I am in total awe of anybody who can bake. I simply love the smell of dough baking in the oven. It brings back the memories of a childhood filled with stories by Enid Blyton where the kids would gather around the table chewing on cream scones, home-made bread, freshly baked cakes. In Poona (India) as a little girl, these dreams were fulfilled by the Spicer College Bakery on M.G. Road, Wonderland which sold the softest Lamington cakes, Ribbon cakes and sugar cookies that simply melt in the mouth. I would get a taste of my fantasy every time I passed the Iyengar Bakery in Bangalore on my way to the bus-stop , to and from College.
I secretly harbored a dream of one day being able to bake- bread, cookies, cakes of all shapes,the kinds that kids stare at, wide-eyed when it’s brought to the table, one which one people take their first bite, they close their eyes to savor the moment. A cake that leaves you feeling loved and warm and like nothing else in the world really matters.
To be honest, I am a novice when it comes to culinary skills. With a full-time banking job and home, experimenting is a “NO-NO”. There is absolutely no time for trying between work, home-work, projects…
15 years of banking and I had had enough so I took a sabbatical. This is when I decided to give my passion a try. Lacking in confidence and having a neighbor who is a Creative Goddess when it comes to all skills involving hands- art, baking, cooking and gardening; I asked her for advice. I did not want to blow up the kitchen or fail in my first attempt, that I never felt like trying again. So there I was, standing at her front door a little nervous, waiting for the magic wand.
BETTY CROCKER TO THE RESCUE
“You don’t have to be scared, try Betty Crocker!”, she said, like she had read the fear in my eyes. So, I did and made my first chocolate cake! Soft, Smooth, Succulent- the kids loved it and I had finally broken the spell. There was the cake that had come out of my oven and all I had to do was empty the contents of the box into a deep bowl, add 2 eggs, a little oil and Voila, the mix was ready to go into the oven. Like the nursery rhyme goes, ” beat it and bake it and prick it”, it was ready to be devoured. The joy in my childrens’ eyes and the pride that their mother had baked a cake was priceless. Soon I was getting orders to bake cup cakes for the class party, for their birthdays, from 2 very proud girls who wanted to share their mom’s creations with their friends. The girls loved my cakes. Betty Crocker was the Savior.
Now that I was on this new journey, I wished I could do more, create a cake from scratch, put the icing and write their names over it…make meringues, cinnamon buns, chocolate brownies…the list is endless…this was so much more interesting than anything that I had ever done before.
I completed my sabbatical and resumed my job. Again, there was no time for experiments…or must one find time to follow one’s heart amidst things that one must necessarily do?
It was this thought that led me to take a decision. “Wednesday” is going to be baking day! I declared. The girls jumped, not able to believe what they had heard. “Will you not be tired, Ma?”, “Are you sure, Ma?” . It would be tiring of course but it was worth it. We would be able to spend quality time together- it would be mom-daughter bonding time . It did not have to be BAKING Vs BANKING. Why did they have to be mutually exclusive? That was the best decision I had taken in a long, long time.
When we baked our first cake from scratch and my daughter said ” mom, you’re a natural”. I looked at the love and pride in the girls’ eyes as I got the warm, spongy red velvet cake out of the oven and lay it on the wire rack for cooling.
Wednesdays became fun days. “Mum was no longer boring”. ” Mum was no longer the perfect one”.” Mum could make mistakes too”. “And who said mum knew everything”. We learnt this new art together- searching the net for recipes (most often sticking to All Recipes which for us beginners seem the easiest to follow), laying the ingredients out on the counter, following the steps and then watching our creation taking shape. We were equals! We were a TEAM!!!
I couldn’t help but think- baker and banker, the difference literally, was just a letter “n” but one with a world of difference. No wonder in India, they say, English is a funny language 🙂
We have a long, long way to go and lots to learn in our new-found passion.There are failures, broken eggs, batter spilled over, icing turned sour, fights over who does what and there is a lot of mess to clean up after but it’s TEAM WORK! And most importantly, it’s “FAMILY TIME”!