Is baking a *thing* where you are?

Femomhist recently posted a link to a ridiculous NYT debate about all the issues surrounding the vitally important topic of people buying baked goods instead of baking them for school fundraising bake-sales.

I’ll let you digest that thought for a moment.  I can wait.

The NYTimes is always talking about mothers and baking.  And buying baked goods.  And faking store-bought baked goods so they look like they’re home-made.  And should mothers feel guilty for not baking.  And do mothers who bake make other mothers who don’t bake feel guilty for existing.  (And always mommy guilt– dads are somehow exempt, but that’s another gripe.)  And so on and so forth.  I read these narratives on the internet too– on blogs and on mommy forums.

I ask you, gentle readers, when did baking get to be a *thing*?  When did it become some sort of archetype or symbol or whatever it has become?  When did a cookie stop being just a cookie?

And actually, I further ask, is it a *thing* away from the internet?  Like, IRL?  And if so, is it a *thing* outside of NY or LA?

My thought has generally been:
yummy > effort => bake
effort > yummy => don’t bake

Growing up in the midwest, I don’t remember baking being anything other than a way to get baked goods.  We had a lot of box mix brownies and cupcakes.  Chocolate chip cookies from scratch.  Yummy stuff, but not a measure of anyone’s true worth.  I remember some church bake sales that were just out of this world, but that was a previous generation of retired ladies making those wonders.

I can tell you it wasn’t a thing around normal people when I was an impoverished grad student in an expensive coastal city.  Not that I hung around many mothers at that point in time.  My partner and I both baked a lot because we had time, no money, and juuuust the right amount of stress; baking provides a sweet spot in terms of stress relief for my partner.  There’s something especially calming about kneading bread.  We were very popular with the administrative assistants at our schools.  Everyone seemed pretty happy about getting homemade baked goods, but they didn’t seem to merit any sort of saint-hood or obligation or whatevs.  Of course, we had not reproduced at that time, so maybe I just missed out.

Here, people don’t make things from scratch.  Sometimes they make things from mixes.  Our baked goods that were smashing successes in the coastal city aren’t as popular as stuff from the stores because tastes here run much sweeter.  People probably prefer the store-bought stuff because they don’t actually have to see how much sugar they’re putting into it!  And, I’m not sure that just plain sugar can get things as sweet as people want.  Baking is definitely not a symbol of anything except maybe being a little bit of a health nut.  But people are polite about it, even if homemade stuff doesn’t disappear as quickly as storebought.  And to be honest, other than the tooth-numbing sweetness, the cakes at the grocery stores around here are way better than cakes most parts of the country.  I just wish they put butter in their pie crust– texture is more important than flavor in these parts when it comes to pie dough; their pies are super flaky.

Anyhow, the point is, if I didn’t spend too much time on the internet and occasionally reading the NYTimes I would have no idea that whether I baked or not had anything to do with how many mommy points I’ve racked or how much hate I’m supposed to be getting from other mommies.  I’m pretty sure that IRL nobody cares.  If the cookies are good, they’re appreciated.  If they’re not sweet enough they’re politely nibbled at and there’s more left for us.  But nobody comments on how they wish they had time to bake or how guilty they feel for not baking or how amazing it is that we bake.  They either comment on the cookies being good, or they politely ask if they’re healthy.

Maybe if people on the internet ate more yummy baked goods, they’d spend less time psychoanalyzing them.

So:  Is baking a *thing* for you?  Is it a *thing* where you are?  Do you enjoy it when other people bake?  Is someone else baking showing off and thus a personal affront to one’s femininity/fitness as a mother, as so many of these bloggers suggest?  (And why is it never a personal affront to one’s fitness as a father?)

[Disclaimer:  The pregnant one of us is not allowed to eat sugary/non-glycemically-balanced foods until she delivers.  She dreams of brownies and male chocolate chip cookies, but does not often get to eat them, even in her dreams.  They taunt.  But that's a different kind of *thing*.]

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47 Responses to “Is baking a *thing* where you are?”

  1. feMOMhist Says:

    well as a “bi-coastal” person I have to say that while growing up there was definitely a stigma attached to mothers who did not bake from scratch. It still bothers my mom when people bring store bought goods to church events.

