One of the activities that I used to enjoy when I was teenager and it was Sunday afternoon and I wanted to procrastinate doing my homework was to go into the kitchen, take an inventory of the ingredients we had on hand, find a recipe, and then bake something yummy. Sugar, flour, butter and chocolate chips were dependably to be found in the pantry, so even if my mom didn’t have cream, cocoa powder or cream cheese in the fridge for a more adventurous dessert, I knew I could always satisfy my craving to bake something by making chocolate chip cookies from the Toll House Cookie recipe on the back of the bag.
Perhaps there is some yet to be discovered gene for this, but our daughter, Jennifer Lynn has inherited the same impulse to whip up a cake or cookies when her calculus assignment is too daunting. On Saturday, she was lamenting that her especially rigorous class schedule this year is really cutting into her baking time.
During the summer when the constant black cloud of never-ending homework wasn’t hanging over her, the assortment of treats that she produced was wonderful. We went blackberry picking near our house which resulted in Blackberry Swirl Pound Cake, Blackberry Crumb Bars and blackberry syrup. Then there were the peaches that were starting to get mushy on our counter. From that, she made Peach Upside-Down Cake.
Now that we are into the fall, she asked me to add applesauce, raisins, and walnuts to my shopping list so that in between answering her history questions and summarizing a chapter of the Scarlet Letter, she can bake Applesauce Spice Bars.
I think sometimes I don’t appreciate the stress that she feels at school. She transferred to a new high school this year so in addition to having to up her game academically, she also has to find her place among a new group of peers. I thought baking was a stress reliever for her so I was surprised when she said that she actually finds baking to be sort of stressful – especially if she’s making something tricky like macarrons. “Are the egg whites still too cold or did I accidentally use wax paper on the cookie sheet instead of parchment paper?”
So why does she like making treats even though there is anxiety involved? I think it’s because this low-level stress is more a welcome distraction than it is a gut-wrenching problem. I also think she enjoys baking because there aren’t any long-term negative consequences if the result of her time in the kitchen is less than perfect. When the macarrons don’t rise into perfect little spheres, her dad and I will still enjoy every last crumb of them. Unlike a “C” in physics, “flat macaroons” won’t show up on her permanent record and affect her chances of getting into her college of choice.
I’m really hope that her homework load lightens a little this week; I’m looking forward to those applesauce bars.