Lately there’s been an unexpected influx of time in my life. My work is grouping together, concentrating into smaller and smaller blocks, leaving gaps between work sprints rather than one long daily grind.
It feels weird, mostly. Like something’s creeping up behind me, and I know it’s there but I keep forgetting about it. Surely something must be happening that requires my immediate undivided attention. That itchy feeling at the back of your skull that makes you check your phone for urgent messages, you know?
Maybe you don’t know, and I should relax a little more. Believe me, I’m trying.
“You should bake more,” a friend told me. “You like that, right? You always seem so calm when you’re baking.”
That advice isn’t difficult to take to heart.
There’s something about baking — a combination of science and art and immediate gratification — that is inherently peaceful to me. You measure some things with teaspoons and add the others by feel; you judge the correct amount of cinnamon and sugar based on color and texture, not exacting standards. You follow the recipe, but always add a twist — usually because you’re improvising ingredients.
Over the weekend I made a cake, melting chocolate chips into a blueberry sauce for a sweet juxtaposition of flavors. I borrowed a recipe from a friend and made pumpkin chili — a savory, unexpected soup that is even more delicious than it sounds. I made blueberry muffins, a few days before; I’ve been googling the ingredients I have in my kitchen, finding recipes I can make with a few in common — and then googling replacements for the ingredients I don’t have.
Side comment: I set off the fire alarm twice on Saturday night. If you’re my parents, reading this — yes, I have a fire extinguisher; I also have a baking tray I wave in front of the fire alarm to trick it into turning off.
But even the fire alarm didn’t make it stressful. More than anything else I know, baking quiets the voice in the back of my head that says, Really? Don’t you have something you should be doing right now? I can read, and drown it out; I can talk and listen, and silence it; but baking makes it easier to relax, almost like breathing. Minus the smoke.
For relaxation, my friend also recommended yoga.