    I believe the equation went something like this

    mom love + effort that shows it = homemade
    bad mom + laziness = store bought

    So of course I bake from scratch(!) I was however quite surprised at a recent Boy Scout event to see almost all home made goods, as that is definitely not the norm around here. “Other coast” has plenty of bakeries everywhere and people avail themselves of the easy and tasty, albeit not cheap, option. So this year, with NO GUILT I bought the cookies for fMhgirl’s class party because she wanted these disgusting m and m cookies that were no doubt full of trans-fats, food coloring and g-d knows what else!

  2. profgrrrrl Says:

    I have always equated baking with mom love, too. My mom baked (and sometimes bought store cookies — but cakes were always from scratch). My stepmom couldn’t be bothered to bake, ever. My mom loved me. My stepmom didn’t (and I never really felt like she loved being a mom to her kids).

    That said, on the bake sale and baking for events level, I’ve not really viewed it as a display of love, and I’m keenly aware that some folks don’t notice the difference. I’d say it’s a 50/50 split where I am right now. I’ve been bringing cookies to people, and some have really enjoyed them and others had a ho-hum reaction. When I go to parties or events at B’s school, I only bake if I have time and inclination. I don’t feel the need to show off at all. If I can’t bake, however, I usually won’t pick up some pre-made baked goods. Instead I’ll send $$, bring drinks, offer up supplies. I think I’ve brought (ok,not in the realm of baked goods, but) store hummus + veggies to every school event of B’s so far because I don’t have time to do something more and/or the things I enjoy making are either not of the potluck serving variety or kid-friendly. Kudos to everyone who makes those taco casseroles and whatnot; it’s just not in my repertoire. I’ve brought store baked goods for my classes (when I bake for them, they’re amazed that I had the time and ability), and I buy things at the really good bakery sometimes if we’re having guests and I don’t have time. However, in my mind homemade and from scratch is almost always best. (But brownies from scratch don’t work given your effort equation — the mix is just fine there, IMHO.)

    On the sugar angle, I tend to bake things that are less sweet than store items, and sometimes I reduce the sugar on my own a bit. It’s a personal preference. Most store items are too sweet for my taste. And I really like knowing what is in my food.

    So, I was surprised to read the article, to learn that in some areas bake sales are all about store bought items. That made me kind of sad. I guess I remember helping my mom make things for bake sales, or making them myself as I got older, and taking a sense of pride in what I was doing. If no one wants to bake, why not just do a different type of fundraiser?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I appreciate veggie trays at potlucks!

      My partner thinks the point of bakesales isn’t to make money but some other kind of cultural thing instead. We are like us, you should be like us… something like that.

      We tend to give money for fundraisers. Especially since for many of these fundraisers the cost of making the baked goods is greater than what they sell the baked goods for. (We tend to *buy* at such events, but have stopped baking.)

  3. Foscavista Says:

    When I see someone bring store-bought goods, like sweets, to a function, I think one of four things:
    1. Person is too busy (e.g. life, work, children, emergency, etc)
    2. Person was out of ideas of what to make.
    3. Person doesn’t bake well/doesn’t have utensils.
    4. Related or unrelated to item #3, person under- or over-baked something. (We all have done it at least once.)

    Since my hobby is cooking and baking, I love to do it. I am, however, a little judgmental when a person buys store-made goods and passes them off as homemade without a Sandra Lee intervention.

  4. becca Says:

    I am not the sort to notice what is a thing here. But I think there are some layers of meaning to ‘homemade’, so maybe it’s a bit of a thing for me and I don’t really realize it. For example, I would be unlikely to buy baked goods from a bake sale if they were not homemade (from a mix is fine, I’m actually quite fond of mix cupcakes at bake sales).
    My parents never brought much of anything that I can remember, we didn’t do baked sales. Although at some potlucks my Dad made Waldorf salad. We regularly brought store bought cakes or pies to thanksgiving. For a couple few years there I was old enough to make chocolate cookies fairly independently, and we brought those to great success.

