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Friday, November 5, 2010

I swear, every time I bake, another piece of me falls into place.  Sometimes I forgot how rewarding of an experience baking is for me.  Throughout my recovery journey I've struggled to explore my passion in the kitchen.  Some days, the thought of being near a refrigerator or cupboard create an overwhelming feeling of anxiety as fear clouds any sense of joy.  Yet other days, I can't be dragged out of the kitchen.  I get lost in the thrill of concocting, experimenting, smelling and most importantly, tasting.  Baking, for me, is a sensual experience.  The physiological effects bring me back to life.  

We all experience certain relationships with food and its correlations to certain memories.  For me, the smell of challah baking in the oven reminds me of the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah spent annually in our dining room with our closest family.  I am instantly reminded of the laughter of cousins reunited after a long time apart, the crisp, fall weather and the opportunities we are given to let go of the past and start anew.  Similarly, the taste of a chocolate chip instantly connects me with Thanksgiving.  I have fond memories of sitting around my cousin's kitchen counter watching her explain the importance of adding chocolate to anything appropriate-- challah and pancakes included.  "You can never have too much chocolate", she'd preach.

Certainly, the memories remain vivid, but the physiological sensations are what comfort me the most.  Certain scents create butterflies in my stomach, and a calmness in my heart, which often leads to a smile or a tear.  A tear, you may wonder?  Yes.  Sometimes the tear reflects the sadness deep within my soul for a loss of appreciation for enjoying certain foods that were once an everyday part of my dietary habits.  Or, comparably, the tear sparks the memory of a lost loved one or reminds me of what I can not change-- it reminds me of the reality I currently face.  Thus, to avoid the thoughts and feelings, I often avoid the kitchen all together.  

As a psychology major (and living case study), I am constantly reminded that the only way to overcome a fear is to face it.  The more we are exposed to it, the more comfortable we become.  Rationally, it makes perfect sense to me.  So, I am often challenged to face, rather than avoid, the fear, experience the pain and recognize the beauty that may result.  When I find myself avoiding the kitchen, that is when I must expose myself to it the most.  

Needless to say, I've been doing a lot of cooking and baking.  And in case it hasn't already been obvious enough, cooking, to me, is greatly visual, textural and sensual.

 I lust after the vibrancy of color on my plate, 

I have a hunger for the crunchy and soft contours, 

I crave exotic spices, 

the sweet and salty differentiations on my tongue 

and I sympathize with incalescence and frigidity, alike.  

Such fancies have led to my desire to experiment.  Though it often takes great initiative and effort to take that first step, once I am in the kitchen, I enter another world.  As a vegetarian, I am often enthralled with a world of recipes unknown to the common man.  You can never underestimate the beauty and versatility of vegetables and raw nutrients this Earth has provided for us, in plentiful amounts.  Simply, the experiences of "from plant to plate" is powerful and expressive.  It reminds me of my impact on the environment and spiritually connects me to God:

"God planted a garden east of Eden…. And out of the ground God made to grow every tree that is
pleasant to the eye, and good for the food; the tree of life was in the garden and the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil" --Bereshit (Genesis) 2:8-9

Thus, every time I am confronted with one of Earth's creations, I am immediately reminded and empowered. 

Corn, Bean and Squash Stew, Pumpkin Soup and Black Bean Chili: These are a few of my favorite fall things :)
From Corn, Bean and Squash Stew, to Pumpkin Soup and Black Bean Chili, I have been experimenting with all Autumnal flavors have to offer.

I don't consider myself a chef, in the least bit.  To me, there is something more rewarding and beautiful about baking.  As I mentioned earlier, with every creation that comes out of the oven, I feel another piece of me fall into place.  

Perhaps it's the music I blast from my ipod, the ridiculous dance moves I 'whip out' as I belt into my wooden spoon, or the hours I am focusing on something other than the ups and downs of life.  Whatever the factors, it is certain that I come alive.  Overall, I am a meticulous, neat person.  However, if you've never stuck your hands in a pile of floury dough, I suggest you do so. It's liberating.

Yes, I suppose the actual process of cooking and baking is most fascinating.  Not only is it rejuvenating, but it's educational. The science behind the methodology of preparing dry vs. wet ingredients, and toasting spices ahead of time to accentuate the piquant aroma intrigues me-- I'm a nerd and I have no shame!

Then, there's the reward: a sense of mastery-- of accomplishment.  I find that I enjoy food much more when I have put the labor into creating it.  So, the past few weeks have been spent experimenting in the kitchen with both savory dishes, including those previously mentioned, and sweet, including:

chocolate eclairs in the making! from complete scratch. (pats self on back)
chocolate éclairs (talk about a rewarding challenge)

Martha Stewart's pumpkin-chocolate-chip bars

Everyday we have the opportunity to engage in activities that help us feel a little more us. What are the pieces that help make you whole?


  1. you've found something thats really amazing- a key to what makes you 'tick'. baking of course is therapeutic, but many dont get the benefits nearly as vast as you experience! thats such a powerful tool to have. i think creative things in general tend to have a strong mood enhancing and life altering effect. i think its because we're using our hands and our own talents to create something..out of basically nothing. its so beautiful! <3

  2. haha this is a lot like what i was saying in my post...except a million times more eloquent.

    i wish you lived close to me. we could start a friday night baking club and be cool like that. lol.

  3. Food has the ability to bring people together. It has the ability to bring joy to our hearts, our minds and our tummies. Food is beautiful, when you really stop to think about it: how certain flavours just go together perfectly, how a cake rises, how rice fluffs up, how spices and herbs can make a dish... It's amazing. It is not, however, something to be feared.

