In my inagural xobs post, I predicted most of the content here would be about sex and snacks. Save for the one directly below, that has not occurred. I promise some dirty talk at some point, but at the moment I am most motivated to talk about snacks.
Since I’ve moved into this palace of magic that is my new house, its functional kitchen appliances have been quite seductive to me. I choose to spend most of my house time in the kitchen. I know what the fuck’s going on in there, which is more than I can say about the rest of the house, and for that matter, much of my life. In the kitchen I am the most responsible for my own needs and I can create with only my own personal parameters and tastes in mind. The camera (my camera) was doing that before, but since it’s gone, I’m consuming way more calories and getting some of my tummy back. I can’t help it if Paula Deen loves butter, and if Paula Deen loves butter, so must I.
I’ve not really been breaking any new ground in the kitchen since I started hanging out in there – no soufflés, no tartiflette, no cornish hens stuffed with paté. I’ve been doing what’s comfortable and what’s been missed. I’m re-adapting some recipes that I’ve used in past lives for this whole new thing I’m doing now. I’m revisiting a lot of things that have been central in my life before – when I found cooking in Liverpool that’s how I survived (and got fatter). So it’s all a way of surviving in this moment, and the food I eat is a big part of what my survival looks (tastes) like, and the fact that I cook it looks to me as though I’m surviving on my own terms.
Most of the time I’m spending in the kitchen has been about baking. I guess I love the slow alchemy of baking, the way you turn something like mush into something like magic. It’s sort of a meditation in and of itself – it doesn’t have the high-speed intensity of a lot of stovetop cooking and it’s just something you have to pace and reserve a bit of time for. And it’s very photogenic.
The recipes I’ve been using are mostly ones that have been passed on to me. When I gloated about my baking prowess to my father recently, he remarked, ‘it’s in the Sheets genes’. I hadn’t really considered that before, and I’m not inclined to connect with my family in that ‘genetic personality’ stuff, mostly because I don’t know most of them. But then I look at my recipe book, and see how many of the things I like to bake for other people are Sheets family recipes. My grandad was the baker in my dad’s house, and though I remember very little about him, I do recall that he just made ginger snaps and snickerdoodles as just a daily recreational activity. My mom paid for so many of our Christmases by baking and selling cookies to her friends and their friends. And she could bake on a budget – we’d have a cookie backstock even when we were broke. When she and my dad split he pinched a lot of the recipes and is now making them Devo Dan-style and emailing the recipes to me. I wonder how much I would find out about a family I really know little about if I went through some recipe books.
So there’s also all of this history and these personal connections in baking, and I guess that’s what’s making it so useful to me now as a coping mechanism. Yesterday things were shit – my bike was damaged and I got a parking ticket and work was shit and I felt poor and cranky – so I baked for four hours using pumpkins I had grown myself. Today people will eat that stuff and tell me nice things about it and I’ll tell them that the cinnamon came all the way from Pittsburgh and from somewhere ever further away before that. And my mom’s recipe for pumpkin roll, which my dad calls ‘Guaranteed BEST Pumpkin Rolls by Sheets Family (puts other imitators to shame.)’ will have travelled to another continent and won the hearts of many and I’ll get rich and buy you a pony.
Of course it is making me insane not to photograph the things that are happening in my kitchen – I could do it with a shitty camera but it breaks my heart even more to see things like this not given their justice in imagery, so I just don’t do it to avoid that disappointment. But trust me, it’s pretty.
So, how do you do culinary therapy? How do you share it? Why does it work? Can I have a picture? I’d love to see what you’ve made. Take some photos of what you’ve created and email them to me – I’ll start a flickr set of the stuff we eat. It’ll be fun. And it’ll give me something to upload while the pie is in the oven.
Matiatia’s orange, almond meal, and chocolate ganache tiny cupcakes
bs rendition of Amory’s sweet potato pie