    Also, brownies from a mix are not as good, plus the brownie batter from homemade is soooooo worth the effort.
    There are many lovely store-bought fudgy brownies out there, but cake brownies are “supposed” to be from scratch, and with Baker’s semi-dark chocolate.NOMNOMNOM

    My carebear cooked too many appleberry pies for our Thanksgiving, so I had an extra one to take to my work related potluck. It was a success. That made me happy. I was like, is this what being an old fashioned d00d scientist was like with a wife? It’s kind of awesome.

  5. Perpetua Says:

    I definitely believe that baking or not baking is not equivalent with one’s love. I could see where I live, which is a relatively affluent East coast place, there might be times and places where baking is a THING in terms of competitive mommying. Since I’m relatively insulated/isolated from large groups of judgmental parents, I don’t see it playing out, and even if I did, wouldn’t be affected by it (that is, I’m perfectly happy to go pick up a cake if I don’t have time to make something). I think that baking is a thing is some places, but in most places it is not. NYT is all about navelgazing, and it’s at its worst in anything to do with parenting.

    At the same time, I see what @profgrrl is saying. It’s strange to have a bake sale consisting of things that you could buy yourself at Kroger/Giant/Whole Foods or whatever. I don’t know why this seems sillier to me than buying something homemade, especially because homemade does not necessarily = superyummy. But I guess like nicoleandmaggie says, that is all about culture. For some people, a storebought treat is more special and more delicious and for others the opposite is true. I’m in the homemade camp myself; I love to bake, would prefer to eat something homemade, and feel like the process of baking imbues the product with something special (ranging from yes, love and care to better taste). And my kids love to bake with me, so I really enjoy that too. (Though ironically, the 3 y.o. won’t eat any of the things he helps to bake, though he eats storebought sweets, except cake. He never eats cake.)

  6. Cloud Says:

    It isn’t really a thing in my circle here in San Diego. I’ve made some birthday cakes from scratch, and get compliments and told I’m crazy, because most people buy from CostCo. I just like to bake.

    But I’ve started buying birthday cupcakes from a friend who is starting a baking business. Hers taste awesome, look cute, and take one source of stress away from birthday party planning.

    I do like to bake, though- I have since high school. So it has been frustrating me that I haven’t had time to do much of it this Christmas season. Christmas = baking to me!

    I suspect baking has become a “thing” because it is a tangible difference between staying at home and working as a mom, and our culture likes to try to make that decision as loaded and fraught as possible.

  7. bogart Says:

    Interesting. I do not see the point in having a bake sale where what one can buy is stuff one can buy in nearby commercial establishments. To me, that basic scenario taps into a larger and wildly prevalent issue that has been driving me nuts (I’m so glad you asked ;)!) that to me seems largely to occur with things conventionally considered “women’s work,” (and perhaps beyond that “mothers’ work) and that involves some variation on the theme of, “If everybody does a little bit, then this won’t be much work at all for anyone,” often coupled with, “it’s so excellent if we all chip in,” and perhaps, “this makes [something otherwise a grouping based on convenience and/or shared consumption of a commercial product such as -- gasp! -- daycare or education or athletic training] us a community!”

    Now, let me say that I don’t think there’s anything wrong – indeed, there is much right – with everyone doing a little bit and the excellence of chipping in and building community by contributing in various ways to the needs/desires of the members of a group, whatever its origins.

    I can give a specific example of this sort of set up – two days/week my DS goes to a preschool where every child (really meaning every parent dropping of a child) is supposed to bring a piece of fresh fruit every day they attend. The school kitchen staff then takes said fruit, washes and preps it, and serves it as a snack. Fabulous. The kids all get to contribute to the overall entity of the school community, everyone gets a healthy snack, and perhaps the kids get some sense of “whole bigger than parts,” or whatever.

    And every darned morning I take my son there I have to remember to have available and grab on the way out the door a single piece of fresh fruit that travels well enough that after bouncing around in the car and being mauled by preschool hands and perhaps dropped that it will still be edible. Along with appropriate clothing (coats, gloves, mittens, rain gear) for him for whatever the weather may hold that day *and* often whatever he thinks constitutes appropriate clothing ditto, which may relate only loosely to reality (last week on a day that started at about 40 degrees and reached about 60 he insisted on bringing his heavy winter coat, the sort one would only want were it below freezing). And my own lunch, and laptop, and cell phone, and appropriate change of clothes if I am going swimming or riding before I return home, and a change of shoes for work because I wear ugly (but comfy!) slip-ons to drop him off at preschool since we are supposed to shed our shoes at the door, and my dad’s clean laundry if I’m going to see him at the nursing home (and chocolate bars, because if there’s one thing about his dementia that’s easy it’s the fact that a pack of Hershey bars make his day – but their absence has the opposite effect). Oh, and any (over)due library books that need to be dropped off, and of course the box for the CSA if it’s Tuesday. Oh, wait, DS doesn’t go to preschool on Tuesday, so I never have to remember the fruit and the CSA box on the same day – phew!

