Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Baking as Metaphor
It's not what you think. There are warm smells of yeast rising, the edges of bread baking or cookies crisping. The steady hand can mold and shape marzipan and fondant into tiny facsimiles of the real thing, but it's not the real thing. I read the directions for the white icing recipe that I've read hundreds of times: Add shortening and butter and beat on medium-high until it triples in volume, ten to twenty minutes. The days go by, even the years, and despite the adding, the layering, volume only triples. The rest is air. The steady chipping away comes up from within. The whirring and whiz of the mixer drowns it out, but it's still there. I read Heather's post about perspective, about the struggle for empathy, of other people's problems, problems that we bakers we molders of the impossible see as tripled in volume but made of air. I don't want to talk about schools, one says, it's too stressful. My father is coming for Thanksgiving, another admits. He'll drive me insane. The handyman is late; he's always late and it's giving me stress. You know who you are. The public schools here are dangerous, terrible, another confides, forgetful of the person to whom she is speaking. You're so changed -- both for the worse and for the better. The pastry chef's fingers are deft, and her sense of timing exquisite, but her fingers flail, grow arthritic with the struggle to think all is relative. All is relative. All is relative. A refrain that makes her weary in effort. She just can't lose the thread. Plop. Plop. Plop. The icing falls from the bag in an even swirl that belies effort. The boy lies in the bed, his head wrapped, the cancer cells growing, volume tripling, even as the burst in his brain tries to settle. All is relative, all is relative, all is relative, she thinks, struggling with volume when there's only air. Perspective is a thick band that grows thinner and ends in a point, a pastry bag with a tip, the swirl of frosting from the outside, round and round to the center.
You know who you are. And it's not what you think.
** This post is dedicated to Heather and Klein