Sunday, May 28, 2017
Sunday Afternoon Tea - Finding peace in the kitchen
There was a day last week when it seemed the rain was unending. As I looked out my kitchen window, the weeds were growing higher than the grass and a gloom seemed to cover the land. For rain, when it is needed, creates a cozy atmosphere but one can have too much of a good thing.
I was weary and not a little... edgy. I longed for a warm and sunny day with a breeze coming in through the open window. However, since the forecast was for chilly and wet for the next few days, I decided to do something creative. I baked a Bundt cake and set aside part of it to take to the friend who gave me the recipe many years ago when we were neighbors.
There is something about the precision required in baking that takes my mind off of the unpleasant side of life. As I blend together the butter and sugar in the mixer, as I scoop flour and swipe a knife over the measuring cup to smooth it out, as I chop the apple for the cake and measure the cocoa, as I spray the pan with coconut oil to make certain it doesn't stick... the alchemy of baking takes me to another place.
As I was baking, it reminded me of two other women I knew who found their peace in the kitchen.
I was just talking to my sister recently about memories of her mother-in-law. For I can't think of her without remembering what it was like to walk through the back door of that house in the country, with its' view of the river in front and the forest in the back, without thinking of the food which came out of that tiny kitchen. Especially the baking...
My sister and her husband built a house next to her in-laws (and whether that is wise is a subject of debate but I digress) so many of my childhood memories are of the family gathering at my sister's place and eventually making our way to her mother-in-law's kitchen where she and my mother would chat while delicious aromas surrounded the conversation.
Every Christmas, one of our favorite gifts was the tin of candy and cookies she made as gifts for close friends and family. For every bite was as delicious as anything made by the finest confectioners in Europe. It is probably a good thing I didn't develop Juvenile Diabetes until middle age, long after she had gone on to her reward. For I doubt there would have been any way to overcome temptation.
I didn't know it then but as I got older, I learned more about her and the unhappy circumstances of her life. It explained a lot about her personality. I also came to realize she found freedom and peace in that alchemy of baking, in the chopping of vegetables for soup, in the way familiar recipes made for family throughout the years gave comfort. Not only to them but also to her.
The other woman I knew who found some peace in cooking and baking was my own mother-in-law. Whenever I think of her, it is in her galley kitchen with a cigarette nearby as she was preparing a meal. We didn't have much in common except cooking. Like my sister's mother-in-law, her disappointments in life as well as tragedies affected her personality and at times I found her... difficult. However, she showed love in the way she created magic with the simplest of ingredients.
Many of the recipe cards which have a home in the vintage card holder in my kitchen came from her. Over the years, we shared many recipes and a few cookbooks. I realize now that it was her way of reaching out when at times, she didn't know how. Every meal at her home was simple but delicious.
I doubt either woman associated food with God. I do. I truly believe the way we find peace in the chopping and stirring and mixing and thinking of new ways to use ingredients is part of our original assignment to... create. These women did not see themselves as artists by any means. But I do. For one can be an artist with sugar, flour, and butter just as much as when one mixes watercolors for a painting.
Except our canvas is a table and our art disappears in a matter of minutes. Not unlike sandcastles at the beach. Things of beauty to be enjoyed for the moment. A way to share. A way to show love. Perhaps that is why we take photos of food. Instinctively, we know it is Art... whether a gourmet feast or the simplest meal of a fried egg on fresh asparagus.
I have heard that the kitchen is the heart of the home. Perhaps in many ways, it also functions as an altar. For it is where many of us meet with God. Where we pray. Where... in the very process of cooking and baking... we who are created in the image of the Creator... using the products of His earth... create.
Image: Fresh Bred by Loren Entz
The Bundt cake recipe can be found... here.