Losing My Fear of the Oven

By Estelle Sobel Erasmus

The double chocolate cake I baked for my husband's birthday.
The double chocolate cake I baked for my husband’s birthday.

 

I used to have a fear of the oven.

I believe one of the reasons for this fear was because growing up my mother, a good cook,  always cooked for us for purely utilitarian reasons: we were hungry, therefore we needed to be fed.

That’s why I saw cooking as pedantic, ordinary, certainly not creative or fulfilling in any sense of the word.

In fact, when I met my husband I went so far as to tell him in all sincerity, “I’m not a Domestic Goddess; I don’t cook or clean so I just want to let  you know that up front in case that’s what you were looking for.” In my heart of hearts, I felt like I was a gypsy, I think, untamed and free.

“Don’t worry, it’s not,” was his response, much to my relief.

Besides, my husband had been well-versed himself in cooking skills as I wrote about here, so it really wasn’t an issue.

Flash forward to our first years of marriage and I was just as happy to order in as go out (which I actually saw as a huge concession to domesticity). I think I almost had a sense of pride in the fact that I didn’t cook. I wasn’t like other women, in my mind,  and I wasn’t about to succumb to the shackles on women represented by the idea of cooking for your man.

Then I gave birth to my daughter; I was now the center of a family of my very own, and everything changed for me. The change rose through the fiber of my being to transform and transpose all that I believed to be true. I learned. I opened myself up to new experiences. To new ways of being me…a better me.

I spent the first year after my daughter was born making bottles, feeding her baby food, and trying very hard, with varying degrees of success depending on the month to lose the baby weight I had accumulated. I also had lost my taste for sushi, Chinese food and other take-out-staples I had once embraced.

One of the moms I met, as I attempted to rebuild a more practical social circle of other women in the early years of babyhood, suggested I join a baking club, and to her credit when I balked said that she thought I’d enjoy myself.

Joining that baking club was the best move I ever made… towards a  life of dare I say it… domestic pleasure. And it didn’t hurt, when the other gals called me the rookie star of the club.

And finally…after gritting my teeth and just going for it (and by ‘it’, I mean turning it on and actually putting something in it),  I lost my fear of the oven (it did help to get elbow-length oven mitts; one for each hand).

I discovered I love baking; the mixing of ingredients (which I switch up now and then), and definitely do not do by the book. For example, why not add a dash of hot coffee in my cake mixture to bring out the taste of the chocolate, and how about trying buttermilk instead of regular milk for a moister cake?

Now, I bake my husband birthday cakes (double chocolate, with strawberry filling in between the layers was a special favorite this year); and I’ve made peanut butter banana muffins; donuts and my daughter’s favorite mouth-watering cherry, chocolate oatmeal cookies for holiday parties. I enjoy making special items for my family and doing it my way, so I know that the ingredients are pure (no corn syrup or Crisco in my concoctions, thank you very much).

Over time my beloved baking club has transformed into a cooking club, so now I tackle recipes with fervor (as long as it involves a short prep time).

I’ve learned both my natures can coexist peacefully: I can be nurturing to my family, and I can be me…free and creative.

I’m still not exactly a Domestic Goddess…but I’m getting there.

What is your construct about cooking/baking? How has it changed you?

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11 thoughts on “Losing My Fear of the Oven”

  1. I hate following recipes, but I started baking recently. All of my baked creations are completely made up. They don’t look very pretty but they sure do taste good.

  2. My mother is a fabulous cook. I learned a lot of my tricks from her! Cooking for me is a way to connect with my kids in the kitchen, tell them stories about food that I used to eat when I was young. There is so much history there if you dig deep enough!

  3. I look at cooking as a connection to my grandma, and to my Italian roots. I am old fashioned in that I cook for my family almost every night. I think it is so rewarding and creative to invent a delicious meal for people that you love. Of course, being Italian, all of my best memories involve eating…Other people talk about the games they played, the movies they saw…We Colella’s/Mastroianni’s talk about Caito’s Italian bread, grandma’s sauce and meatballs, and where to find the best Romano cheese.

  4. I love to bake but it was definitely something I had to learn to love! I struggle with having to measure and be perfect – I love to improvise so baking scared me! But, only a few years after starting my adventure in baking I opened a cake business…. so – keep learning! You never know where it will take you 🙂

  5. I got a love of cooking and baking from a very early age when my Swedish Great-Grandmother used to engage me in the kitchen when I was a young child while she whipped up a huge feast for us to enjoy every time we visited. 🙂 I consider myself very lucky (and I imagine my hubby feels lucky, too…heh!) I love that you overcame your fear of the oven and are now more than adept at it – and look at how much fun you’ll have teaching your daughter! 🙂

    1. Stacy,
      You were lucky to find something rewarding in cooking and baking at an early age. It took some of us a little longer:) My daughter already enjoys “helping” me bake, so that’s progress, right?
      Estelle

  6. Thanks Jenna. Yes, elbow-length oven mitts are the only way to go.

    I also always put the oven door completely down so that it doesn’t pop up suddenly.

    Thanks for visiting.
    Estelle

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