By Estelle Sobel Erasmus
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?