I woke up this morning to find a kitchen covered in gluten-free flour and a very frustrated daughter. She was upset that her pie crust was a bust - mumbling insults of her incapabilities to herself and blaming the recipe. I held my tongue about the state of my kitchen because I knew that she needed to cool off. A recipe for disaster: she was sad and mad at the same time. I coaxed her into coming along with me to walk the dog. On the walk, I explained that baking is more of science and the reason that there are exact measurements for recipes is because people have experienced lots of failures and mistakes to get to the point of a successful outcome. When I asked if she checked her work after each step to make sure she was following the directions, she blamed the recipe.
My daughter and I continued the conversation as we walked the dog. I enlightened her with the fact that there is a difference between the gourmet chefs that she watches on TV and ALL bakers. Many assume that if one can cook well that they can also bake well. That is not always true - in fact, some really good cooks are the worst bakers! Baking is more about science and cooking is about everything else. Sometimes the patience and understanding of why precise amounts of ingredients added in the precise order of steps makes all the difference in the outcome of the product. Cooking can be a little more forgiving and flexible. My daughter is such a strong reader so I would think reading a recipe would be extremely easy for her. She is also a rule follower so I would think going in chronological order to follow the recipe would not be hard at all. Assumptions. Awhile ago I figured out that my daughter seems to lack two traits of a baker: Patience and willingness to make mistakes. Read the recipe patiently. Follow the steps in chronological order patiently. If you make a mistake, learn from it.
I could tell that my daughter was still sulking about the pie crust debacle so we walked a few more blocks and I shared a story in hopes that she would not entirely give up on baking. The story was about Ms. Frankie and her bread. Shortly after Frankie’s mother-in-law Carol was diagnosed, she passed away and Frankie regretted not learning how to make Grandma Carol’s bread when she was still alive. Everyone adored and missed Carol so the bread became an important part of her memory. Wanting to replicate Grandma Carol’s bread, Frankie went thru lots of ingredients and time before she finally got the hang of making it. Making loaves of homemade bread cost much more than just buying a loaf of Country Hearth from Target but Frankie persisted. She tried three or four times before she was finally able to share the bread with her family and friends. Frankie’s daughters have since joined in the bread-making ritual and I think this tradition has a great chance of being passed on for generations to come. The bread and teaching her daughters how to make it, are both lovely thoughtful pinches from Frankie. We have received “Ms. Frankie’s Bread” a few times and each time we get a loaf, I have to ration it out. Otherwise, it’s gone in one sitting. I believe the reason her bread tastes so good is because of the care and love that goes into making it. Carol was such a wonderful woman who put her heart into her baking and I’m sure that is why the bread is coveted by Frankie’s husband’s family and will always be cherished. One day Frankie dropped off a loaf, just as I was giving her a card that I found at Trader Joe’s. I couldn’t believe the timing! Anyway, the reason she was giving me bread was because I listened to her when she needed a friend. I told her that she was “over-thanking” me because I know what it took to make the bread and it was definitely not an even exchange!!
When my daughter and I made it home from our walk, we checked the recipe together and I identified some steps in the recipe that were likely to be the culprits of her pie crust fiasco. I told her that I would clean up the kitchen mess only if she learned from this whole experience (now that’s a thoughtful pinch!). Fingers crossed that my daughter picked up that patience and willingness to make mistakes will take her far in the baking world. For as long as I can remember, I have used baking to show my expressions of gratitude, of celebration, of comfort, of kindness, of making amends. I have also used baking to show off my strengths, to make new friends, to keep traditions, to seal some deals (I brought those Hershey Kiss cookies to my interview at a Miami TV station. You might say I was kissing some ass.) A baked thoughtful pinch, especially if someone puts their heart into baking it, will conjure up a smile from any recipient. I’ll leave you with my favorite banana bread recipe that is so classy it’s actually called coffee cake.