Sometimes (maybe often times) I feel as though I've grown old way before my time. Or I'm actually much older then I allow myself to realize. Possibly I was born in the wrong era, or maybe I'm just crazy? I truly love doing things the more difficult way, taking the longer route, the opposite of saving time. In my kitchen I have the most basic utensils. I don't have a food processor or a stand mixer. I don't have a bread maker or a coffee maker (I use a coffee press) or even a microwave. And I practically adore baking and cooking from scratch. I love the feel of fresh dough in my hands. I'm giddy at watching a few basic ingredients come together to make something spectacular. There's a sense of accomplishment so great when pulling a hot dish from the oven, knowing exactly what went into every component, realizing how much time and how many steps that I personally poured into it, and then getting to enjoy the final product, flaws and all.
Little Abe and I were reading books the other day. We came across one we've read many, MANY times because we've had it all his life and it's a really simple book, easily keeps the attention of babies and toddlers. It's called "It's My Birthday" (Helen Oxenbury). A little boy discretely asks all of his animal friends to bake a cake with him for his birthday and in the end they all eat it together. The last page of the book has a recipe for a birthday cake. Little Abe didn't even realize the recipe was there. But as we finished the book I showed him the recipe and asked if he wanted to bake a cake.
He's been baking with me since he was little. Just recently I've been letting him crack eggs all by himself. And instead of me filling each measuring cup and him getting to dump the ingredients in he's been able to fill the cups on his own. He's yet to make a cake "all by himself" thus he was thrilled at the suggestion. He did all of the scooping, dumping, pouring, and egg cracking by himself. He did some of the mixing and a lot of tasting. Then we waited.
It was a double layer yellow cake that I'm pretty sure I over baked. It was quite dense, quite dry, and we frosted it with a minuscule amount of glaze on top of each layer (basically it didn't have frosting). I was certain that he wouldn't like it. We paired it with ice cream (that's why I didn't frost it) and he scarfed it down. He said it was delicious and he seemed thrilled. I'm not under any delusions that he loves dense dry cake but he made it on his own. It was a work of his own hands and there is truly something delicious about that. I honestly believe that life is so much more vibrant when it's our own hands that have shaped it.
The other day a close friend and I were talking along these lines (although in no way about baking). Life is filled with heartache and hardship. Sometimes the most basic aspects of our lives are just crap, whether it's a hard patch in parenting, a bad sickness, or a crap time at work, a co-worker (or boss) you absolutely hate, or a patch in your marriage where you're not sure you even recognize your spouse let alone like them. We're living in a society that preaches happiness and comfort. I'm all for being happy but the truth is that a lot of things in life are going to be very hard and not happy and we can't get away from that. Trying to always get away would be like spending your entire life running away from home. I think more often then not we just need to dig in and power through. But it's the little things that make the crap bearable, like pulling a home made decadent (not dry) chocolate cake out of the oven and slathering it with rich chocolate mousse. Or going for an adventure around the block with your four year old. Little things like watching sunsets and letting yourself really enjoy how beautiful they are or realizing that it's the long wispy grass along the roads time of year and then smiling the entire ride home from work as you gaze at the overgrowth dancing in the wind.
Baking from scratch, taking the long route, and enduring a hard patch in something that's truly meaningful to you can seem like the crazy thing but as long as there's light along the path, bits of intense joy that you wouldn't have known if you weren't on that path to begin with, and you stop to notice all the roses among the thorns then I dare say you're just as crazy as I am and that you're really living life. Seeing my kiddo enjoying the fruits of his labor, I dare say, that will never get old!