    See where I’m going with this?

    And obviously I should be mocked because for Pete’s sake, one kid, one piece of fruit, two days/week? But I feel for the other parents who have 2 kids at 2 different schools with different (but equally involved) requirements and who are juggling all of the above, plus that.

    We use two different preschools. One has each kid bring a complete lunch to serve the entire school 1/N days each month, where N=number of kids enrolled in school. The other, it’s one piece of fresh fruit every day you’re there. Me? I much prefer the occasional (once every other week, as it works out) lunch to the darned piece of fruit. It’s enough to allow some planning/consideration of what the kid would like to take and serve his friends (and each kid gets to take a turn basking in the limelight of bringing lunch), but not too much to be overwhelming.
    Similarly, I have nothing against potlucks and appreciate the form. But when I have people over, I usually cook them an entire meal and do not ask folks to bring anything. I’d much rather be part of a world where we all host each other occasionally than one where we are all forever bringing a covered dish (or cupcakes, be they store-bought *or* homemade) with us everywhere we go (if I had to choose either/or).

    And this, I think, is where I come down on the bake sale (as opposed to baking in general). Either do it right – make it a rare (enough) events with parents (and kids) willing and able actually to bake stuff and put in effort to creating something that wouldn’t otherwise exist, or do something else. Me? I’d mostly just rather write a check to the PTA.

    I do bake, some. My son is a banana-bread baking fiend (and I’m not sure how limited the pregnant one’s diet is, but the carb load of an entire loaf involves 2 bananas, a half cup of sugar, a cup of whole wheat flour, and a half cup of raw oatmeal with nuts and egg (protein) and butter(fat) to balance it out so if anyone wants the recipe…), and we’ve done some Christmas cookies (and also occasionally bake chocolate chip ones; I do both from scratch, DH uses – oh the horror – prefab chocolate chip). I am perplexed at why anyone would make brownies from scratch when the mix ones are so good and so easy (I’ve never had from scratch ones that were better, though this may reflect what I’ve been exposed to) and we also bake cakes and muffins from mixes (I am not bashful about this – if I take brownies to a potluck and people tell me they are good I say, “Mixed ‘em myself!”). I do like the prospect of knowing and controlling what goes into what I eat, but we don’t eat enough of those sorts of baked goods for this to be a huge concern (I do buy store-bought sliced bread, though I also read ingredient lists on the packages and those shape my choice of bread).

    My exposure is limited, but I’d say in general people around us bake. Indeed there’s a big locavore/home-made movement in town, so much of this is very active/charged, but it’s enveloping enough that it mostly just celebrates its own existence and doesn’t harass non-participants a lot that I’m aware of.

    • Cloud Says:

      I love your mini-rant about all the crap we have to remember, and how sometimes, the “its so simple” request is the thing that pushes the whole precarious construction of our lives over the edge into chaos. Or, in my case, a beer and moan session to get over whatever important thing it is that I’ve forgotten.

      On the homemade brownies- I make from scratch because I never have a mix when I want it, and from scratch is actually almost as easy as from a mix, in my experience.

      But I almost never make brownies, because I much prefer these simple oatmeal, butter, sugar concoctions that I have in my Fannie Farmer cookbook for a quick “I want something sweet and there is nothing in the house” fix. I have a similar recipe, spruced up with melted choc chips on top, that is awesome for baking with a 2 year old, because it is fast and easy. And yummy.

      • bogart Says:

        LOL. You are too kind to refer to that rant as “mini.” Note to self: If you extract your comment out into a Word document so you can re-read it in an accessible (given its size) format before you submit it, you’ve probably said too much.

        Your recipe sounds like my DH’s “no bake” cookies, which are yummy and which he does make from scratch.

