I have to start by giving you a description of my kitchen – unlike a regular kitchen, it’s not just another room in my house. It’s actually part of a separate building. “How does this work?” you ask. It doesn’t really. Since the fridge is in the main house, it’s a lot of steps (19 to be exact) there and (19) back. To cook or bake, I raid the fridge/cupboards beforehand for ingredients and enter a separate zone. It DOES work because all you can do in there is cook/bake. There’s no watching TV or checking Facebook at the same time (well, you could but things will burn. I’ve tried it.)
And another reason it works is we have a maid (An aside: I’m always searching for a better way to say this – we employ a domestic servant? hm, no). I don’t have to be out in the kitchen early in the morning hastily throwing together a hot breakfast when it’s cold and raining.
The reason it really, really works for me is there are a handful of times when my kids come to “visit”. They are usually busy drawing, playing or watching TV. When I bake, they can most definitely “help” and the oldest one has even created her own recipe for a cake she calls ‘fatika’ – it’s dense with a lot of cinnamon. But dinnertime can feel chaotic and, while I do want it to be tasty, mostly I just want to get it over with. Because after dinner is a rushed process called showers-pjs-teeth-stories-cuddles and then, hopefully, sleep.
But when I’m anxious or irritated, I bake. I like the process of baking and I’ve come to realize not everyone feels this way. So my kitchen becomes my escape – where I settle my brain, sort through a lot of thoughts, may be even feel some feelings and just.chop.chocolate.
Just.chop.chocolate is my formula for life these days. First, there are no convenient packages of chocolate chips here. This means buying a thick bar of decent dark chocolate and hand chopping it (I am considering buying a hammer just to smash it quickly but this would be in violation of the formula). It means added time and added process to the end product but who said everything should be convenient? (I blame the Americans.) So I just.chop.chocolate.
Last, chocolate has to be part of the end product (chocolate chip cookies without chocolate? I don’t think so.) so I just.chop.chocolate and respect the process. I try hard not to wish away the moment. I chop, have a nibble or two – feel the silkiness, taste the sourness. Hell, I even make a cup of tea and let it melt together in one delicious slurry.
Do you know what I love about Julia Child? She didn’t figure out her passion until she was 36. While I am quite a few rungs behind Julia Child in baking skills, I do have one year on her. Baking gives me some peace, and unfortunately some pounds, but I keep coming back to baking. The cooking part of the kitchen feels different from baking – it’s more free form and I’m coming to love this process as well. I like trying to get the most flavour out of each ingredient whether it be an onion or an eggplant. I’m learning to just.chop.onions as well. It’s doing me good.
The thing I worry about is turning my love of baking into a real, concrete place. The sentence “Maybe I could open a bake shop” has now formed into “I AM OPENING A BAKE SHOP” and it is loud and slightly halting when I say it because I’m trying to convince myself at the same time about my new reality. I’m nerrrrrvous. I’ve knocked down a wall (well not me, but a worker guy) and I’ve designed the layout and the opening menu. The space will be a significant improvement over my outdoor kitchen. And it’s really happening, albeit at a snail’s pace because that’s how things are done here, but it’s really happening. My brain is bogged down by a zillion what ifs and excuses…I’m just realizing that the best advice I could hear right now is probably my own – just.chop.chocolate.