During this time when everything seems topsy-turvy, I am finding myself pulled to activities that are concrete and easy to finish. I planted a small vegetable garden, pulled up the weeds around my perennials and have flowers to plant when this strange cold snap is over.
But this morning as I woke up to our North Georgia “blackberry winter”, I headed to the kitchen for some comfort baking. Perhaps you have felt the same need.
My mother loved to cook and on rainy summer days she would allow me into her kitchen to make a mess. The first thing she taught me to do was to put a piece of wax paper down to catch the crumbs and dribbles and keep the counter clean. We would pull out the pound cake pan, rub it with butter and then dust it with flour. She taught me to always crack the eggs into a separate bowl in case one was bad (in my whole life I think I’ve had one bad egg!) and to use the blunt end of a knife to level out the dry ingredients. If the butter needed melting, we put it in the top part of the double boiler and boiled water on the stove in the bottom part.
When our son Adam was a toddler, Mama gave him a nice Kitchen Aid mixer. I would pull a chair up to the kitchen counter for him to stand on and we made box cakes and chocolate chip cookies. He loved the way the mixer made a vroom sound, sort of like a race car. Almost thirty years later, I’m still using that same mixer and Adam loves to cook.
The three old bananas on the table were screaming to be made into bread. I laid out my piece of wax paper and pulled out the mixer from the pantry. The stove heated up my small kitchen and I listened to NPR on my phone as I measured and stirred.
In this time when the smallest trip out seems like walking into a landmine, the clatter of measuring cups, the lightness of the flour and the simple act of breaking the eggs brought me back to a time when life was predictable and safe. Despite our modern conveniences, baking is still about flour, baking powder, salt and eggs.
I slid the loaf pan with the banana bread into the oven and gathered up the wax paper containing the banana peels and flour dust and tossed it into the trash. The warm water felt good as I washed up and the smell of the bread filled the house.
In my kitchen this morning, I felt close my mother, as well as my grandmothers and aunts, women who found their identity from their signature dishes and desserts. As a child I never appreciated the hours they spent planning, shopping, organizing and cooking the many daily and holiday meals that I ate with gusto. I wondered how many times they felt comforted from the routines of their kitchens during the times of uncertainty in their lives.
As we enter into this “new normal” phase, what is bringing you comfort?