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

18 comments:

  1. i am so sorry to hear about klein. all is not really relative. some have a much heavier load. i wish it were not so.

    my love.

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  2. I don't understand you know?
    I just hope I can keep my perspective and remain grateful.

    what a gorgeous boy
    sorry for this new pain in your circle .

    ( and the writing here? incredible Elizabeth )

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  3. This is so beautiful! I hope you don't mind I link to it today. I started to write big long response here but I really feel like I want to share it with people.

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  4. I love you. You know that, don't you?

    And he would you and you certainly would he, and perhaps in some ways you already do.I am certain of it. Because i know your heart,

    Thank you for this and for so much more.

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  5. A beautiful way to remind us that most of what bothers us (the volume of it all) is purely air.
    Damn, Elizabeth. This is you at your best.

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  6. I am absolutely covered in goosebumps.

    Sending love and light.

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  7. Tears for you, sophie, heather, zoey and most importantly,Klein.

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  8. It's hard, isn't it? To see people like young Klein with such real immediate challenges, and then to hear some people complain about seemingly trivial matters.

    But ultimately I think we are all in this together, pain and suffering are part of our shared humanity. Some people just don't know that yet.

    Heartfelt prayers to Klein and his family. And to you, Elizabeth.

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  9. Amazing, Elizabeth. Your thoughts are writing so layered and complex, dense with meaning but light. And aching with sorrow and love and exhaustion and fear. I'm not the only one reading this with tears.

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  10. Thanks for letting me link to this. I hope nothing I wrote was insulting or condescending. It is with much gratitude for your writing and your beautiful daughter that I shared my thoughts. It is hard for us who don't know to find words. Thinking of you and your friend.

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  11. Thanks for letting me link to this. I hope nothing I wrote was insulting or condescending. It is with much gratitude for your writing and your beautiful daughter that I shared my thoughts. It is hard for us who don't know to find words. Thinking of you and your friend.

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  12. "tripled in volume but made of air..." Another one for your book. Beautifully constructed.

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  13. Catching up here after bizzy days. It is all beautiful, thoughtful writing on your life and our lives, but I especially love this layered piece. Peace and love to you, Elizabeth. x0 N2

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  14. Beautiful metaphor. And your timing is so exquisite because of sad news about a young boy in our circle too.

    I have to say I don't buy the relativity argument. It is not the same stress. Handy men, inlaws, school issues cannot compare to the stress of a suffering child. People should thank their lucky stars if that's all they have to worry about

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  15. I want to write about what bothers me ... But it is mostly air ... I know who I am

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  16. Please submit this to some publication. It's beautiful.

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  17. Elizabeth. This is masterful. I can't begin to express how much.

    (joining in your prayers for Klein.)

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