It appears that in the throes of fashion ecstasy this morning over those shoes, I inadvertently called on the gods and a horrific storm. It’s now minus a bunch, snowing, and blustery. Good lord. So, I made more coffee, downloaded some new podcasts, and made cookies.
I do a few things when I’m stressed that good friends seem to recognize – I clean, I cook and I sleep. The first and the last are relatively uninteresting – I think that a good many of us tend to make order, or in the lack of it, give up and sleep. But I do, interestingly enough – bake. And cook. And try new recipes. And usually do it for other people.
But today, making the dough for these cookies in my beautiful cream colored Fire King bowls, whipping butter and sugar together with my big wooden spoon, I was, as I often do when I bake, thinking about my mother. All of my knowledge of cooking and baking I’ve gotten from her – everything else is only basic extrapolations on recipes, theories, contents and presentation – and from hours and hours spent with her in the kitchen. Memories of my mother are almost in their entirety in the kitchen. I remember more often than not, where we lived at what time in our lives by the kitchens that I spent time in, kitchens always permanently crowned in a halo of copper pots that would sit above the cupboards, marble boards slipped between fridge and wall like so many bones in a body, cupboards full of potential memories, and in the middle of it my mother, laughing and measuring and dancing.
She, who in telling stories of bakers like scientists, weighing flours and butters, permanently inscribed a picture of neurotic pastry chefs in my mind, or who informed my love of spices with her own (to this day I have no idea if I actually like cumin, I only know with certaintly that my mother had such a dislike that I cannot taste anything with cumin without thinking “Mum wouldn’t like this”) – she made me love cooking. I remember little precision in our kitchen with the exception of a few pasty recipes, in which case a hallowed lull would creep out of the kitchen and into the house, seeping everywhere with the heat of the oven. But mostly, they are memories of “That’s alright, what would you use since we don’t have that?” or “Well, I guess that’s why we don’t measure baking soda OVER the flour…lets just scoop that out!”. They were memories of gentle guidance, correction, laughter, and the overwhelming assertion that when in doubt, we started early and could do it again. And Dad would eat it and love it anyways.
So today, as I was marveling at the beauty of the butter in my bowl, I was thinking of her, and about baking, and about life. And how ultimately, it makes sense that I bake when I’m a little stressed. Because when I put too much nutmeg in this afternoon and had to delicately scoop it out into the sink, I was laughing at myself and my stress over my last essay. When I burnt the first batch in the oven I pulled them out and thought “well, at least I have the basics of my essay down and J will still eat these”. And when I looked at the beautiful batch of cookies on my counter top at the end I thought, “I’ll apply to enough grad schools and one will be near J” – I could feel my mother, and some peace, in my kitchen and heart.