Are You A Cook Or A Baker?

I do not like baking. I won't say that I hate it, because one time I made a batch of vegan cupcakes that were pretty delicious, and I keep a cupcake tin around in case I ever want to make them again. But that cupcake tin has now been through at least three moves without being used — mostly because despite the fact that it (sometimes) results in delicious treats, I find baking incredibly stressful.

Baking, as anyone who's become proficient at it knows, requires following instructions. I am afraid of instructions. I open the cookbook, and there's that long list of tasks staring me in the face, waiting for me to fuck them up. I feel like I've fucked them up before I've even started. I start to get upset, my blood pressure rises, I become hostile to those around me. I once decided to make a delicious cake for all my friends to celebrate my impending move to Boston, and I ended up screaming at the friend who was trying to help me make icing. Alexandra Molotkow, writing in the Toronto Standard, has had a similar experience:

After the pie was out of the oven, my mother handed me the cutter. As blade met crust, she yelled that I wasn't cutting it right. I yelled back that there was no right way to cut a pie, as if that was something I knew. My boyfriend tried to break it up by asking for a slice, so I yelled at him. My mom yelled at me for yelling at him. Eventually she took the pie cutter and carved a slice, which crumbled into goo before reaching the plate. It tasted OK, I guess, but I probably should have just bought a pie from the store.

Molotkow describes baking as part of "a great tradition of womaniness that I will not be upholding," but I think one's ability to bake is less about gender and more about psychology. My mom, for instance, is an accomplished baker. She routinely makes pies for holiday meals, she knows how to bake many different types of Christmas cookies, and what's more, I'm pretty sure she finds this fun. I say this because she sometimes does it instead of work for her actual job as a biology professor. I think the two are actually connected, though — in the lab, you have to do a series of tasks just so or instead of having a cut and stained section of root, you have a thirty-foot monster that feeds on children. This has totally happened.

I, on the other hand, routinely got 1000% error in high school science experiments, and it's not because I don't like science. It's because I'm the kind of person who sees, "measure out exactly 10 mL of silver nitrate solution into test tube," and thinks, "okay, I'll just pour some stuff in there." I wrote a cookbook for my best friend once, and every recipe pretty much looked like this: "take a bunch of garlic, add a bunch of onion, put it together with some clams, stir until it seems done." I like cooking, and I'm decent at it, mostly because it's less about following directions and more about having a sort of loose idea of what things go together, how long they take to cook, and what they look like when they're done. I dislike cookbooks and regard recipes as suggestions, not rules.

Of course, some superhumans can both cook and bake — but I'm far from the first to point out that the two require fairly different skill sets. And while I wouldn't go so far as to say that baking is for scientists and cooking is for laid-back artsy types (I am not, in other areas of my life, especially laid-back), I will say that cooking requires a tolerance for disorder, while baking calls for its opposite. Except: when you bake, you have to accept that flour will get all over your kitchen, which I also really fucking hate.

Because I Am A Failure As A Woman [Toronto Standard]

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