    • Rumpus Says:

      Yes, I too think all these things where they distribute the workload across everyone often ends up making it all worse. And then if someone forgets there’s a stigma attached.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Ditto. I’d rather just pay everything up front in one lump sum with money! Our private school has SO MUCH STUFF that we have to hit Michael’s or Target or the grocery store etc. Our working-parent Montessori didn’t have those kinds of demands.

  8. Linda Says:

    This seems to be a mothering thing, so I haven’t really heard about it. If it’s so difficult for people to bake these days for bake sales, why not just stop holding bake sales and do some other sort of fundraising event? Or why not just charge a fee for the program/activity instead of asking people to do these silly fundraising-type activities? After all, people have to spend the money buying baked goods or ingredients to make baked goods + time value anyway, right?

  9. Liz Says:

    For birthday parties, potlucks etc, I wouldn’t care if the treats were homemade or store bought. However, I would be impressed by people who brought delicious homemade treats, because it is a skill to bake well from stratch, just as I would be impressed by someone who was crafty and made there own invites for an event or displayed a similar talent. In that case, it is recognition of a skill but not feeling that the individual is a “better person” or a “better mother” than someone else. If you are not a good baker, I would prefer a yummy store bought treat than a mediorce homemade one.

    I do agree with some of the other commenters that store bought treats at a bake sale seems weird to me, although I can’t exactly pinpoint why. In my mind, a bake sale is an event where I can buy something unique and I personally wouldn’t buy a store bought item from a bake sale and would probably feel weird contributing a store bought item. That said, I’m not really a fan of bakesales as a fundraiser in general.

  10. rented life Says:

    East coast here. The city we used to live in baking was a thing–in that you could go to any major grocery store and get amazing baked goods. Everyone knew where to get the best (name your baked good) but that city took all of it’s food seriously, I could tell you where to get the best any kind of food there. I miss it!
    But if people were coming over there’d be a few who do baked goods but most of us do awesome dips. We can’t do that here, they are far more concerned with bizzare ingredients here than with good taste and texture. (Bread shouldn’t be rock hard and dry.)

    Down here I’m not sure if baking is a thing. At neither city have I seen bake sales as fundraisers. I don’t think they make the best fundraiser either. And my expereince is that most people don’t bake well where I’m at now. (Personal preferences.) I don’t love or hate baking in and of itself, but I do love the results. I’ll be doing a couple hundred cookies this week for family. And I’ll curse all day tomorrow and Thursday, but when I have the cookies to eat and share with my loved ones, it feels worth it every year.

    Oh! I just remembered: The church where I grew up always sold bake goods during the holidays–the Saturday after Thanksgiving. And that would sell out immediately. Many people bought and froze for later.

  11. MutantSupermodel Says:

    Hmmm… Is baking a “thing”?

    I honestly never thought of it that way. Is cooking a “thing”? To me they’re the same except some people like to do one more than the other, some people like to do both, and some people like to do neither.

    My mother is an excellent cook and is an excellent baker. She has always loved to bake and cook. My grandmother often talks about what a great thing this was because SHE hates both and was thrilled her daughter wanted to take over those things. Growing up, I experienced a lot of made by mom food. And I got to make some of it with her. Some of it was from a mix and some of it was from scratch. I don’t remember there being as wide a variety of mixes when I was growing up as there are now. To this day, my mom still uses this mix. It’s completely unpredictable too, you can hardly ever tell what will be made with a mix and what won’t.

    I get into baking moods and bake like a madwoman, mostly from scratch because if I were to buy mixes for all of the stuff I want to bake, I’d be broke. And then I bake nothing for ages. But there is also something wildly entertaining about baking from scratch– the weird science of it. If you add this much this, this and this together and make a wet puddle of mess and stick it into a very hot box for several minutes it turns into something very yummy to eat. I think this is why so many kids love to do it too. I mean, it really is kind of a magic trick, no?

    I baked some cookies the night before last but they were the refrigerated dough. We did decorate them together and that’s why I went that route. In the case of the Melted Snowman Cookies we made, the point wasn’t for me to bake, the point was for me to have fun decorating melting snowmen on cookies with the kids.

