You’re looking at Holiday Bakefest 2019, treats for teachers and the hubby’s office. No. 1 and I outdid ourselves — this is actually only 3/4 of what we cranked out of our overworked double ovens.
Food-based acts of affection.
I wish I’d come up with that term — because it’s so perfect — but it belongs to funny man Josh Gondelman.
In his book “Nice Try,” Gondelman talks about how he used to carry around a can of chicken noodle soup in high school to give to anyone who seemed to be down. The reason? Soup makes you feel better. True — UNLESS it’s Campbell’s Chunky Grilled Sirloin soup. That stuff looks waaaaaay too much like dog food. Back to Gondelman, though, the canned soup schtick was the start of his so-called food-based acts of affection, which progressed to actual baking and cooking for people. Nice.
Well, not to brag, this has long been my family’s jam.
My Missouri grandma never visited without hand-carrying onto the plane a box of her famous, fried apricot pies. At the holidays, my mom won over my dad’s officemates with her massive platters of home-baked cookies. That time of year, everyone got treats. Everyone. Teachers, the mailman, she’d even set a plate on top of the garbage can for the sanitation workers, which struck me as nice but also kinda gross.
I remember her organized plastic bins that she’d fill and label and stack on the bar next to the kitchen. My brother and I could look but not taste. My dad would occasionally sneak one, but we kids knew better. She was the mafia. Neither of us wanted to risk the Tony Soprano treatment if we got caught. We’d wait it out until non-family got their shares and our patience was always rewarded with an all-you-could-stuff-your-face smorgasbord of slightly past their prime pastries.
If you really went out of your way, my mom would reward you with a plate of lumpia, basically the Philippine version of egg rolls and real crowd-pleasers. But those labor-intensive delicacies would only go to the worthiest of people, like the TV repair guy.
I have continued this practice of goodie gifting, although in my case, it was really more like culinary penance.
No. 2 could be challenging, very challenging and always at school, and so I would bring in treats to her teachers on a fairly regular basis. But, in the time-honored tradition of my mom, before winter break, I’d fill the campus office with toffee coffee cake and other treats for the whole staff, even if they hadn’t had to fish my kid out from underneath a conference table or locate her when she went AWOL.
Back when I worked in a newsroom and there was always a ready stable of willing surrogate stomachs, I tried out new recipes for breads and muffins and other sugary treats. My husband’s office got lucky, too.
No one’s going into the office or school anymore so several times during this pandemic, I’d bake and deliver desserts on friends’ doorsteps just for funsies. It’s always better to share the calories than deal with the, uh, repercushions of having a serious sweet tooth* and not so much self control.
I love to bake** because I … well … I just do. I’m pretty good at it. Also, I don’t see well enough to cross stitch and I suck at drawing and painting. My fingers cramp when I knit, so baking is my default hobby. I find it therapeutic, and it’s basically the only thing I can do while stuck in my house because I can’t binge-watch anything — I still don’t know how to use the five remote controls it takes to turn on our TV.
So it makes me so happy that I’ve finally found some like-minded souls who also take solace in sugar. These friends and I have formed this kind of … Bake Club. First rule of Bake Club: You do NOT talk about calories.
Interestingly, Bake Club membership coincides with all of us belonging to an actual gym. Makes perfect sense, though, because we exercise so we can indulge without guilt. Sure we want to be in better shape, but our real reward for not dying after a grueling workout is a carefully wrapped package of chocolate chip cookies or brownies or tangerine angel food cake or banana whoopie pies with salted peanut butter frosting. And, ahem, I even hit a new PR last week: most sticks of butter in a single recipe. But, I won’t tell you exactly how many because that would violate the second rule of Bake Club.
*More like an entire set of sweet chompers.
**Pandemic stats (so far): 1 jar of yeast, 35 pounds of unbleached all-purpose flour; 30 pounds of granulated sugar; 10 pounds of butter.
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*ONE* PERSON IN MY IMMEDIATE FAMILY HAS READ MY LATEST BOOK! WOO HOO! I feel like JK Rowling… ‘s younger, overlooked, underloved sibling. But, I’m OK, really. I only kind of want to pull on a Slanket and pound chocolate chip cookies until I get a stomachache as a way to cope with the gaping crack in my soul. They’ll read it. Eventually. And because they want to and not because I guilted them into it.
If you want to cheer me up and you have read “That.” and — most importantly — enjoyed it, I would love it if you’d be so kind as to leave a nice review (don’t just write “gift” — that’s been DONE, BECCA AND LACY. HAHAHAHA.), I would be so very grateful.
“That.” has raised almost $200 for the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona’s COVID-19 relief efforts. Let’s keep it going! (Psssst, that means buy a book, please and thank you.)