Baking Up Some Personal Growth

Grandma Bessie’s bread

Once a time a time, a young girl grew up in a house with a mom, a dad, a slew of siblings and a widowed grandma. Every Friday, that industrious grandma would bake loaves of her signature bread (also known as “Fireman’s Bread”), a fairly straightforward white bread recipe with a hint of sweetness.

The aroma of this particular bread was baked into the girl’s consciousness since as far back as she can recall. It represents to her home, security, tastiness and, of course the loving labors of a cherished Grandma. The girl grew up being acutely aware of the significant disparity between that which came out of the oven on a weekly basis and what came out of the wrapper with the colorful dots. Alas, a baker – or at least a baking enthusiast – was born!

The Recipe Card, side 1 (I’m so proud to have a copy in mom’s handwriting!)

Of course the girl is me and I’m indebted to my dad’s mother, Bessie, for bringing her recipe into our home and with it, the seeds of a lifetime of appreciation of home-baked goods. She taught my mom to bake her bread, who in turn shared the recipe with me and any interested siblings.

Probably as a result of these early memories, I’m very comfortable in the kitchen. I’m what I consider a comfortable-creative cook, always seeking to put a creative spin on basic cuisine. I cook at least one meal at home daily; it’s more than a matter of providing sustenance for my sweetie and myself – it’s an opportunity for self-expression and nurturing. Hopefully, in this pursuit, I’m carrying Grandma Bessie’s legacy forward.

About as fancy as my baking gets – my German Chocolate cake creation for my father-in-law’s birthday

In recent years, my “just for fun” baking has taken a back seat to more practical baking. Read: fewer cookies and cakes; more pot pies and artisanal loaves. And while it’s true that I don’t bake as often as I used to, I still would consider myself at an “experienced intermediate” level. I carry that same basic “foodlosophy” I mentioned earlier into my baking. I adore the process of baking but I’ve never ventured into the realm of what I’d consider “fancy” baking. I think of it this way: What I may lack in experience and proficiency, I make up in diversity. Curiosity drives my baking projects, as in, “I wonder how pita bread is made?” and, “What’s all this fuss about red velvet cake?” I’ve tried my hand at a wide swath of baked goods throughout the years, including English muffins, croissants, yeast and quick breads, pies, cakes, cookies, brownies… and I’ve always been satisfied with the results. Sometimes the verdict is “It’s not worth the effort,” and sometimes it’s “I’ll never go back to store-bought!” but each recipe has been a welcome learning experience.

This has been a pleasant enough stroll down Memory Lane but I do sense your wonderment: Why, you may be asking, is Gina suddenly writing about baking? Believe it or not, there IS a method to my madness (this time, at least)! I shall endeavor to explain… Recently, my dear friend Kelly began a new enterprise called Baking on the 15th. It’s a baking challenge that will begin on May 15th. She’s set up a website and all manner of social media channels for participants to utilize. Baking on the 15th goes like this: Once a month, a host baker chooses and posts a recipe for a baked item on the website. Those wishing to participate in the challenge bake the item, then reveal photos of their creations on the 15th of each month. I, faithful readers, have decided to participate in this venture’s initial incarnation. I will be baking along with the group and revealing photos of my results. I am extremely excited to participate…

and a bit, um, trepidatious.

Here’s why: In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that as comfortable as I am with baking, I am fearful that my final visual presentation won’t be up to par. That’s right – I fear I’ll be sharing photos of unphotogenic food. I’m confident about the baking component. I know from past experience that I’ve made some very tasty baked goods. Have they always been “ready for their closeup” perfect-looking? No. No, they haven’t. So that’s the real challenge in this challenge for me.

These feelings, I know, have nothing to do with the reality of this soon-to-come-together group of bakers. I understand that it’s a diverse group possessing varying levels of experience and expertise. By all accounts they are lovely, courteous folks who encourage, rather than judge their fellow bakers. The purpose of this challenge is NOT competition but camaraderie. We are building and celebrating community around this shared passion. I know this, yet I will, at least this first time, struggle to feel that my efforts are in the same league as others.

Because that’s me; I tend to naturally consider the fruits of my labors to be worth less than that of others. I sincerely desire to grow past that feeling to achieve a greater sense of being “as good as” others. The bottom line is that this is an opportunity for me to step up my efforts toward personal growth. I am voluntarily putting myself in a challenging situation; no one’s holding a spatula to my head to force me to participate in this. I recognize that’s a step in and of itself. This holds the potential to be a positive step toward finding a sense of satisfaction, ease and maybe even comfort with who I am.

At the very least, there will be cake.

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2 Responses to Baking Up Some Personal Growth

  1. kellypea says:

    So you know I love you, right?

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