Bake because you’re needed

Homemade apple dumplings, courtesy of Amy Gartenberg. Taylor Smith.

It feels good to be needed – to have someone that recognizes the space you fill in their world. A child that asks you to tie their shoelaces; a son that asks his father how to fasten a corsage on his date’s wrist; a girl that asks for her former teacher to help arrange a song for her harp recital. Being needed makes us feel wanted, and being wanted gives us meaning.

This is why I think people love to bake, because they want to feel needed… in a good way! When you spend two hours making that pumpkin pie – sifting flour and sugar, rolling out the dough for the flaky crust recipe you researched online, taking the whisk to a homemade batch of silky whipped cream to dollop on top of the slice you’ll serve your boyfriend – it all comes down to that moment when you pass the plate and fork, zoom in on his face and watch the grin that follows as he takes the first bite, a sure sign of bliss.

While that might be a more idyllic moment in baking – because there are definitely times when the bread doesn’t rise, the cake doesn’t cook all the way through and the cookies come out black as tar – the reason why we bake is to give, to use our talents in ways that are tangible, comforting and satisfying.

In Bill Buford’s book Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, (title says it all) he mentions a pastry chef named Gina who would walk around the kitchen asking the staff to try her creations, constantly asking if they liked it, if the cookies have too many almonds, not enough almonds? He began to notice the satisfaction Gina received when she watched someone eat her food. In her mind, she was giving people something that just might have brought an extra bit of joy to their day. And that’s important. Baking made Gina feel needed, and for all those who enjoyed her pastries, her offerings were welcomed.

Whether it’s baking a cake for your co-worker’s birthday, bringing in a tray of homemade granola bars to your group meeting, or making apple dumplings for your roommate one evening, (thanks Amy!) bake to give. Try to keep in mind that what you’re baking is more than a sweet or savory treat; it’s something that shows your love and care for those you offer it to. And on the receiving end, the next time someone asks you to try their baked goods, do it. Let them know that their gifts are appreciated.

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