Why do so many of my writer friends also bake? And bake brilliantly. Is there I wonder a correlation between baking and creativity? It certainly seems so in my case. In the same way that there are days when I am driven to write a certain story, there are also days when I know I must make cakes. Not because I am miserable, or guests are coming, or even because I’m feeling greedy, but just because I must.
On those days nothing but a lemon drizzle cake or a batch of muffins will do. The only question is whether to give into Mike’s demands and cook marzipan muffins or go down the fruity route with raspberries, or blueberries, or even bananas, the variations are endless.
Or should I give in and make chocolate cup cakes iced with cream cheese frosting?
Whichever I choose I have to give in and only when the kitchen is full of the smell of baking will I be satisfied.
And then of course there is the first bite…
Baking also plays a part in my writing. I love reading recipes and imagining the situations in which I might use them and I love the feel, the taste, the smell of the ingredients I might use. In the case of Jo in “House of Shadows” she is an artist and she approaches the making of Florentines in the same way as she would paint a picture.
“In the brightness of an early summer morning, Jo weighed out sultanas, raisins and oat flakes. She chopped glace cherries and licked the sweet redness from her fingers. She mixed in plump hazelnuts and nibbed almonds and measured out two tablespoons of butter, which she heated in a pan. Warming a spoon in hot water, she dipped it into the tin of golden syrup and watched as it slid slowly and sensuously to join the melting butter. Yellow became gold, gold became brown. She tipped the warm liquid into the dry ingredients and stirred. Wrinkled fruit glistened, oats took on a glossy sheen, the rich smell of syrup rose to her mouth. The cherries glowed like rubies in amber. Humming tunelessly under her breath, she smoothed the mixture into the baking trays and reached for the phone. She’d try Helene and Cecile again. She’d found their numbers before she’d finally gone to bed in the early hours and if they didn’t answer she’d text. If they did then she’d ask them round for coffee and cake and ask their advice as to what she should do.”
For her the whole art of baking is a sensual experience. It is also a communal one. She wants to share her Florentines with Helene and Cecile, I want to share my muffins with family and friends. It’s a way of cementing relationship, of providing comfort and pleasure. It’s almost ritualistic and most certainly life enhancing.