    Personally, it has never occurred to me to award Motherhood points on baking. I don’t look down on the Publix cake or the designer bakery cake or the messy (but delicious) homemade cake. I’ve used all of these at least once in my life. Lately with my kids, I’ve found making their own birthday cakes has been more rewarding than going the storebought way. For one, it lets me get creative and make something very unique and special for them. It lets me get silly too because kids just love sprinkles and silliness on their cakes don’t they? And last, they let me save money. And even in these cakes, I don’t always do 100% handmade. I use store frosting a lot for instance. Or if I’m super pressed on time, I use the cake mix. Who cares? My kids love watching me put it together too. And they do get a certain kick out of announcing “My Mommy MADE THIS FOR ME” but then again, they seem to get that kick out of anything I make for them– even if it’s just coloring a page in their books you know?

    I do think, in the end (and wow this is way longer than I imagined it would be), there is something magical and special about anything that is made by one person with a particular person (or group of persons) in mind. And that of course reaches down into the food levels too. I do wish handmade wasn’t a dying art and I do celebrate any signs of life in that arena. I do regret the weird snobbiness that seems to crop up around the handmade scene but that’s their own problem. I think it can intimidate others and keeps them away from picking up and trying to piece things together. I wish more people would try it more often and if baking is the only way they’re ok doing it, by all means, let baking be a “thing”.

  12. oilandgarlic Says:

    I definitely think that homemade/baking has become a way to measure mom love (and usually only stay at home moms have the time or energy to bake). As a working mom, I think homemade dinners and lunches are good enough!

    However, I come from a non-baking culture (chinese) as is my Italian husband so we don’t associate love with baking, love with good food maybe! It’s definitely an American thing and I don’t plan to play that competitve mom game.

  13. itsprobablyphdme Says:

    I grew up in the land of homemade food (i.e., the rural South), so bringing something “store bought” to the church potluck was tantamount to declaring yourself a lazy do-nothing or a Yankee. (Seriously, my childhood existed in a bit of a time warp.) Cooking – especially baking – was very much equated with love. If someone passed away, the ladies brought casseroles; if someone had a baby, the ladies brought cakes; if someone got married, the ladies did the confections for the reception.

    Food was a big deal in my family, too. When it was your birthday, Mom made your favorite foods for dinner – and my grandmother did the same for her children until she passed away. Holidays were one big food-fest; my grandmother would make 3-4 cakes plus 3 main dishes and everyone else brought baskets stuffed with food.

    I wouldn’t say it was a competitive mom thing, though; it was just what we did. Homemade food tasted better and cost less; in terms of my mom’s generation, it was part of being a mother and a wife. Some of that has passed, obviously, as my family gets older, has more income and less time. When my family convenes for holidays, though, we still cook and bake because we can do much better than anything we could buy.

    Since I’m not a mom, I’m well out of the competitive mom thing in my own life, so I couldn’t say how much pressure mothers feel to channel their inner June Cleaver today. In my circle, I’d say not much, since most of the food at dinners, potlucks or parties is usually bought. It’s ingrained in me to cook/bake from scratch; even with my lack of time, I just can’t pick something up from the store. I do notice that I rarely come home with leftovers, so there is a benefit to growing up in a family that appreciates good food.

  14. bethh Says:

    When I see homemade baked goods at an event, I’m usually pleased because I figure the person put some time and energy into creating something. That’s how I am when I bake things! I do it because I enjoy it and I like the challenge. I admit I think it’s a little lame to bring something store-bought to a food event like a potluck or dinner party. HOWEVER I am single without kids, and I know it’s a vastly different world on the other side of the fence. So I try to make allowances, but I make a point of eating the homemade food, and usually skip the bought stuff. (but I don’t point and cast aspersions or anything.)

    • bethh Says:

      I should add that I used to not have a problem with cake from a mix – only in the last 3 years since I got a KA mixer have I really become more of a purist or snob. I live in the Bay Area.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Heh. I actually don’t like cake unless it’s homemade from scratch and uses butter. (Not crazy about chiffons.) But that’s just a personal preference dealing with food. I don’t think it says anything about the baker/bringer! Especially since other people don’t seem to mind. Nothing wrong with being a food snob, so long as you’re not a people snob about it. :)

        I also don’t like eggnog or goat cheese (#2 vehemently disagrees on both these counts).