    I am so glad you are able to feel free in the kitchen, to create foods that you love, foods that make you feel good making and devouring. That is so important! Embrace your inner chef/baker, and enjoy those foods.

    Make your own memories.


  4. I like the way you describe your passion for baking - for me it's art that helps me feel whole :-)


  5. this post really made my heart feel so warm rebecca! I can relate a lot to the feeling you described above. I really like baking and cooking but the fear of eating and the fear of the ingredients that are usally used to bake yummy things had me stay out of the kitchen for as long as possible. Now that I want to treat myself again I slowly try to go back to eating everything and experimenting with my taste and senses again. it feels amazing and you are right, in order to overcome this fear we need to face it!

  6. What a great post about what food means to you - isn't it crazy what food, cooking, baking, etc. can do?!?!

  7. What a lovely post!! I agree with you totally and baking fills my missing pieces as well! There is something so therapeutic to me that whenever I am down or feel stressed I get up in my kitchen and bake. I may follow a book or wing it ;)


  8. This was beautiful.

    I adore food with all my being and it bothers me that I can't fully explore this passion because of my ED. Like you, I have days where I want nothing more than to spend every single hour in the kitchen. Then there are the days where all I want to do is curl up with my "safe" foods and stay as far away from anything new as I possibly can.

  9. Oh I love all your insights. I agree, cooking and baking is theraputic to me. It reminds me home and brings back great memories. I think of my loved ones and certain holidays. thank you sharing this!

  10. I wish I loved cooking or baking. My roommate does, but I cannot get into it. Such a good hobby though! I'm still working on finding one besides blogging...

  11. You are such a good writer! I wish I was good at cooking all I can make is cereal.

  12. I feel the same way about cooking and baking. When I was in the throes of the ED, I would cook up a storm for friends and family, but would not allow myself to eat anything that I made. I'm still addicted to the food network! Now I'm slowly allowing myself to eat what I prepare. Some days are better than other's but I always love how comforted I am by nurturing myself and others with the food I have prepared. I'm glad that you have a hobby that you feel so passionate about:)

  13. What a beautiful expression of the power of creating food. What I love about food is the communal nature of it and how it makes me feel connected to the earth, to myself, and to those around me who enjoy it with me.

  14. i love that you've found this passion for baking. it's wonderful that something you love to do and that brings you so much happiness is linked to food. it's seriously such an amazing outlet and that it sheds a positive, warming light on your relationship with food now. :)

  15. your post made me smile--how much you enjoyed what you are doing and how much it gives you!
    i hope you have an amazing time listening to music, singing into the microphone spoon, cooking, and enjoying what you make!

  16. That first sentence. I second that!
    Baking, especially, is therapeutic and lovely and calming and exciting all at once.
    I hope you have tons of good adventures in your kitchen, Beck!

  17. As are such a beautiful writer Rebecca!

    There is something entirely therapeutic about baking, about getting your hands messy and using creativity to make something delicious. You are so right; the only way to conquer fear is to face it.
    I am so glad you have found a way to face those fears and piece by piece, begin to become whole again. You are amazing! :)

  18. Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful writing with us :) You are obviously passionate about cooking and baking :)

    For me, I feel like I fall into place whenever I pull that perfect espresso, or pour the perfect latte. Even though it is really rare, the journey to get there is just so fun!


  19. Susan | iheartwellness.comNovember 8, 2010 at 10:20 PM

    Thank you, the whole post was very well written...I especially liked reading your paragraph where you mention to face fear...very strong and empowering!
    Enjoy your day!

  20. This post is beautiful. Food is beautiful. You are beautiful.

    Food are indeed memories, one could almost tell the story of a human life through experiences involving food. The first time our little hands participated in bakings. How we was filled with excitement by certain smells, because we knew that signaled a lovely, social experience.
    ED tried to rob us of these memories, twisting them and filling us with anxiety and negativity, instead of the joy and excitement we used to feel when being surrounded by food.
    You are a fighter, and it makes my heart sing of joy to see how you and the kitchen are establishing a new friendship these days. You'll never go back to being the one you were before, but that should not prevent you from once again find love, passion and peace in the kitchen.

    Baking is therapy for me to, making me feel whole as you say. Baking, knitting and reading are all activities that give me a sense of security and peace within. Like I am acting out my true nature.

    Keep shining, beautiful.

  21. I completely agree..baking is very therapeutic. How did you break your foot?

  22. Cinnamnon ginger cookies... they are the best to bake.. you can create sugary reindeers, stars, hearts.. they mould themselves to any outline you want to use, you can even freehand draw your shapes. Yes, Cinnamon Ginger cookies...

    I broke my foot a couple of months ago too... I fell out of my wheelie bin doing the bin dance (when you get in and stomp the rubbish down), dont worry it will heal. Baking will help...

  23. See, food is SO much more than calories and nutrition! I love that you are starting to gain positive emotions and pleasure out of food. This is why I bake at the wee hours of the morning in the middle of a stressed out day....

  24. This is a really beautiful post. :) I'm not a psychology major but take courses as part of my degree, and my favorite psych professor always says, "EAT THE DREAD." Yes, recovery is scary, going out of a comfort zone is scary, figuring out who you are, riding a bike for the first time, etc etc etc... But you have to eat the dread to move forward. Helped me overcome my driving anxiety.

    I think the joy in baking for me also comes from the fact that you usually share your end product with family and friends. Knowing that they enjoy something you created is marvelous.

  25. Ugh! Some of the picutures didn't load for me! I love baking too! I'm not too adventurous with it though. I pretty much stick to the recipe I'm going by. It's very relaxng and like you said, it takes your mind off of other things going on.

    Plus I love sharing it on my blog too when whatever it is, turns out well ;)

    <3 Tori

  26. hungry!!!!!!!!!!mmmhhhh

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