An Ode To Baking: How To Give The Finger To Seasonal Depression

In my previous article, I am a raccoon: why I love trash television, I mentioned that Gen Z has been called the Burn-Out Generation. And I gotta say, I’m feeling the burn. Since it’s also the dead of winter, my tropical disposition has given up on leaving the house, choosing instead to rot on the couch and embrace seasonal depression. However, this winter I decided to say thank u, next to hours and hours of Netflix and ennui, and actually do something. Since a girl has to eat anyway, I’ve been putting more effort into cooking. But not only cooking, also baking. Those that have known me pre-transatlantic-move would remember that I love baking. Perhaps you were one of my high school friends over at my house while I made donuts or caramel apples. Or maybe you were a grade school classmate who ate the cupcakes I baked for my birthday. Either way, I have found myself delving into that old hobby once again. You know how it goes: if you love something, let it go.

What inspired me to bring this old hobby back was an article I read. I gotta admit, I couldn’t find this article while writing this, but the gist of it was that baking is an effective, stress-relieving activity. Yet for some, baking sends them into a downward spiral of panic. “I can’t bake,” they think, “I always burn whatever I make, I just can’t get it right.” It’s true: baking is an art and I’ve made the scrambled cinnamon rolls to prove that. It took me a couple of years to make one good batch of brownies, and I have never attempted it since. Quit while you’ve got a win, I said, exhausted from taking so many Ls. Elise: 1, brownies: infinite. But see, the thing with baking is, despite something being ugly or not turning out exactly like it’s supposed to, it usually still tastes pretty goddamn good. My scrambled cinnamon rolls got a unanimous “this is really good” from like, four people. So that brings me to 1-0. Take that, cinnamon rolls.

I’ve heard from plenty of people that they stress-bake, myself included. But why do it, when it can be stressful? Baking is a pastime that calls for some form of focus. If you’re not paying attention and properly following a recipe, your souffle is going to collapse and your cinnamon rolls are going to scramble. However, there is something soothing about being able to focus on one thing: following a recipe. Not only is your mind kept busy, but so are your hands. Baking demands you to put theory to practice, something that in this day and age isn’t always called for. Plenty of people sit behind desks all day, working or studying. While this does demand some form of theory put into practice, you are not physically working on something. I personally am someone that takes great pleasure in creating something physical, enjoying hobbies such as knitting or drawing.

Taking a dive from the previous point, the physicality of baking also offers instant gratification in the form of delicious baked goods–given you properly followed a good recipe. However, looking back to a previous point, baked goods don’t always turn out right. Sometimes you have to practice, try different recipes, tweak them. But that’s half of the fun. You’re actually learning something about something that’s present in your daily routine: food. And the more you practice and repeat recipes, the better you get and the tastier your results become. The best part is that even when you have a recipe down to a T, you can always tweak it, make different versions of the same thing. There’s always something new to try. For example, apple pie is something I’ve been baking since I was a little girl. I don’t even need a recipe at this point and it is beloved by my family and friends. But yet! There are still so many versions of apple pie that I can make! For Writer’s Block’s Christmas celebration, I added walnuts and dried cranberries to the filling, and I’ve got to say, it was a pretty damn good pie.

And so I come to an end of my ode to baking. If you’re experiencing winter ennui, why not look into your cupboards, pull out some baking supplies, and treat yo’self? Put your skills to the test. Preheat your oven. Follow the directions of a recipe properly. There are some very simple ones out there and if that seems too intimidating, you can always try one of those just-add-water boxes. I can’t promise it’s as great as a homemade recipe, but we all have to begin somewhere and it’s the small victories that count. Just remember: cupcakes are pretty hard to fuck up.

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