Dear Friends and Fellow Bakers,
When I began Betterbaking.com my salutation was Dear Fellow Bakers and Friends. Honestly, I find it a little formal and retro-sounding but I’ve held onto it because I can’t think of a better one and perhaps some things don’t need fiddling with. I've considered alternates such as: Hey all, or my YouTube favorite of: ‘Hello my lovelies” or “Hey guys’ but it’s just not me. So Dear Bakers and Friends it will remain especially as it’s worked for twenty-six years. This is a not so subtle segue into the notion of change which is my favorite topic.
There’s authentic, inevitable change we all either welcome or balk at and then there’s the untruth of ‘self-alteration’ where you actually, step by small step, denature yourself until you’re someone else. You know how when you couple up or get married how many of us (I suspect) are good compromisers? You accommodate and comply in service to being pleasant or becoming a couple. You finds ways to get along or even fuse until the bow breaks and you just can't anymore. There’s this sense of a statutes of limitations on telling someone "this no longer serves" or I feel differently about this, whatever 'this' is. Sometimes we refrain from telling a friend the truth about ourselves, even in a small way and we push away the discomfort of not speaking up. But the discomfort sits like undigested food eaten too late at night or it haunts our moods or is behind the sore back or that nagging fatigue that seems to come from nowhere.
We make bargains with ourselves, denying our own voice in order to be liked or keep things smooth but it’s a slippery slope. At first, you buy the vanilla ice-cream because you really don’t care and why buy two ice-creams? The ice-cream issue is a small thing until you realize you actually would prefer mango ice-cream but you’re too far along the vanilla pathway and been passing yourself off as a person who’s easy-going. To protest now would seem a betrayal of the other person or, as silly as it seems, take more courage than you have. So you bend and sway until one day you don’t recognize yourself because you’ve twisted to the point that you’re a human pretzel.
To be fair, perhaps no one even asked you to do this; it’s just this default programming many of us have. Then the stakes get harder and the ‘this is how it’s always been’ theme is now a steel rod in your own spine but you figure, you’ll just run out the clock or disavow the discomfort. Btw, the ice-cream preference was just a trivial example but if it’s hard to assert ourselves over ice-cream flavors you can imagine how hard it is to re-negotiate bigger stuff.
Changing your opening hand later in the game is difficult. Those incremental compromises are now the straws that break the proverbial camel’s back. Those straws have roots - the roots being the sacrifice of your own individuality, preferences or needs. That’s a big sacrifice but happily it’s one that’s never too late to remedy. It does require speaking the truth. And not by text or a slew of emoji’s but by saying the hard thing out loud.
I mention this because this is what just flowed out of me as I prepared this month’s newsletter but I have reoccuring dreams of not being able to use my phone or not being able to dial out; I wonder if that is about not speaking the truth. By extension, since I always think I’m speaking to like-minded people, I wonder how many wee untruths many of us tote along so we can keep the peace. Lately, I’ve been showing up more and saying difficult things and watching the fallout. There's a real gain and sense of well-being I experience when I honor myself. Watching myself unfold from being a human pretzel to once again standing straight is both fascinating and a relief. We’re not doing ourselves or others a service by pretending to be nice or pretending things don’t matter. All we are offering the cast of characters in our lives is a ringside seat on a shaky grandstand. If you want to feel closer or connect with yourself, it has to start from real seeds that are mindfully sewed.
When I think of all this in conjunction with recipes I consider the range of things I’ve concocted over the years. In my more experimental baking days, I’d take a brownie and stuff it with Oreos or mash up a pie with a cookie concept – whatever. Sometimes I make something innovative (and ditto for Dominique Ansel who brought us Cronuts or Caesar Cardini and his famous salad) but there have been times when I have taken something pure, simple, and beautiful and reconfigured it into something else. I've played with it so much that the recipe, no matter what it is, so bent out of shape, is now a …pretzel. I’ve done it because I’ve felt inspired or creative but I’ve also done it when I’m competing with trends or pandering insofar as I am creating with the end game of pleasing others instead of tapping into myself. There’s something noble and authentic in each of us as people and in food when ingredients are realized into recipes. There has to be some essential core with either that's anchored in truth. That core thing is the sweet spot and it's a gift.
Guess what's almost ready to launch? I did it ! My first memoir, Tango Confidential, collected stories of my tango life will be out this summer in print and e-book. Stay tuned!
What else is a gift? A brand new month of baking with each other! As balmy June kicks off I’m going to offer another truth. I don’t care how hot it is, I am going to bake until the cows come home. Probably everyday. Maybe I’ll make a chilled dessert or two but my love affair with flour doesn’t take a time-out when the mercury rises. Besides which, I, like you, will have friends and family or my favorite guest (me!) on the deck for lemonade and something nibble-y and I want to be ready.
Come bake with me this summer. I’d love to imagine I'll have your company in the kitchen in these sunny months. I envision you and yours biting into something homemade and lovingly crafted in a symphony of fragrance, texture and flavor you cannot buy. I welcome you to the summer kitchen. It’s there on a dewy morning or when you return from the beach or pool. Turn the oven to 350 F, take out the eggs, a block of butter and decant a bag of flour. We’re going to get lost on a magical, wheat-kissed pathway, strewn with pies, cobblers, zesty breads and cookies bulging with goodies. There’s so many things to bake and the sun sets later – all the more time to pack it all in! Bring an apron and wooden spoon and meet me sometime soon. I'll be waiting.
Warm wishes from my kitchen to yours,
Master Baker, Author
Recipes for June 2023
Free Recipe! Lemon Tiramisu
French Strawberry Tarts
Cake Mix Cinnamon Buns
Blueberry Scone Cookies
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