Notes on baking

Chai tea cupcakes, whiskey icing piped slowly, cautiously, on top.

round and round, with a peak.

Cupcakes for the friend flying across seas; I bake his plane into the air, my frantic stirring the roaring engines. I pray furiously, willing him safely away from us, but at the same time, wishing him back. I add extra whiskey, as if the scents of tea, cinnamon, and the act of baking will keep my memories fresh and pungent. His bakers hands holding a gin martini, reminding me not to over-bake.

Olive Scone bread; heavy with cheese and oil, tearing like fabric and barely baked. Hot and sticky, it smells and tastes like minestrone soup and sitting in the kitchen doing the crossword with my father. It’s generous and overbearing and sweaty with fresh parsley, the aroma puts in mind the names of foreign cities, the powers and identities of the ancient gods, and obscure titles of barely heard of plays. Each fragrant bite is a box and an answer.

Somewhere, in a city I’ve never been to, a woman I know is waking up. She is stretching her limbs like raw dough, and craving coffee in the roof of her mouth. As she pushes her way into the morning I am pushing my hands into a morning bread dough, folding in dark sugar and cinnamon as the brightness oozes out of this Scottish evening. As it bakes, filling the night with smells of honey bread and morning,  I think of her looking out over an unfamiliar skyline and sighing over her coffee cup. I imagine a whiff of bread might catch her gluey morning thoughts, and we will be drawn together. Impossibly. Across space and time. 

Chocolately and fruity, these indulgent muffins lying on the rack are the moment I bite into a lemon curd mini-pie at my wedding. They taste like the afternoon sun and the metallic bitterness of adrenalin, the fluttering relief of the color of the world, still there, even when married. Her baking is always exquisitely phrased in gentleness, and as I carefully lace the chocolate muffins with raspberry jam I think of her sweetly placing strawberry hearts on each one.

I think of her pulling home baked shortbread from the oven, and placing them in front of me with a steaming cup of tea, full of comfort and condolences.

I think of the rays of warmth from her aga, the smell of her dog, and as I pipe the icing on these muffins I quietly imagine her presence hovering, the same way I hovered so often by her, as she sprinkled icing sugar and spread jam and listened.

I bake,

slowly,

badly,

frustratingly,

trying to be as good as those who bake for me.

As I wait for so many things to rise, and prove, and rest, I wait for the memories of laughter and shared moments. As yeast livens and brews I pray I might grow too, that something might stir alive, and then I might miss them less and love ‘this’ more.

This lonesomeness full of scented nostalgia; the smell of friends and baking.

 

 

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