Why I Bake

by Preston Dildine about a year ago in humanity

A Midnight Musing

Why I Bake

My legs tremble from the weight of the day's activities. My hands shake with exhaustion and overuse. My back slumps forward more than the old ghoul-ish curve will usually allow. My shoes have long been forsaken, but perhaps should have remained on, if only for a futile sense of support. And yet I stand.

My mind, usually adrift, and tossed from wave to wave in a tempestuous ocean of thought, is calmed, if not stilled, by the methodical movement of my hands. It's archaic, almost primitive. My body, though exhausted, has taken control of my mind, forcing it to focus on one simple task, and that alone has quelled the sea inside my mind.

Witches have potions, spells, rituals. The religious have prayer and devotionals. But I...I have a magic of my own. My own method of prayer, of reflection. Of calming.

A bowl sits in front of me, atop the counter space that I have now become accustomed to. Into it, I throw a concoction of ingredients, a recipe recently coined by a Tony-nominated musical: sugar, butter, flour. My hands know this recipe. My body has all but thrown itself into autopilot, a desperate attempt to rescue my ever-rampant mind from the oncoming breakdown. One that is long overdue, but has been kept at bay, relatively.

It is as if all of the negative energy trapped inside my mind is flowing through my hands, and into the bowl, disappearing amongst the new additions of eggs, cream of tartar, salt, cinnamon. I stir, and the more pressing the dark thoughts in my head become, the harder I stir. The stirring becomes a dance, and a melody consumes my headspace. I hum along until the dough firms.

I pinch out bits of the dough, roll them up, coat them in sugar and cinnamon, and place them on the sheet. Once that sheet is filled, I place it in the oven, prep the next batch in rolls, and then I have five minutes to my thoughts.

Why do I bake? Is it a holiday? Something to celebrate? No. Did anyone ask for a dessert of any kind? No. And yet here I was, toiling away at midnight, when my body ached to be in bed, but knowing full well that my mind would never allow sleep of any kind.

There are holes in my life. Some holes that have always existed, since birth, I imagine, but I never realized until recently just how gaping they were. Other holes which have been ripped open and left to heal, slowly, and beginning to form jagged scars around the edges. And the only thing that seemed to fill these holes, even momentarily, are the cookies currently rising and firming in the oven.

For one moment, while mixing and forming the dough, I was relaxed. I was in a sort of euphoria. I was happy, because I had no reason not to be. And, once the cookies had cooled, I would be happy to bite into one. Or three. Or a third of the batch. I'm not thin. I will never profess to be. If cookies make me happy, I'll continue to stuff them into my face, thank you. These are to fill the childhood holes, the blatant emptiness. The lack of familial comfort.

But it isn't just for me, I realize. I bake these cookies and share them with friends, family, coworkers. I share them with the world. This is the other hole that they fill. The hole inside me that desperately cries out, "Notice me! Notice me, be proud of me. Love me." But because these things are not things that I can say...I place them into an inch of dough, sprinkle it with sugar, and pass it off, hoping that the message comes through. And with every smile, every moan of delight, every "These are so good" and "Thank you," the hole closes just a bit.

For every cookie I give away, I feel a pride in myself. I feel important. I feel as though I have been able to offer something to the world. And it might be a small thing, a moment. But moments are all we have in this world. And moments, collected, become minutes. Become hours. Become days, lifetimes. And I understand that not all of these moments can be good, but so help me, I'll try to salvage as many of them as I can.

I bake, because in some small way, I am creating a better moment. And in doing so, I am healing myself. Bit by bit, moment by moment, cookie by cookie. I bake, because baking is one of the only things that calms the storm.

Preston Dildine
Preston Dildine
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Preston Dildine

I am passionate about a great many things. Why choose one, when you can write about them all?

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