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The other day driving home from the bookstore, I was discussing with Mom the recipes in Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorrie Greenspan. Mom was admiring the depth of the recipes and excited for us to try some of them. At that moment as I glanced over at the book the page was open to a picture of cinnamon nut bread and I thought of my own experiences as a baker, and the word 'intention' popped into my head.

It's generally agreed that there are two types of foodies: cooks and bakers. Cooks are the type that generally do the savory. It's a style that lends itself to fly by the seat of your pants endeavors, you read a recipe, several if you're completely enthralled with discovering the best way to make a dish (hello!), then improvise to make the dish your own. I've always considered myself a cook. I hate rules and love creating my own take.

Bakers are the artistic nerds of the culinary world. They are chemists, mathematicians, comfortable following the precise measurements (proportions) of the recipe. I've never been one to follow directions well, or willingly for that matter. Which is why last December I spent five nights making Christmas cookies, sometimes re-making the same batch again and again as my first attempts failed miserably. Clearly I do not have the natural inclination to be a baker. And yet, for the past few months I have become entranced with baking...cupcakes, layer cakes, even the aforementioned cookies. The challenge is to adapt my cook's nature to the rules of baking.

So here's what occurred to me as I glanced at that incredible cinnamon bread photo and then back to the road: Our intentions may determine our pleasure and perhaps the outcome of our endeavors. Or perhaps in my case, the ability to get out of the way of ourselves is the best way to insure the success of our intentions.

In our desire to create, we put our whole heart into the endeavor, every ounce of concentration and studied effort goes in. We are a bundle of nerves as we plot each step and carry it to fruition. This is not fun, there is no joy in this tact, it is instead fraught with anxiety, as we have laid our part of our identity on the line. We have so much at stake in the end result that no matter how it turns out we are exhausted and our joy diminished.

Juxtasposedly are those kitchen (and life) efforts where we effortlessly throw together the same recipe without a care in the world. Perhaps we are making it for ourselves or on a whim. We are creating for the simple joy of the creating, without a care for the outcome. Ironically that is the loaf that turns out better!

Years ago Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and it is to this that I hearken back in my baking metaphor. When we are truly in the creative experience, the act of creation flows without effort. Which is not to say that it is easy, but that it is playful and without the judgement that comes when we involve the ego into the experience. (Yeah, I know that sounded way too woo-woo for me). But this is a lesson that I constantly need to reinforce. Too often, when I desperately want something, my pursuit of it becomes desperate, whether it be house hunting or writing, this anxiety stops the flow of productivity and invariably leads to if not failure, then an inability to get going because the expectations have become too great.

Perhaps its something that a very wise online friend, has been trying to impress upon me, 'stop trying so hard and just let it be'. Which is good advice in baking and life.


Vodka Mom said…
That is lovely advice. Didn't the Beatles say that? (Let it be...)

Your baking references reminded my of the book my sister gave me last week. It was my mother's OLD Betty Crocker cook book. It is full of crayon marks, pencil scratches, old recipes from magazines shoved inside and is missing many pages. sigh. I'm comforted by this old book.
LarramieG said…
You're learning well, Suzanne. ;) Here's another favorite: "Don't push the river, it flows by itself."
Madge said…
"my pursuit of it becomes desperate"
yes! this is exactly what i do too... thank you for this post...
Suzanne said…
thank you all for your encouragement!
cce said…
You're the second blog friend to mention the "Flow" book. I'm a true believer in the healing properties of finding your "flow state." That's why I love tennis. It's a small chunk of my day NOT spent worrying about all the other stuff in my life. But I must try your laid back approach and try not want anything too much so as not to stem the flow of productivity in other non-tennis endeavors.
Here's to letting it be.
Mark said…
Have a nice weekend!
Suzanne said…
CCe, this new laid back attitude? I bite my tongue as I try it because I've always been one to try to force things....on the other hand, that hasn't been working too well, so I'm willing to try this new strategy. we'll see how it goes.

Mark et al, have a great weekend too!
Jennifer H said…
I'm not a baker either, but armed with this new look at things, I'd be more willing to try.

This: "an inability to get going because the expectations have become too great," is me, wrapped up and tied with a bow.

This was a great post.

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