The Power of Baking and Making

So here we find ourselves at the start of another week. Can you believe we’re already almost half way through the month of March? If the days are going to fly by us at such a rapid rate, I hope you’re all having fun at the same time …

On the weekend I struggled to find much focus on any one thing. Instead I flitted from one thing, to another, and another, and then back again … you get the idea. In any case, nothing was very efficiently achieved. I was like a butterfly, without all the elegance and grace, and minus the opportunity to linger over and enjoy a garden of beautiful flowers beneath my feet.

Instead of attending to each task in turn, my mind kept running off on different tangents. I wasn’t able to resist browsing through online stores, opening new search windows, editing photos, looking at twitter, sorting my google reader … and so on. It took me a while to realise that what I needed to do was just step away from the computer and find my focus somewhere else.

And so I turned to the original source of all household comfort, the kitchen. Aside from the joy to be found in baking a delicious sweet treat, there is something reassuring about following the steps of a recipe to achieve a defined outcome. It’s as if the structure and discipline of a recipe centres the mind to just focus on the task at hand … if not, your dough may be overworked, your caramel may burn, or your soufflé may not rise.

In making something by hand (whatever that may be), I believe the mind is able to relax into the comfort of knowing that we are working towards a clear goal. All we have to do is follow each instruction in turn. We are required to pay attention to what we are doing in the here and now if we want to achieve the intended result. In doing so we allow all the other potentials of what we could or should be doing to just fall away, and instead work towards the creation of that one thing … Even if the recipe or the instructions fail us, we can safely assume our efforts will still create something … and something is always better than nothing.

So the next time I find myself floating between tasks, instead of losing time achieving nothing, I shall head to the kitchen and find my focus within the pages of a favourite recipe book. What better antidote could there be for a busy and easily distracted mind? … How do you find focus when you’re having a day in which your heart and mind seem to be working towards opposing goals?

36 Comments

  1. primoeza

    i will take your advice. i’ve been feeling quite scattered lately. i’m off to make some pancakes now!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Elizabeth – Gosh, I hope making some delicious pancakes helped you feel less scattered (there seems to be a bit of that feeling going around at the moment).

      Take care.
      xx

  2. lenore*

    adore Nigella!
    She makes everything so effortless & sexy in the kitchen, doesn’t she?
    unlike me! hah!!
    Have a wonderful new week, Tracey!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Lenore – I love Nigella too (though I know a lot of people aren’t so keen on her). She is gorgeous, and I do love the way she’s so passionate about food and life! 🙂

      Haha, I know what you mean about feeling rather un-Nigella like in the kitchen … believe me, I’m right there along with you!! 😉

      I hope your week is treating you wonderfully well.
      xx

  3. Caz

    I couldn’t agree more (although I usually can’t resist tweaking the recipe!). There’s just something about all that measuring, stirring and and waiting that I find quite centering, especially when so much else in the world seems to so unpredictable at the moment.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Caz – Well admittedly, I tend to do a bit of recipe tweaking too (you’ll see what I mean when I share my recipe later this week). I completely agree that there is therapy to be found in following the process of making something … we need such simple reminders of life now more than ever.
      xx

  4. Galit

    I second that. Sometimes I’m meditating while I’m kneading dough.
    I also had somewhat scattered weekend but ours is a day longer (thanks to the Adelaide Cup!)

    Have a good week dear!! xx

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Galit – Oh yes, kneading dough brings about it’s own special kind of therapy … I find making bread a wonderful way to de-stress (so I probably should do it more often than I do). 😉

      How wonderful having a long weekend … I’m very much looking forward to the mega Easter long weekend!! 😀
      I hope your week is travelling well – I shall raise a BIG cup of coffee to you!!
      xx

  5. Valerie

    Yes! I know that all over the place feeling. It seems to strike when I have fifty things on my to do list and fifty projects on my mind. But I’m afraid I spent a good portion of the weekend watching movies. In my unproductive phase of the moon! But I did try a new recipe – Blackberry scones. So deliciously good. And I love a treat I can eat for breakfast. I agree, there is something about baking that is focusing and relaxing at the same time. What did you end up making?

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Valerie – That kind of ‘here-there-and-everywhere’ feeling seems to be going around at the moment … I find it so very frustrating, because like everyone else, there’s always so much waiting to be done!

      Perhaps you’re right – it strikes us all when we’re especially busy … I wish there was a way to NOT let our to-do lists get so out of control!

