back out of my life while I go through what I am. I try my hardest to be strong at these things, but I always end up having to step aside to let some tears fall before I can join back into the crowd. I’m not sure I ever joined back in on Friday night, though. The emotions lingered throughout the next day, even spilling into the remaining days of my three-day weekend.
When I went home after my D&C in June, I spent time with my best friend who was going through a major life transition of her own, and we talked a lot about passions and life lists. It helped energize us amidst our struggles and focus us at a time when we were seemingly grasping for air. I’ve spent a good majority of my life trying to find a passion to call my own, often times feeling like I may always be left searching. But in the last few years, my love of cooking – and now baking – have flourished. I didn’t hesitate when I answered that as my passion, it’s the one thing I absolutely love doing. When I returned home from that trip, I checked out every baking cookbook (shouldn’t it be called a bakebook?) I could out of the library and decided I wanted to hone my craft of making pastries and desserts and so I started creating.
Through the pain of the last loss, all of my emotions have been put into baking. I’ve made tarts, breads, cakes, pies, caramels, custards and finally last night, my first galette. Up until last weekend when I made Tim the banana cream pie for his birthday, I had never made my own pie crust. I had heard horror stories of how hard it was and that it just wasn’t worth all the trouble when you could so easily just buy one at the store. But that wasn’t good enough for me. I’m a bit of perfectionist with a whole lot of competitiveness mixed in (I’m even competitive with myself), so I knew I had to learn how to make my own crust. And although it wasn’t aesthetically the best looking pie crust ever made, I am proud to say I rocked it. I then knew I needed more of a challenge so I decided I wanted to attempt a galette, which is essentially a free-form pie sans pan. After the allotted wait time of 2-hours once it came out of the oven, I bit into a flaky, buttery, heavenly pie crust and had to stop myself from running a victory lap around the house I was so damn proud of myself.
It doesn’t matter what kind of day I’m having, if I step into that kitchen and lose myself for a few hours (or days) in a recipe book and some flour, I come out feeling a bit more ready to face the world. I guess you could say the kitchen is my “happy place.” Yesterday not only did I make a peach galette, I made cinnamon brown sugar ice cream to go on top of it. And since you shouldn’t really eat pie for dinner, I cooked black beans from my parent’s garden all day in order to make a spicy spread for chicken tacos topped with a chipotle-lime sauce. I can’t just saute some chicken and put it on a tortilla…no, I have to make my own taco seasoning and spicy sauce and black beans. Because just throwing some chicken on a plate just wouldn’t be satisfying enough for me – give me a challenge in the kitchen and I’ll gladly tackle it.
Cooking and baking is one of the few things I absolutely love doing and can even say I’m pretty good at. From very early on I was in the kitchen learning from my mom, holding the hand mixer and blasting powdered sugar or egg whites all over the kitchen table as I learned to keep it in the batter. I’ve come a long way and I’m anxious to get even better. I’ve needed something like this for a long time, something to put all of my energy into when things aren’t going the way I’d prefer them to be going. Or something that I can put my love into for someone I love, giving them my version of art as appreciation for them being in my life. Something to take my mind off of all those things I’m tired of thinking of.
Of course, it never escapes me that I’d give anything for a little boy to be at my feet while I attempt to bake and watch him at the same time, or to catch the expression of my daughter as she bites into a cupcake made specifically for her. Those desires I can’t escape. Those dreams don’t bake away.
But at least I have pie, right?
1. Roasted Garlic and Jack fougasse (recipe based on Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America)
2. Tim’s Banana Cream Pie (recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)
4. Peach galette and Cinnamon Brown Sugar Ice Cream (I made this one up)
5. Raspberry Tart (recipe courtesy of Bake! Essential Techniques for Perfect Baking by Nick Malgieri)