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.