Take This Pan And Shove It

I’ve always loved baking.  As a little girl, I ruined many-a-batch of cookies, creating more botched batches than one would think possible.  Overlooking a main ingredient, mistaking powdered sugar for flour or forgetting my treat was in the oven were regular occurrences in creating my “specialties,” as was Dad expressing major disappointment in my rock-hard desserts­.

“If you’re going to put the time and effort into baking, why don’t you make sure you do it right?” he’d ask.

Apparently he didn’t like the “black-bottom” chocolate chip special, or the untouched cookie jar overflowing with malfunctioned baking projects. My product wasn’t exactly a door buster, though it probably could have gotten the job done if thrown hard enough.

I gave baking a rest for some time, mostly due to my mother protesting that so many baked treats around the house wasn’t “healthy” for the family. Funny how I thought I knew what she meant at the time.

Once I moved into my own apartment, baking became an interest again. I was able to find a recipe in mom’s ancient, fading Betty Crocker book that actually worked: molasses cookies. After tweaking the recipe, these cookies became quite popular among family and friends. People liked them. Asked for the recipe. Begged me to bring them to gatherings. This was new territory; encouraging to say the least.  Soon I began baking delicious loaves of bread and pies that people boasted were of state fair caliber. 

So I baked. I sold pies. I gave baked goods as Christmas and birthday gifts and fell in love with creating awesome desserts.  Opening a bakery was placed on my bucket list and I began dreaming of opening the doors to my little shop and greeting people as they began their days.

However, around the time I moved out of my apartment and into my first home, things took a turn for the worst. Perhaps my old apartment had a magic oven.  Or maybe my new home was paired with an extreme lack of time and a baking curse.

My “perfect” cookies began turning out flat and sticking like Gorilla Glue to the baking sheet. The pumpkin bread started to taste like pure canola oil. A dear friend informed me that a gifted apple pie was undercooked. The shortening was forgotten in another pie’s crust, creating a ceramic-like shell. 

Still, I was determined to get it right. One evening two apple pies needed to be baked. Before beginning, the amount of flour on hand was evaluated. It could work if I skimped. Struggling to roll out the crust, I finally gave in. Flour wasn’t even the only ingredient running low. Putting a coat on, I began walking to the grocery store. It was a short walk and time out of the kitchen was needed.

Frustrated, I purchased 15 pounds of flour, shortening and a bag of apples to get through the preparation of two pies. Carrying my bags home, I realized I wasn’t having fun. It was late at night. I was tired, the bags were heavy and my shoulders were getting sore. Tears of frustration streamed down my cheeks as I realized my bakery dream may never come true. Ironically, because it was suddenly very clear I didn’t want it to. Unable to hold them any longer, the bags slid down my sides and I nearly dropped them. These ingredients – this entire hobby – was literally dragging me down.

Baking used to be a relaxing activity – something to be proud of. But lately it has become a chore, perhaps due to the revving up of other areas in my life. I just can’t seem to find the time to truly dedicate to a baking project like in past years.  And maybe, just maybe, it’s the reason things haven’t been turning out. My heart isn’t in it anymore.  The worn to illegible labels on my measuring cups serve as proof that maybe I’m just burnt out.

So I guess I’m faced with a choice: either use up the ingredients and hang up the apron or slow down and start putting my heart into it again.

Just like dad used to say: if you’re going to put the time and effort into baking…

Shootin’ the Wit is a column about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.

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