The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.
I've never given much effort to cooking. The thought process is always: "Hungry. Tired. What is easy and quick?"
Baking was something I enjoyed much more growing up -- making cookies and eating more dough than actually went into the oven -- but teaching cooking class this year kind of put me off. Watching 10-year-olds make cupcakes and cookies is actually kind of gross. (Fingers in bowl, spatula going from mouth to mixture, coughing/sneezing/spitting on finished product, etc. etc. I'm sure it's different when it's your own kid.)
Thanks to my new toaster oven, I was finally able to make the box of Trader Joe's banana bread mix sent from the States a couple of months ago. It's always more fun and delicious to bake from scratch but we're working with limited resources here....
The mix calls for vegetable oil and eggs but there are a ton of substitutions you can make. I chose a banana and plain yogurt; in hindsight, applesauce would probably work better than yogurt for moistness but it doesn't exist here. I got some in my Christmas package and a coworker asked if it was baby food.
Baking has always been more fun than cooking. Maybe it's because I've never taken the time to learn to cook properly, whereas baking was something I grew up doing with my mom. Even now, she bakes cakes from scratch for birthdays and they always taste better than any sickeningly sweet, saccharine, cardboard grocery store cake.
Although as a kid I always wanted an ice cream cake -- chocolate cake with mint chocolate chip ice cream, every year.
Baking is a family bonding experience, a chance to work together and then enjoy the finished product. Plus there's the bonus of being able to lick the bowl. Which I totally did with this batter, not gonna lie.
Then there's the smell. That "evocation of innocence and delight" that M.F.K. Fisher (I really need to own The Art of Eating and not just borrow it from the library) talks about can instantly instill calm, positive feelings. Scent is one of the strongest memory triggers and how many people have bad memories related to baking? I loved walking into my house and smelling fresh baked goods, knowing a treat was coming soon.
So it might just be banana bread from a box but it reminded me of something I really enjoy -- cooking class, be damned -- and left me with the desire to get in the kitchen in 7.5 weeks and see what else I can do.
Who knows, maybe I'll even learn how to cook beyond tossing pasta in boiling water and throwing veggies in the oven. A whole new world....