How did you first discover your love for baking?
My love for baking surfaced about 5 years ago, about halfway through my Ph.D. years. It was more of a necessity to take a break from my research and relax. Baking was one of the few things that helped me deal with the pressure and anxieties of the Ph.D. (other things that were helping were yoga and driving). It felt so soothing to just take a recipe and follow the steps without thinking of anything else. It might sound weird but every time I was baking, my mind was emptying from anything else (true meditation!), something difficult for me to happen. So for a number of years I was baking a lot, about 3-4 different recipes a week, which made my friends very happy since they were eating all my baked goodies. Of course this made me very happy too! I jokingly say that I baked my Ph.D. years away, but it's so true!
Take us through the process of what baking feels like for you.
The process has evolved through the years although the bottom line remains the same: baking is something I love doing, relaxes me a lot and is my outlet for more artistic creations (being an engineer I never thought I could do anything more creative and artistic than solving math.. :D ) In the beginning, it was more of a rushed decision that I need to do something because my anxieties were hitting the roof. I would just grab one of my few cookbooks, find a recipe and start preparing the ingredients. Measuring everything before I begin the execution of the recipe, was the first point that I could feel my stress level was dropping. Then, I would follow one by one the steps and just get lost in the process. Tasting the different parts of the recipe and adjusting the taste felt creative! And of course, when the final product was done, it felt quite a bit of an accomplishment, and by then my stress was more manageable, so I could go back to my research calmer.
Now I just get in the kitchen and bake something new every week because I simply enjoy it! The process starts a few days before I bake, by going through my numerous by now cookbooks to figure out what I feel like trying next. It has a more discovering-something-new feel to it, for which I get very excited and can't wait to try my new recipe. I always start by measuring the ingredients I need, and it always feels very calming. I like being organized because it keeps me focused and relaxed. Then I follow the steps of the recipe, but now due to my increased experience I take the liberty to change a few things if I see fit. It is quite a confidence boost to do so! The final step, which now draws a lot of my attention, is the decoration and presentation of my product. I like the feeling to create something not only tasting but also pleasing in the eye. I set new goals and challenges every week and at the end feels so good to achieve them.
If you suddenly were unable to bake how would that affect your life, what would change?
Well, I don't like this idea at all! It is hard to imagine how life would be without baking. I have been doing this for more than 5 years and it's part of my life and who I am. I draw so much pleasure of doing it, so if I had to stop I would feel unhappy. I would miss the weekly anticipation of something new, my creative outlet. I bake a lot for different occasions, for my husband and friends, and if I had to stop doing that it would feel like as if I don't care about them as much any more. Only sad feelings come to mind when I think of this and I don't like it!
Why do you think it's hard for so many of us to surrender and "get lost" in something that brings us joy and inner peace?
I think many people don't understand how crucial it is to take time and surrender to something that you love and relaxes you. It's thought of as a waste of time, but on the contrary it is very important to keep focused and productive for our every day work and tasks. We all need some down time during our day, reset and get back to our routines refreshed and energetic. When I started baking, I never considered the 1-2 hours I was spending in the kitchen as a "lost" time from my studies/work; it was as rejuvenating way to enhance my productivity for the rest of the day. I realized that if I hadn't taken this time to get lost in my baking, I would have just wasted 7 hours of my day because I'd be unable to concentrate no matter how hard I tried! I know life is demanding and pressuring, but I hope more people realize how important it is to have their inner peace in order to deal with everyday challenges.