  15. J. Harker Says:

    I saw the title of this entry in Bardiac’s Blogroll. I wandered over and felt compelled to say hello.

    Hello!

    And to answer your question, I feel like there is a subset of mothers/parents everywhere that feels Homemade Whatever is simply better than Storebought Whatever (be that muffins, cornbread, quilts, or children), and not just better in its own rights – but possessing some sort of transitive property of Betterness that earns points for the people involved. Alas, these points may only be redeemed by (and within) members of this parental subset, because no one else gives a shit.

    To the rest of us, as has been noted, baked goods are tasty. They do not confer some magical moral superiority. Unless you can make some really f*cking good sourdough. Then, okay. Sure.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I miss our graduate student starter! We mail-ordered the oregon trail starter but after a while it actually got *too sour* if you can believe that. Sometime we’ll have to get back to those bread experiments. Right now my partner is excited about Artisan bread in 5 min a day.

  16. zenmoo Says:

    Hmm. I have noticed a few times that people have made comments along the lines of, “I can’t believe you have time/I can’t believe you bake” etc. But I don’t really buy that baking is a ‘thing’ for other people here in Western Australia. A couple of years ago I ran a morning tea roster at my work and it was variable whether people bought or brought. I think being impressed by stuff people had baked falls into the category of, (to quote @Liz)” recognition of a skill but not feeling that the individual is a “better person” or a “better mother” than someone else.” Then again, maybe I live in an oblivious bubble because

    …. it is a ‘Thing’ for me – it’s a thing I enjoy and a way to make sure I keep sugary treats out of the house. The increase in effort required to make rather than buy cookies definitely keeps my sugar intake down. It is a Thing I do with my daughter (even if she’s not quite two, she can do a mean mix, mix, mix) because it is a Thing my mother has done for us to express love. Where I grew up there was no access to a lot of ‘bought’ baked goods – or if you could buy them they were just a bit weird (like super sweet white bread or sweet corn flavoured). We had a housekeeper who did most of the cooking, so my mother baked. Some stuff (like lamingtons and birthday cakes) were totally special occasion – other stuff (like chocolate chip cookies and hedgehog slice) was just ordinary.

    Note: even though baking is a thing for me, I am not above using packet mixes. The Donna Hay brownie mix is effing expensive at $8/box but I keep a box in the pantry at all times because it is also effing delicious and quick to make. Even including cleaning up time, it would be quicker than driving to a bakery to buy a cake. Bonus: it contains monster sized chunks of chocolate. Yum.

  17. chacha1 Says:

    I suspect baking is a “thing” in the same sense that canning, or growing your own [whatever], is a “thing.” In certain circles, various skills that were once considered part of the necessary repertoire of the self-sufficient are now associated with luxury (of time, if not of money). So people may talk up baking because to them, home baking connotes free time, which many people feel they have none of; and/or a really functional kitchen, which not enough people seem to have (I don’t myself).

    That said, there are certain classes of people who are predisposed to judge. My very personal sense/observation is that mothers, being, apparently, universally insecure, are one of those classes. Again, purely personal, not meaning to give offense, but I don’t know a single mother who isn’t tragically insecure about SOMETHING. And when we feel insecure it means we’re afraid, and when we’re afraid we’re on the defensive, and when we’re on the defensive, we get judgemental.

    I personally bake only occasionally, and often assisted by mixes or by Pillsbury. But then, I am not a mother so bake sales are not exactly a major concern. The man of the house truly does not care if the brownies are “from scratch.”

    Also: “They either comment on the cookies being good, or they politely ask if they’re healthy.” – LOL

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      The mother on this blog is 100% totes secure. :) It helps that her kid is 100% perfect as is her spouse (and that she’s settled nicely into the traditional “dad” role). Lazy parenting for the win! (Also kids are pretty resilient.) She thinks most other mothers deserve to feel as secure as she does. She got in BIG trouble with a previous blog post on the topic… but hey, it hooked Cloud as a regular reader, so overall a win.

