I first got into baking because of a book. It’s not a cookbook. There are no recipes, no lush photographs of frosting or chocolate or perfectly glazed fruits. Nor is it nonfiction. A manifesto about how to eat or why we eat, it most certainly is not.
It’s a children’s book, The Worldwide Dessert Contest by Dan Elish, and it’s my favorite book of all time.
When it comes to baking, I try to stay pretty low-tech. My favorite recipes come from stained, well-read cookbooks, and my most-used kitchen utensil is my trusty wooden spoon (no offense, Kitchenaid). But cooking blogs just keep getting better and better, and it’s nice to be able to read reviews of recipes before trying them out. There are a handful of online resources that I use to make life in the kitchen easier: Springpad, IFTTT, and ChefTap.
My kitchen back home – home home, where my parents live in Ohio – is pretty much perfect. It has gorgeous wooden cabinets, a spacious pantry, a dishwasher (one of those things you always take for granted until you have to live without it), and a long counter that’s perfect for food prep and quick weekday breakfasts. My kitchen here in New York, my first real kitchen to call my own, is…smaller. Uglier. And the appliances are more temperamental – my oven runs 50 degrees cooler than the setting on the knob and the top shelf of my fridge is always as cold as my freezer no matter how I change the temperature settings.
They’re two very different kitchens, but both of them feel like home to me. The former, because I’ve spent 10 years cooking, baking, and eating in it, and the latter, because I’ve begun to fill it with my own memories.
These are some of my favorite items in my kitchen that make me feel at home.
For starters, this vintage cross-stitch that I picked up at a flea market:
When it comes to baking, I tend to go a little overboard. I obsessively hoard and organize recipes (in Springpad, which is a lifesaver and even better than Evernote – that’s right I said it), usually for things I know I will never get around to making, but logic is not a hoarder’s strength, so I have recipes for things like croquembouche and ten-layer wedding cakes, just in case!, because you never know when someone’s going to ask you to bake a wedding cake on the fly, you know?
There is, however, one recipe that keeps me up at night. It’s the green light to my Gatsby, the white whale to my Captain Ahab, the Joker to my Batman, the one that got away.
I like to bake in varying degrees of half-nakedness. From shirt no pants to pants no shirt to apron over underwear to underwear only. It’s not as sexy or unsanitary as it sounds.
My theory is that, much like how losing one sense causes your other senses to become heightened, my brain becomes hyper-aware of my surroundings due to the amount of skin I am exposing and overcompensates as a self-defense mechanism. I am essentially Daredevil, but only in the kitchen. And without the tragic backstory and thirst for vengeance.
Since ditching clothes in the kitchen, my kitchen-related injuries have all but disappeared, and the quality of the food that comes out of my kitchen has skyrocketed. Although the latter may be attributed to a confounding variable, such as the old adage that “practice makes perfect”, I am neither a statistician nor do I particularly care, so I’m attributing the deliciousness to my lack of clothing.