      Spending a good part of your weekend watching movies sounds like a most excellent plan … AND making blackberry scones (YUM!!), now you’ll definitely have to share that recipe!! 😀

      Baking is wonderful for so many reasons, and homemade always tastes better. I made a caramel slice … I’ll be sharing the recipe with you all later in the week.
      xx

  6. Gabrielle Bryden

    I’ve got two of those recipe books (Nigella and Jamie and want to get the Stephanie ALexander one 🙂 ). It was hard to concentrate on anything useful what with the ongoing disaster in Japan (I was thinking of you and your planned trip to Japan) – we should just call this the year of the rolling disasters. I made chocolate cupcakes as my diversion.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Gabrielle – As ever we both show most excellent taste in all things (including cook books). The Stephanie Alexander one is really great – I like how it’s a garden-to-table book … it inspires me to grow more food at home.
      I know what you mean about the latest disaster making it difficult to concentrate on anything else … it has definitely been a terrible year for natural disasters … I hope the world settles down again very soon. Making chocolate cupcakes sounds like an excellent diversion!! 😀

      I’m not sure what’s going to happen with our Japan trip later this year … we’re just watching and waiting. It’s such an awful tragedy.

  7. Dan

    I’ve been baking quite a bit of bread recently (in the oven, not a breadmaker, becasue I’m old skool like that). It’s very therapeutic.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Dan – Baking bread is a great thing to do … we used to do that, until our breadmaker gave out (we’re not as old skool as you). Kneading dough and the smell of baking bread are wonderful things to appreciate. 🙂

  8. Makeminemidcentury

    I like your measuring spoons … they’re very cute.

    What did you cook or bake?

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi MMMC – I’m glad you like my measuring spoons … they’re by ‘M-Spoons’ and have a Russian Babushka Doll design which is rather lovely (they match the measuring cups).

      I ended up baking a choc-caramel slice … I’ll be sharing the recipe tomorrow! 🙂

  9. Lucent Imagery

    Love the photo Tracey! I too have those cute spoons. Your post is wonderful, honest and reflective. It reminds me of when I first moved out of home – I used to start cooking and walk away from the kitchen. I wasn’t living in that moment of creating food. One day I was reheating a frozen stir fry. I forgot about it and came back a long while later and reheated it again. Oh dear, I gave myself a serious case of food poisoning! These days I now fully engage in cooking and like you, find it relaxing. I often like a cooking or travel show to be on that I can see from the kitchen. The glances at the screen become inspirational. Or I put on some music. I like to live life slowly in the kitchen – partly a necessity and very much an appreciation of being there creating something delicious. When I get scattered doing tasks around home, I try to stop myself and promise myself a reward for focusing and finishing one task. The rewards are small and simple – like a piece of chocolate, or watching a pre-recorded tv show. Then I totally relax into that reward knowing I specifically earnt it! Ummm… a long comment. Sorry! 🙂

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Lucent Imagery – I’m glad you like my photo! 🙂
      My goodness, that is a bad experience you had with that frozen stir fry … those memories of awful food poisoning events do tend to stick in the mind for a long time after … it must be nice to see how far you’ve come with your cooking.

      There is something wonderfully therapeutic about preparing and cooking a proper meal … I like the way you describe it as ‘living life slowly’ in the kitchen – that is so very true.

      It’s far preferable to just focus on one task at a time, and it sounds like you can easily recognise when you’re at risk of spreading yourself too thing and trying to achieve too much all at once … I think one reason I haven’t been all that good at relaxing of late is because I always feel like there’s too much to do. I’m very supporter of any ‘reward’ system that leads to eating more chocolate! 😉

  10. Jess

    I have those exact same measuring cups and spoons – so damn cute!
    And I can definitely vouch for the awesomeness of creating 🙂

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Jess – They are just the most adorable measuring cups and spoons (I suspect many of us have these keeping us company in the kitchen).

      Yes indeed, you are an excellent ambassador for the joy and peace to be found in living a creative life! 🙂

  11. Krystal/Village

    I need to listen to this advice and find something similar…I get that wish washy ADD feeling too and it’s so frustrating! I have it now I think, haha 🙂

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Krystal – I think we all have those little therapies to help us find some clearer focus, mine just happens to be baking or making something … but perhaps that’s because I have a serious sweet tooth!? 😉
      I hope you’ve since found some calm in your week … if not, there’s always the weekend to look forward to! 😀

  12. Camila F.

    I love to go to the kitchen and bake my stress away. But, sometimes, when i’m out of focus, I let myself drown in all my recipe books and can’t decide what to bake or cook. Everything always look so delicious, right?