      She is insecure about how she looks in Ann Taylor pants… but she just doesn’t buy them and it works out.

      teehee, Yoda on parenting…

      • Cloud Says:

        Aww, shucks. It was an awesome post, and I’m glad it led me to your blog! I’ve gotten into trouble for saying we should nix the working mom guilt thing, too. I don’t get that, but no doubt the people I’ve annoyed don’t get me, so we’re probably even.

        Personally, I’m mostly secure, but do cycle through occasional bouts of insecurity. I tend to argue myself out of those, though. Or have a beer and tell myself that maybe it will be better tomorrow.

  18. femmefrugality Says:

    Wow! Sounds like the New York Times had a slow day to me! Mostly, moms don’t bake things to bring into schools because teachers can’t tell what the moms put in, but if you buy something premade at the store and still sealed not only do you assume it’s safe, but there is also an ingredient label on it so you can check it for allergens if you have any kids in your class that have allergies. A lot of schools are making it district wide policy now.
    I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. I completely agree with your guys’ formula. If you have little ones, you could add the fun/experiential factor in there, too. I learned how to bake by my mother letting me have free (supervised) range of the kitchen and making up my own recipes that sucked. But I had a heck of a time doing it.

  19. Rumpus Says:

    Homemade food is almost always more effort than storebought. Sometimes homemade food is better than storebought. If I bring something homemade to a party or a bake sale…or if I invite people over for a home-cooked meal, then I am 100% sure it is better than storebought. If said people do not tell me they like it (in glowing terms), or come back for thirds, then I will not burden them with the presence of my homemade food again. Having taken homemade food to various parties, bake sales, etc, in this area I am disappointed by the ridiculously low percentage of people who apparently like good food. Shrug…more for me and mine.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We have the same problem– I think it’s just that tastes are sweeter here than they were where we went to grad school. And if it isn’t meat they just don’t seem to care that much about food. They’re fatter, but I think that’s a result of the two previous things even though it seems ironic on the face.

  20. Molly (Mike and Molly's House) Says:

    Growing up my Dad made all of our birthday cakes. Other than that I lived on no-bake cookies and microwaved generic brownies.
    The no-bake cookies stem from the fact that I lite my dress on fire (from the stove) when I was 6 and kept my distance from all hot appliances until I was….40? If that isn’t weird enough we didn’t have a microwave. My science-geek dad was worried about radioactive waves coming out of the microwave and yes, we had a plan on how to escape the town if a nuclear attack occurred. He was a fun dad just overly prepared in a very specific kind of way.
    I had to go to the next door neighbors house to use their microwave to prepare my special generic brownies.
    Geez, ladies you are bringing up all the skeletons for me today!!!
    My pisser is that when Mike bakes anything for a school sale everyone thinks I did it!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We get that too (the wife made stuff thing, not the radioactivity)! Also at some tupperware fundraiser the woman is like, “Buy these for your wife!” Excuse me? I told DH he should have lectured her on the patriarchy and said he was offended on my behalf, but DH said he was just trying to pick up DC and said no thank you.

  21. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    What the f*cken f*cke are “male chocolate chip cookies”?

  22. Sandy @ Journey To Our Home Says:

    I’m in the midwest, and baking doesn’t seem to be attached to ‘mom love’ to me. The last two schools we have been at won’t accept home made cookies or treats for the classrooms- they only allow store bought.
    We are able to bring home made items to after school activities but it seems like it is half and half. We have a lot of busy moms and dads, so I don’t know why people expect home made items. I’m definitely not a cook, and store bought is much better than what I can make myself!

  23. anandi Says:

    I know I’m super-late to this party but it’s 8pm and everyone in the house is asleep so it’s just me and the Interwebz. Where I live, it doesn’t seem to be a “thing” yet but T goes to daycare twice a week and they don’t really ever have us bring stuff in (thank the sweet baby Jesus for that).

    Personally, I love baking, but we’ve been saddled with a dairy allergy so by necessity I have to bake from scratch if she gets to eat any baked goods. I suppose I could ferret out vegan cookies at Whole Foods as needed but I like baking more than I like spending $20 on a bag of cookies.

  24. Ponderings on perfection « Grumpy rumblings of the half-tenured Says:

    [...] me and did engage each other with catty comments about Dr. Bestfriendsmom and her over-the-top baking.  I responded with earnest, “It’s totally amazing,” and “DC1 is loving [...]


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