This is a question I hear frequently. When did it start for you, they ask, this love for baking and cooking? When first asked this question, I had to stop and think for a second. Where DID this love for the kitchen begin?
This question, more often than not, makes my mind wander back to all of those times when baking and cooking brought a smile to my face. While countless memories doubtless contributed to the great love I have for baking today, I’d have to trace this passion back to the kitchen of my grandmother, a woman everyone lovingly referred to as Nanny.
My Nanny was a devoted baker. She baked for everyone – for the church, the community, and, of course, all of us. Everything she made was always from scratch and made with love. I fondly recall many days spent in her very yellow and orange wallpapered kitchen watching her bake and waiting to pounce on whatever yumminess and delicious treat happened to be in the making on that particular day. Goodness and love were always the center of my Nanny’s kitchen and a key ingredient in everything she made. This has always been something that has stuck with me and that I’ve carried on into my own kitchen today.
While my initial passion may have originated in my Nanny’s bright, wonderfully warm kitchen, my introduction to baking and cooking did not end there. My mom, while she admits she was no baker, was an unparalleled cook who, like my Nanny, worked tirelessly to make delicious food that was shared and enjoyed by everyone. My parents loved to entertain, and our home was always open to friends and family. Whether for family holiday dinners or our famed, annual Fourth of July bash, my mom was always busy cooking and preparing, often days in advance. Just like with my Nanny, you could always feel the love and warmth in my mom’s kitchen and it is this feeling of joy and goodness that continues to fuel my passion and motivate me in the work I do each day.
As I got older, my love of the kitchen grew and continued to grow exponentially as the years went by. When I moved out and acquired my own home, I had a strong desire to continue the culture of love and community in my kitchen. I hosted my own holiday meals and I carried on many of the same traditions I enjoyed as a child in the homes of my mom and my Nanny. Of course, as so often happens, life eventually began to get in the way. Baking and cooking became nothing more but a necessary evil as my career took the vast majority of my time and attention. Of course, I had to feed my growing family, but the love for it and the fun associated with it felt as though it had disappeared. Even so, in my subconscious, my desire and passion for baking remained alive and, over time, became even more desperate to emerge.
The dream of owning a bakery was always in the back of my head. There were few things I loved more than creating food for others that made them happy. Life might have gotten in the way but on my days off and on family vacations, you could find me in the kitchen getting creative with recipes and ingredients. In moments like these, a peek of my passion would shine through and I could experience again that special feeling of making something that could be enjoyed by someone else. These breaks I got from my hectic life were little snapshots of what I truly wanted my life to become.
Truth be told, few things in life have ever made me happier than the feeling of making something special and seeing someone enjoy it and, even better, hearing their response. To have someone enjoy something I’ve made and hear them express that enjoyment is irreplaceable. Whether “yum”, “yummy”, “scrumptious” or whatever word the person expresses in the moment, the sound of enjoyment of the food I’ve lovingly created is beyond value to me and always has been. As a baker or a cook – that feeling is what fuels you…there is just a raw happiness in another’s happiness.