Bake Yourself Better

jennifer hulley food photographer wellness writer hamilton ontario

Bake Yourself Better

No not like that. But this does involve edibles, sometimes (well, hopefully not often) smoke, rolling, etc.  

Baking, the act of hands on creating. The combining and mixing of textures, materials and temperatures. The place where science and art combine. Add in a heavy element of mindfulness and you have a recipe for bliss. (I couldn't resist the pun). 

Baking. As a mindful act? I know, but stay with me for a moment.  

Hands down, every time I have messed up a recipe, whether it was a full on total failure destined for the food waste bin or maybe something just didn't turn out right and was destined to be passed off to accepting parents (Thanks Mom and Gerard for tolerating my purple gooey gross scones), it always comes back to one thing. I wasn't fully present.  

Maybe I was multitasking. Checking my phone, answering an email. Scrolling through Instagram. Or maybe I walked away from the mixer, the pan, the bowl to put some stuff away. To throw a load of laundry in, to unpack the dishwasher. What ever it is, the root cause is always the same. I was distracted. Somewhere else and not fully present in the act of what I was doing. 

Baking is rooted heavily in science. Seriously, 4 classes in at George Brown College and I have fallen far down the wormhole and consumed countless hours of food podcasts, watched endless documentaries until my eyes feel like they are radiating LED beams, and more recently, ordered a 1000 page book on food science. (Yes, you read that correctly, ONE THOUSAND). There are so many factors at play from what temperatures ingredients need to be when they are added in, what kind of tool/material you can use and how that will affect the outcome to how narrow the window of opportunity is for something to go from glorious to gross. There is NO room for day dreaming. You need to be consciously aware of what you are doing, watching, smelling, tasting and tweaking as you go along to ensure success. My instructor Sarah constantly drills this into our conscious: "YOU are in control of your ______ "(insertalmost any food/baking word here). YOU are in control of YOUR heat. YOU are in control of YOUR dough. YOU are in control of your...Such a simple statement that conveys a critical message of ownership, power and responsibility.  


How often in life are we afforded such luxury?  

Life often feels like a constant stream of experiences, speed bumps, potholes and sometimes anvils falling from the sky. Things happen around us and to us of which we have no control over. The effect of this can be incredibly draining, and in an extreme cases can lead to the what is called  "learned helplessness" in which we subconsciously learn to take no action, make decisions or change for we have learned that we are passively powerless in our lives.

The act of creating, or baking more specifically turns that idea upside down. You have ownership over what goes in, what gets omitted, what gets chopped or changed. You have the power to make these decisions. And more importantly you have the responsibility to take action. 

Which brings us back to the concept of mindfulness.

the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us

I've been doing a lot of work recently through reading, questioning and reflecting to determine what elements of life energize me and which drain me. Which inspire creativity and movement and which lead to that state of "flow." What I am learning is that I need to be fully engaged in a task mentally and if I am engaged mentally AND physically then its even better.  Experiences like this push me to enter into that state where the work just happens, time stands still and I forget to notice things like my level of hunger or whether I need to pee. I assure you this is all in a good way, and not in a self neglecting sense. To be totally engaged and energized by a task and to exist in a state of being that can only be described as "I am so totally hyper focused, present and super jazzed up about what I am doing that I am on non stop train to glory, shot gunning full steam ahead, hanging out the windows waving my arms and screaming with joy for all to hear. Maybe that was a bit much, but you get the idea. 


Why the heck wouldn’t you want to experience that? Go and get some!

Not sure what sort of things engage you? Or which ones lead to energy increases and which ones drain your resources? Not even sure if you have experienced this state called flow? I recommend a really great exercise called "The Good Time Journal" which can be found in the book: "Designing Your Life"  by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. This book essentially teaches you how to apply the principles of design thinking to your life to make better decisions and begin take actions that will feed your energy, your goals and ultimately lead to increased happiness. It is definitely a great starting point if you want to start taking steps towards getting into the flow.