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Comfort Food for Thought

Things got heated and confined in 2020 real fast. In baker’s terms, we got broiled. But as any  baker knows—heat, especially in a confined place such as an oven, can evolve a dish. As we  approach the year mark of pandemic shutdowns and new normals, I have been reflecting on  how I have changed as a baker and as a human for 365F days. 

The beginning of the pandemic madness was a leavening agent as bakers and non bakers  alike bartered and traded for pantry essentials. Flour vanished from store shelves and into  homes faster than you could say proof. And the holy trinity of kitchen appliances, the wooden  spoon, whisk, and spatula, received their due reverence and daily attention. The beat went  on… as bakers went bananas (#together) over banana bread. Then sourdough became  #thenewnormal. And now, #wfh has become code for making hot cocoa bombs. Sure, I  participated in these trends and if I didn’t, you can bet I tracked them. I noticed within myself and others the main ingredient to all of these. Hunger.  

Hunger for connection, comfort, joy, justice, nostalgia, and a bright new…new. So I ask, can  food deliver on this hunger? Kitchens were and remain a place where people can explore,  hustle, and create community… even though the community table has turned virtual. I have learned that through an old family recipe, I can recreate a familial bond, stir up memories, and  waft in comforting aromas. Foreign ingredients, utensils, and methods of preparation have  helped me gain insight into other cultures and through time become less intimidating. And  those trending recipes on social media feeds? I’m the most thankful for those. Those trends  have been a version of breaking bread with others. I began baking “alongside” other bakers  and that hunger for connection became satisfied as those strangers became friends.  

Hunger is good, it drives one to change the present, reflect upon the past, and pursue the  future. I now approach hunger as an opportunity to create and share. It’s a bonding factor that  nourishes just as much as food itself.  

Hunger recognizes a longing and anticipates an occasion. It craves something other than self. My hunger this past year revealed my approach to nourishing my physical, mental, emotional,  and spiritual needs. It revealed my humanity and dependency for community. Community with  those close to me and those far away. It revealed to me the joy of sharing a baked good and how that simple act can feed my spirit.  

As a dish waits in the oven and the timer ticks, the dish changes. As I have waited in various  levels of isolation, I have seen myself change and grow both as a baker through learning new skills and as a human by sharing what I can with others. 2020 may have confined me physically, but my community on and offline expanded and deepened. Baked goods created  shared experiences, joy, conversations, and connections. I wonder if I would have evolved both as a baker and a human without this past year’s heat, confinement, and extra time. Yes, I have  an appetite for peace and normalcy this upcoming year. But no matter what, baking has taught  me that good and brilliant things go through fire. 

Carpe Dolce