Adventures in Self-Care: Baking my Way through Isolation

Hello, friends.

Are you tired yet of hearing “what a strange time” or “in these uncertain times”?

It still feels odd to write anything without this nod to the shared experience we are all moving through. Though we are all affected to varying degrees, we are many of us (dare I say all of us?) affected.

I, for one, have drafted and tweaked and then not posted about a hundred blog posts. On the productive days, when I’m not just sort of… blah.

I’m lucky in that I’ve been able to work from home for nearly two months (!!) now. Like many of the posts I’m seeing online, I have leaned into baking as a sense of comfort and, I think, control.

I’ve always loved baking, though admittedly it’s a hobby that has fallen off somewhat since I began working full time. Rarely do I have the luxurious amount of time set aside to spend a day periodically kneading bread, or taking far longer than I expect to ice sugar cookies (I’m looking at you, D20 cookies).

As much as I am filled with low-grade existential dread knowing that so many people are in worse situations than me, I have to admit, I am grateful for the forced invitation to slow down. To re-center. To get my hands back to the work of mixing and kneading dough.

To begin the journey of making sourdough. To fall headfirst into macarons.

I’ve been nursing my bubbly starter, Mindy, for over a a month now and have begun to slowly get a handle on the whole sourdough bread baking experience.

Mindy has become so prolific that I’ve been able to hand off portions to a couple of friends, resulting in the lovely experience of watching their own baking adventures unfold. It’s a wonderful way to feel connected even as we are physically far apart. (Not to mention, receive some delicious treats from friends).

I love, love, love having rising dough to look after during the day. I so rarely have a day where I’m going to be able to check on something at regular intervals, and have been enjoying this change so much that I’ve had the fleeting consideration of whether I could just bring some dough with me to work when I return.

Having more or less gotten into the groove with sourdough, I decided this past week to move on to a challenge: macarons. Though I’ve never tried making them myself, they are notoriously difficult and finicky. I marked down the ingredients on our grocery list and prepared myself for a massive failure.

Things went… about as expected, though we did end up with a small handful of edible, pretty delicious macarons for a first attempt. With a little (okay, a lot) of advice and handy links from my running club’s cooking & baking subgroup, I fully plan to have another go at these tricky treats soon. I’ll have to, since Andy and I already ate the first batch.

I can’t exactly say what it is about baking that is so soothing, though it seems I’m not the only one drawn to this way of spending my quarantine time. Following the instructions and ending up with something delicious at the end, a predictable result, is one way of looking at it.

But as my macarons reminded me, baking is not a predictable art, for all its science. There are all these factors we can’t control, like the humidity on a given day, or the fact that Andy’s oven just always seems to run a little too hot. A pastry chef in the baking group assures me their macarons sometimes come out like mine for no discernible reason.

Weird as it sounds, that unpredictability is part of what I love about baking. You follow the instructions, do everything to the best of your ability, and sometimes you still come up short. Or, flat, if it’s a fluffy Victoria Sponge you’re after.

This element of potential failure in baking teaches you to make the most of what you have, to learn to laugh instead of cry when your efforts don’t turn up quite to plan. You learn to salvage and appreciate what you can, and let go of the rest.

And that, my friends, is a lesson you can carry off the mat… er, I mean, out of the kitchen.

(Can you tell I associate my baking with my yoga?)

I’m sure I won’t be the only one to pause and think about why so many of us are turning to baking bread and other treats during this time. In fact, I’m quite sure I’ve already seen an article or two. But for me, that’s really all I’ve got to say for now.

Like many of us, I’m still processing through the daily uncertainty and massiveness of living through this pandemic. I have good days, and bad days, and throwing myself way too far into virtual running events days.

I hope you’re finding some small way to carve some joy (yes, joy!) into your time, as best you can. I hope to get back to more regularly scheduled content soon. In the meantime, please comment below and share what you’re cooking, baking, or making!

2 thoughts on “Adventures in Self-Care: Baking my Way through Isolation”

  1. I love your connection between baking and yoga because it speaks to what we all seem to be searching for in our newfound pandemic hobbies — a bit of peace and meditation in an uncertain time. Happy baking!


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