by Alia Arafeh
Most people’s baked goods are made with love. Mine? They’re made of pure rage and anxiety. Yes, I am the kind of person who uses baking to cope with the constant feeling of impending doom that rests in the back of my mind. Yes, I am also a Virgo.
You might think it’s a fun pastime, a relaxing activity to do with the family, but it isn’t. Baking is my lifeline, the very thing keeping me afloat during these troubling times. You’ll often find me in the kitchen, especially in light of an upcoming test or assignment due. The thing is, when I’m baking, nothing else matters to me. I focus so heavily on torching a creme brulee or not killing my yeast that deadlines and assignments have no home in my brain.
If I’m making cinnamon rolls, I urge you to send help immediately. You might think they’re a delicious treat – a gooey dessert – but it most definitely is a cry for help. I only take time out of my day to become a walking Pillsbury boy when the anxiety gets to be really bad. Who can blame me? The Pillsbury Dough Boy definitely doesn’t have to worry about AP Physics and that’s clear by the stupid smile on his face on all the poppable dough rolls. In fact, I don’t think he has many thoughts at all. I envy him.
You might be thinking “Wow Alia, you must bake a lot. What could you possibly do with all the leftovers?” Great question. Excellent question. I spend probably 20 minutes before each baking session using third grade level math to quarter the recipe, and almost always miscalculate something. Otherwise I give it to my best friend, who is at this point classically conditioned to expect baked goods whenever there’s a test coming up. But who am I kidding? I’m always stressed, and, therefore, always baking.
This obsession has allowed me to develop strong opinions about celebrity bakers. Alton Brown? My favorite muffin man. Ree Drummond? Not simply a pioneer woman; she’s a pioneer queen. Paul Hollywood? Lives in my nightmares, forever reminding me that my dough is both over-proofed and underbaked. And so on, because I have a strong opinion about every person to have ever baked anything. So yeah, I HAVE developed unhealthy coping mechanisms. Hasn’t everyone?