Yesterday I made a cake.
I beat the eggs and sugar until creamy, fluffy, and the most soothing soft yellow color. I watched as ribbons of it fell off the beaters as I lifted them from my favorite vintage Pyrex bowl.
I added the vanilla. Two kinds, extract and paste. The smell was divine as I watched the tiny specks of vanilla seeds from the paste spread through out the batter as I stirred. Warm and comforting.
I sifted in the flour and then folded, folded, ever so gently folded it in until incorporated, feeling the batter stiffen just a bit.
Then came the butter. Oh so much melted butter is added and again, gently folded in so as not the lose the air created with the earlier beating. Rivers and pockets of butter form and then are split apart with in the creamy batter until it all becomes one.
There is a slow rhythm to this cake. Patience and a soft touch reveal the sensuousness of what some may think of as a boring, too simple cake. But not me.
There is richness and complexity, nuance and layers hidden within what is often so easily disguarded as basic and mundane.
I poured the batter into the pan, again watching ripples flow down and spread with ease and just enough languid viscosity to create a kind of of slow motion dance. I think of my grandmother as I scrape the bowl and how she insisted on getting every speck of goodness into the pan, not wasting any drop. I swear she scrapped bowls so clean they didn’t need washing after. Not me. I always leave some of the goodness behind because poetry can be written about the joys of licking bowls and spatulas.
My cake is given over to the oven to let heat do its alchemy. The warm sent of vanilla spreads through out the house as the cake puffs high and browns evenly.
These moments, when the air is fragrant with the comfort of baking sweetness, the anticipation of that first warm bite even though the recipe says to wait until cooled, the peering thorough the oven door wishing it would make the baking faster because the waiting is so hard, these simple moments hold some of the great mysteries of being. How much sensual possibility each moment holds, how the craving to be immersed in a full experience of our senate natures is voiced though anticipation, how being in the moments between expectation and fulfillment stretch time so that we might sink deeper into an experience becoming itself.
And then it is done. My cake comes out of the oven and I place it on a cooling rack, its puffiness sinking just the right amount just as it should. After a few minutes of cooling I turn it over and it is that moment every baker waits for- is the cake going to release from the pan or stick? I hear and feel the quiet ~paaah~ as it drops free.
A perfect cake. Rich, soft, fragrant, intense, smooth, light.
Yesterday I needed something to bring me back home to myself. To slow down the worry bordering on panic. A mix of fear and uncertainty about what is happening in my county and the world was think and heavy. What is outside of my control spinning me outside of myself, leaving me ungrounded and unsure. And so I baked a cake. A simple, humble cake. Each step slowing me down, bringing me present, opening my senses, bridging the ordinary and exquisite of life, returning me to my elemental nature. I felt myself again.
There is nothing new or revolutionary in this story. And yet those things that comfort and return us to ourselves seldom are. Simple practices, old fashion comforts, humble day to day living stuff. Take a walk. Talk to a friend. Notice beauty. Make something with your hands. Slow down.
There is richness and complexity, nuance and layers, hidden within what is often so easily disguarded as basic and mundane.
So often this is deemed too ordinary and simplistic for such complex and grave problems as we face today. It is not. There is sacred in mundane, glory in basic, salvation in common and simple acts of nurturing and pleasure.
Yesterday mine took the form of a baking a cake.