Bake away your blues

8 Sep

There are many things in life which can be considered therapeutic: a massage, a run, a good heart to heart with a friend or whanau member. More often than not, I choose baking. It’s easy, the ingredients are generally in the pantry, it is a good way of focussing my energy and narrowing my attention onto one thing. And it makes me feel better: not just the eating of it, but the creating as well.

When I had Little Pud, I was swept up in a world of nappies, breastfeeding, bottle feeding and sleep deprivation and there was suddenly no time for myself or for the BFG. I remember one night going to sleep by his side and saying “I miss you”, because we were like the proverbial ships in the night. I would get up to feed while he slept, or he would get up to bottle feed while I pumped milk and then went back to bed. Worse, I was very anxious for quite a long time. Everything had changed. Life was no longer what we had come to know. It was at once, joyous and terrible, fun and anxiety-provoking, confusing, tiring and just plain hard, but also wondrous. Of course, it got better, but life would never be the same. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing: it just is what it is. However, I had abandoned so much of my old life and, while I (mostly) didn’t actively mourn the particular activities I no longer did, I didn’t really feel like myself anymore.

It was really important for me to get back into baking. I didn’t realise it at the time, but once I started baking again, I felt more like me. Of course, it was still only now and then that I baked, but it was wonderful to once again practise this old, familiar activity that I loved so much.

I started simply with scones or suchlike. I don’t actually recall what I first made now. It helped that I was determined to try making some baby food when it came time for Little Pud to try some solids. I tried my hand at various forms of edible slush and now I’m regularly making “weaning foods” as well as getting the Little Pud to try eating whatever we eat (minus the refined sugar and alcohol :)). There’ll be a post on weaning foods soon here and on my other blog.

Baking is also an activity that I associate with my Mum and her mum, and Grandma (Dad’s mum). It’s nice to maintain that link and know that I’m doing something that they enjoyed as well.

Of course, I’m not the only one who believes in the power of baking to heal the soul. Marian Keyes wrote a lovely recipe book called “Saved by Cake” in which she confesses that baking literally saved her life. Marian was diagnosed with depression and had tried all sorts of ways to alleviate her feeling of being “very, very afraid… like my brain  had been poisoned”. She tried Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, antidepressants, reiki, accupuncture, meditation… the list goes on. One day she needed to make a birthday cake for a friend who was visiting. She was “suspicious of anything ‘crafty'”, but gave it a go and enjoyed it so much she kept baking. After a while, she couldn’t stop. Marian stresses that baking hasn’t cured her, but “it gets me through”. Like me, it helps her to focus, to “concentrate on what’s right in front of my nose”.

And maybe baking can help you. Or maybe it’s getting back into crochet or cross-fit, beat-boxing or backgammon. Perhaps it’s time to get back into karaoke or painting the house, or even painting that work of art you’ve been putting off. Hell, maybe it’s time to just make time for some small pleasures like painting your nails. Whatever it is you choose to do, I hope you begin to find time for some fun and to restore some of the little pieces of you that may have been dormant for a while. Caring for another human is a massive job which requires love and dedication, but caring for yourself is just as important.

To finish, here’s a recipe from Marian’s book that I tried a while ago. It’s something a little different, though if you’ve heard of poke cakes before, it won’t be too unfamiliar to you. It’s moist and sweet and very much comfort food!

Bon appetit!

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Marian's Three Milks Cake


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