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Camila – Baking offers wonderful relief from stress … but I do know what you mean about sometimes losing yourself amongst the pages of a recipe book (there are so many lovely things to make, and sometimes it takes ages to choose just what to make). If I’m trying to use certain ingredients in a recipe, I’ll usually turn to an online search to help … but it’s definitely not the same as leafing through a physical cook book.
      xx

  13. Lynne

    Loved catching up with you. I often have the urge to bake, and I’ve realised that it isn’t necessarily because we need something, although I do have a sweet tooth. And once I get an idea in my head about what I want to make, then I just have to do it. I’ve got some bread in the oven at the moment to go with some soup that’s cooking. Simple food.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Lynne – It has been a while since we caught up! 🙂
      I have a sweet tooth too … in fact it would probably count as ‘several’! Haha! 😉
      I think often my baking tends to come from fulfilling a craving rather than the household actually needing something … after all, we could probably do with a few less sweet treats in my house! 😉

      Yum – baking some bread to go along with some soup sounds delicious, and just perfect for this time of year. Simple food is a wonderful thing to both make and enjoy … I think you can more readily taste the love in the food. 🙂

  14. previously owned

    oh how lovely are those measuring cups and spoons! <3 I am in LOVE haha This is so true. I will definitely try this. Although whenever I am bored I bake, so it is sort of like that already. haha

    Great blog you have here!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Fi – The measuring cups and spoons are adorable (you should grab some for yourself … studies have shown that they actually increase your cooking abilities! Haha! 😉

      Baking when you get bored sounds like a fantastic thing to do … at least that way you can feel like you’re achieving something with your time (and enjoy something delicious at the end of it). 🙂

      Thanks so much for your visit and your kind words.
      xx

  15. bobbi

    I do yoga. Well, I do yoga on every kind of occasion, but especially when I need to focus.
    I don’t cook…I am a terrible, lazy, unpatient cook. I adore the food channels, adore nigella (even if I think she eats the most unhealthy things, and cooks too much meat for my personal taste), adore Jamie Oliver (because he loves Italy, so I feel like I have to give back) but I can’t cook. I just throw some pasta in the boiling water, wash the vegetables and that’s it. But I make bread! And it’s good!!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Bobbi – I think it’s fantastic that you do yoga, everyone tells me how it helps them find focus. I really should take it up myself, as I also think it would help with general stress relief.

      While I like to cook, there’s no guarantee that I’m a good cook. I tend to get more pleasure from baking sweet treats than I do from making main meals … sweet ALWAYS wins over savoury in my opinion! 🙂

      I love Nigella too (though I do agree on those unhealthy things she makes), and Jamie is so full of enthusiasm for food. As for your culinary skills, making bread is a great thing to do Bobbi … there’s something particularly wonderful about the smell of baking bread … YUM!! Remind me to come to your place for breakfast some time! 😉

  16. sarah

    I had a very similar sort of weekend! Too many ideas buzzing around my head and not really sure of where to start…..until you realise you’ve actually not started anything….! Oh well! I always find comfort and familiarity in a favourite cook book.
    Thanks for visiting my blog. x

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Sarah – It seems that a few of us had one of those scattered, messy kinds of weekends … while it’s great to have lots of ideas and it’s far better to be busy than bored, it is definitely a challenge sometimes to know just where to begin. I should have just turned to a cookbook much sooner than I did! 🙂

      I love the comfort that can be gained by spending time with a good recipe book, or pottering about in the kitchen.
      Thanks for your lovely visit too!
      xx

  17. Mel

    I love to cook, too – not the ‘day to day getting food in front of the kids after I’ve been at work all day’ type of cooking necessarily, but the ‘I’m going to shut myself in the kitchen with some music on and try out a new Jamie Oliver recipe to share with The Doctor and open that nice bottle of wine’ type, or ‘what shall I bake today?’ type, they work for me 🙂

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Mel – I completely agree with you on the difference between the ‘types’ of cooking. It’s not so much the functional cooking that’s enjoyable, but that wonderful more indulgent time spent in the kitchen – it’s especially good when you’re trying a recipe for the first time! 🙂

      Some of my favourite meals are those that are lingered over in both the making and the eating … and yes a good bottle of wine never goes astray! 😉

  18. Sandrine

    I like your theory about making and the mind relaxation/focus ability.I find exercise my best friend when I have the monkey mind :)Specially running , yoga, such great things to clear the mind.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Sandrine – Oh yes I agree with you on how helpful exercise can be to ‘quiet a frazzled mind’. I’ve often found it to work in the same way for me (but I just haven’t been doing enough of it lately). Running is a particularly wonderful way to focus the mind … and yoga is one thing I’ve been meaning to try for ages.

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