When I bake, I think of my mother.
My mother is not necessarily a baker, but her love and persistence with cooking in general instilled in me at a very young age a deep need to create and connect with people through food. I also think of my father’s mother Emma, who was indeed a prolific baker, but whom I did not get to see very regularly while I was growing up. We lived…everywhere, and my extended family lived in Southern California. It was usually a trip around this time of year that I would get to see my father’s huge family and share in the magic that was my grandmother’s kitchen in sunny Torrance, even in December. I loved those visits. I live near there, now, in San Diego. I never dreamed I would wind up in the state my mother was born in, and in which my father’s parents died. I love it here – it reminds me of those visits. Of family I only tentatively knew. Of joyous get-togethers. Of the reminiscent smells of bougainvillea, of ocean breeze.
My hands shape pie dough, fold bread dough, cut scones and biscuits as if this was their sole purpose. My hands have always known when to stop kneading, stop rolling. My hands show time now. My hands are attached to this body that has lovingly seen me through 50 years on this planet, revolving around this sun. My hands are busy but weary today.
It is sometimes not enough for me that my baking is only shared with my family and friends. I have bread, and I have writing. And while I’m aware that my worth is not tied to what I do, I still want to share these gifts – these precious talents that, knowingly or not, I have cultivated for this long. I am not out to change lives. I’m not out for recognition. I just want to give you a piece of my heart. The reward for giving these gifts away is immeasurable. Sometimes my effort varies. Sometimes I only have so much in the tank to give, like today.
But I heard a phrase when reading and learning about the making of sourdough bread: Even when your loaves don’t turn out exactly perfect, “send them out anyway.” Let the world see your imperfections, let the world taste them. Bread is a living thing. Life is a living thing. You grow it, feed it, tend to it the best you can. Let it be seen.
And ya know, there’s an end. A transition. The bread gets consumed. Our bodies are finite. Taking that in is hard, sometimes impossible to grasp. Difficult to welcome. How do you just accept the not knowing? How do we trust?
I don’t have the answers. I won’t have the answers. I want to keep connecting. I want to keep trying to trust. I want to keep baking and writing. And I want to live as wholly as I can for as long as I’ve got. For me, what that looks like is what you are reading right now – more this. More bread, pies, biscotti gifted to as many people as I can. More hard conversations. More laughing until I cry. More singing at the top of my lungs. More phone or video calls with family and friends. More quiet Saturday mornings with cats nestled on both sides of me. More noticing of the small moments. More space for the big ones.
Life is so bold, gigantic, and momentous when you let it happen. My holiday and New Year wish is that you find ways in which to accept that expanse. Whatever you’re going through – and I know you are going through something, because we all are – know that there is another person out there that sees you and your vulnerability and humanity.