I have an uncle who is, I swear, a Professional Uncle. My other grandmother (not his mother) even calls him “Uncle B”; his email address is “uncleb***@”. He IS “Uncle”. Sometimes I feel like I am following in his footsteps and becoming “Auntie”. I mean, it’s not that far a step away from my usual role of “Little Sister”. But now that I’m so close to having one foot in thirty, I should probably stop being everyone’s Sister and start being everyone’s Auntie. I mean, I’m already likely to slip you some coffee after 6pm and feed you meat if you ask for it.
And I bake some killer cookies:
As I said the other day, baking makes me happy. Give me some butter, flour, sugar, vanilla and baking soda and I can probably whip something together. Chocolate is a good addition as well.
We’re waiting here for my new baby nephew to grace us with his presence and some days in the past week have been longer than others. The other day I decided to make some Chocolate Chip Cookies for my very pregnant sister, bro-law, and little nevvy (the two year old, not the fetus – although when mommy eats them so does he).
Ever since I lived in Vermont and we didn’t have any sort of mixer, I’ve had this inkling to forego electric mixers most of the time when I am baking. Through doing so I have found a strange kinship to my foremothers who had no other choice, but to mix by hand. In my Romanticized view of women from the Great Depression and further back in History, they all resemble my image of Antonia at the end of Willa Cather’s My Antonia: a solid, strong, buff Earth Mother, made strong from all the hand kneaded bread and home ground grains; tough women with strong arms from mixing dough with spoons in bowls and tired backs from standing over fires to cook and lifting solid farm babies.
It’s a mite ridiculous, I know, but my Romanticized vision of the women who came before helps connect me with the past. My own grandmother (the Professional Uncle’s mom) said something to me once that I found very profound at the time. We were talking over the phone about pie crust:
Gram: Now, are you sitting down?
Gram: I use lard.
Ok, that’s not the profound statement, but it was awfully funny. Her profound statement to me was essentially this:
Gram: It takes practice. Just keep trying it. We all had to do it.
Suddenly I was them and they were me. They. The women who came before me. Just like me, they weren’t born knowing how to make the perfect pie crust or cake or cookie, they learned through trial and error. Years of practice and perfecting has made my grandmother a world class baker and cake decorator. Born before the Crash, my grandmother grew up the second oldest, and only girl, of five children. She learned how to cook and bake and take care of her brothers and father. She’s been doing this thing since the ’30s. She raised three boys who each love them some sweets; made my parents’ wedding cake; and taught me to love Squash Pie and Date Nut Bars (note to self: get that recipe).
I am relatively young and still have time to perfect my baked goods. The best part of that is even if I totally mess up my baked goods I have brothers and sisters, and nieces and nephews that will happily eat whatever I ruin. But not my chocolate chip cookies: those things are Magic.
I made the cookies while the nevvy was at daycare so he couldn’t help me make them, but hopefully, what with Christmas nipping at our heels, I’ll be making more baked goods and he can help me with them (especially if that keeps him out of Mommy and Daddy’s hair while they tend to Baby Brother).
I can’t really say why I love baking so much. It could be a control issue. I have control over the entire kitchen for roughly an hour and a half (depending on what I am making) and after that time is up, I have delicious treats that other people can eat and enjoy; treats that will make them happy and make them forget about their stress and complaints and bullshit for awhile. Because a good piece of pastry can do that. A well cooked meal, a delicious piece of chocolate, a slice of pie, a piece of cake can make a person forget their worries while they marvel that anything can taste that good.
But no one is born knowing how to create this sort of magic: it takes time and practice (I’ve been baking chocolate chip cookies for nearly sixteen years). I laugh when people tell me they can’t cook or bake because that statement is bullshit. If you can read and follow directions, you can cook or bake. It’s the easiest and best chemistry, right up there with blowing stuff up and setting it on fire. Men and women have been cooking forever; that a modern person can’t boil water for pasta or make a cake from scratch is laughable. If my nieces and nephews can assist me mixing together my ingredients then a full grown adult can make spaghetti and meat sauce.
Even though he didn’t get to help me make them, the kid sure has enjoyed the fruits of my labor.
Now, if only his mom would go into labor….