Image by moohaha
This is a guest post by Melissa AuClair.
Baking is as much a part of celebrating Christmas to me as fireworks are a part of the 4th of July celebration.
Having a baking extravaganza ushers in the holiday season. Your extravaganza might be making gluten-free apple strudel with your kids or assembling gingerbread houses with a group of friends. Everyone plays a part in the holiday bake day. Applying sprinkles on cookies, chopping fruit, kneading dough or doing the dishes are all part of the baking process. There is always something to do in the kitchen.
Baking is a part of so many people’s holiday traditions. It got me thinking on why baking? Why now? After all, most local grocery stores and super centers have bakeries that produce delicious goods for a decent price. However no store can make prettier sugar cookies than little kids. And no one does fudge and date pudding like my Grandma.
After some reflection, I came up with 5 reasons why baking is not only fun but essential during the Christmas season:
1. Baking brings back important memories.
Baking brings many of us back to our childhood memories of family time, grandparents, neighbors, holiday activities and parties.
Baking is a way of remembering the good times shared with grandparents. Most of all of us have grandmas who baked. The Norwegian proverb that states, “Grandmas never run out of hugs or cookies,” was certainly reminiscent of my grandmother.
I miss my grandparents very much, especially the times I shared with both Grandma and Grandpa in the kitchen. Baking some of Grandma’s signature desserts is a way for me to remember her and celebrate her life. She spent many hours in the kitchen and invited me in to bake with her. This time of talking, baking and bonding left a permanent impression on my heart and soul.
Baking brings back those good memories and keeps my grandma at the surface of my heart and thoughts in a very special way.
2. Baking causes us to slow down and savor the season
You can’t rush baking a batch of cookies. Ingredients need to be measured and mixed. When making bread, the dough must be turned and kneaded for a certain period of time. Try to take shortcuts in baking and bad things happen: I know this from personal experience!
Slowing down is good and should be an enjoyable factor, not an annoying factor. So much of life is rushed. There is a constant pursuit in society after what brings instant gratification. Baking puts a halt on instant gratification and frenetic activity.
We have to slow down, watch, read, and notice and pay attention to the ingredients, to the smells, to the way the batter forms between our fingers or in the blender. The more attuned we become at baking, at noticing how different ingredients react and act together, the better bakers we will be.
For example, it took some time to be able to correctly identify active vs. yeast that had gone bad (either it was old or I killed it with too-hot water when mixing). I didn’t know what I was looking at for the first couple of times I experimented with it. It was so frustrating to have bread that did not rise!
What a relief to learn how to decipher good yeast. Now, when I see the small bubbles forming as I mix the yeast with warm liquid and (sometimes) a touch of sugar, I feel a sense of delight at watching this live substance do its dance. I would not have learned that if I didn’t slow down a bit, learn, ask questions and pay attention.
3. Food is a natural catalyst for relationship growth. Baking with loved ones, friends, family and even someone new is a great way to talk and share.
I often bring people into the kitchen to bake with me. Food is the universal ice breaker. Whether everyone is involved in the process or I am preparing food while others talk, there is lightness in the air. It’s easier to talk, to share our hearts and to laugh.
4. Baking is healthier than store-bought food. Always.
Baking homemade food has increasingly more health benefits than buying processed baked goods from the store. Items bought from the bakery at the grocery store have preservatives to keep things fresh that you don’t have to use at home.
Additionally, recipes can be modified, changed and re-invented to become low fat, gluten free or anything else we want them to be when we make them ourselves.
5. Baking with other people creates future memories.
Many things blur in my mind but the times spent in the kitchen at Christmas are etched in my memory. I think of Tammy, a dear friend who makes fudge with me each year. Krislyn and I started a tradition of baking Christmas goodies one day in December every year. I love to bake with my sisters; we explore new recipes and make cookies while talking and laughing together.
All of these times in the kitchen together are creating future memories. For a few hours we stopped the rush of the Christmas season and enjoyed the simple pleasure of baking and enjoying each other. What a fabulous way to celebrate Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year.
Melissa AuClair is a writer, speaker and happy home cook. She helps and inspires women to discover and pursue the creative journey in their life. She is in her own process of learning how to launch her dreams and has the oven burns and financial bills to prove it. She blogs about attempting to live the creative life and other enigmas at www.launchyourcreativelife.com a blog and website for women looking to add more creativity and good food to their personal and professional lives. Her first book “Christmas in the Kitchen: A Modern Girl’s Guide to the Holidays One Batch of Cookies at a Time” is available now on all e-readers.