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*.]