Baking Therapy

I am not a therapist. I have never been trained in psychology, psychiatry, social work, or counseling. I have never been on a meditation retreat, and have only done yoga once, when I used it for a physical education credit towards my college degree. I know very little about mindfulness. But I watch a lot of Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, so I understand the value of taking a beat to calm down.

“When you feel so mad, that you want to roar, take a deep breath. And count to four…”

The news in the last two years has been disheartening, to say the least. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, except if you’re on the extremes, the amount of tension, anger, and violent confrontation is saddening. Everyone talks to each other as if they are living in the comments section of Twitter at 3am. Listening is an activity for the weak; the strong shout over each other to compete for dominance. I find myself struggling to reconcile the progress we had made with the increased injustice currently occurring. Backlash is always inevitable; the intensity and length of the backlash varies. And I think this backlash is giving us all mental, emotional, and even physical whiplash.

One of the reasons I started baking more is that I needed a release. I tried coloring books, knitting, exercising, and crafting. I tried reading, binging tv, mindful moments of calm. Nothing got me out of my own head or could dull the stress of living in 2017 & 2018. Except for baking. The sensation of working with dough, and watching disparate ingredients come together to make something silky, smooth, warm, and nourishing, gave me hope and joy. Bringing finished treats to friends and family, seeing their smiles and giving them a moment of sweetness, that helped me cope with anxiety. Even now, when I feel low, I know that flour, butter, and sugar await. If I can just find my way to my apron and kitchen counter, I can relax for a bit.

Does my baking make the world a better place? Probably not. Should I be spending time elsewhere, fighting on the front lines for the causes I believe in? Sure, you could argue that. Baking manchets on a Thursday morning doesn’t change the fact that people seem to hate each other more openly and horrifyingly than ever in my lifetime. Oatmeal Banana Peanut Butter cookie bites won’t suddenly end discrimination or injustice. But if baking makes me feel warm and toasty inside, maybe I can bring that warmth to others. And maybe that warmth and genuine hospitality will spread to neighbors and friends, even if for a moment. And maybe breaking bread together can pause the animosity for a meal. We need to meet this historical moment with forgiveness, love, warmth, and compassion. Warm, slightly sweet yeast rolls will help, right?