You Want it? You Don't Got It.

jennifer hulley food photographer food blogger writer hamilton ontario

I love baking. It's straightforward. It's measured. It's precise. And there's a glorious delicious treat at the end.

There is something about the rigid precision and (almost) guarantee of a tasty outcome that attracts my type of brain. I like to know how much effort to put in, how long to wait, what to do to support the growth of gluten and then most of all I enjoy sitting back and waiting to take that first delicious bite as I revel in my masterpiece. I think this could have a lot to do with why I find dating so frustrating, infuriating and sometimes, spirit-crushing.


You know the drill. You want to meet someone. You need to meet someone and so you do all the right steps. You put yourself out there. You make profiles. You exchange witty banter via text. You continue with your own life so as not to appear desperate. You meet in person. You invest time and energy with the best intentions, knowing that one day a giant glorious triple layer cake will emerge from the oven. No one tells you that your soufflé is going to drop. Or that your chocolate muffins are going to rise beyond their strength, spilling batter all over the bottom, leaving a scorched stench that emerges every time you fire it up again.

A while back I found myself unexpectedly stuck at home. Plans had fallen through, or more accurately had never materialized.

Three weeks spent communicating with someone, real-time texting, hour-long "conversations" daily. Plans to meet up for coffee that afternoon. A location and exact time hadn't been set and I was left with a "we'll discuss plans."  I was excited. I wanted to finally meet him. I needed to meet him. 2 days passed. Crickets.  From daily banter to static noise in the blink of an eye.

What had happened? I was confused. Frustrated. Resigned to a "why bother anymore?" state of mind, which at coming up to 36 can quickly drag you down into a Bridget Jones black hole. Hot damn I was livid.  And disappointed. And frustrated. And exhausted. I needed to occupy my brain immediately. Fine, I will bake.

I had been playing around with a recipe in my head. I was going to make chocolate shortbread rings and drizzle them with white chocolate. I grabbed ingredients and pressed ahead, dropping things into the mixing bowl. Until I got to cocoa. What? Where was my cocoa? I needed the cocoa. How the fuck was I going to make chocolate shortbread without cocoa? I started to panic. Pulling ingredients from the back of the cupboard, searching frantically, willing it to be there. It wasn't there. I was already halfway through my recipe. Shit shit shit. What the hell was I going to do now? I knew I could make plain old regular shortbread. But I didn’t want to have to make plain old regular shortbread. I needed and wanted the chocolate shortbread I had been dreaming up.

My patience for setbacks was shot. Are you fucking kidding me? Outside an ice storm was pelting against the window. Ping, ping, ping. The ice bounced off the window. I peered outside, weighing my options: venture out for cocoa and risk death? Maybe not that dramatic but it sure wasn't going to be an easy trek. I wanted the cocoa. I needed the cocoa. But I couldn't have it. Fuck.

I was forced to improvise. I had to take what I had and create something I wasn't planning on. I grabbed some espresso beans, some toffee bits and set to work. I didn't know what I was doing and just hoped it would work.

I mixed, rolled and cut some shortbread wreaths that were peppered with espresso powder. I drizzled white chocolate, then milk chocolate and covered them with toffee bits.  Frustrated, let down and still pretty pissed off I walked away to let them set. Only hours later did I come back to look at them and was shocked to see that they actually looked pretty damn good. I picked one up and took a closer look. They were actually quite pretty. It wasn't what I had set out to make but maybe it wasn't a total loss. I took a bite and stopped mid-chew. My god. These were good. Like really fucking good. And it wasn't what I had wanted. Or needed. But hot damn it was better than what I had originally set out to make.


We can so easily get wrapped up in the pursuit of what we want, what we need, that we become blinded to the alternate options that are swirling around us on the daily. It's like our brain picks up an idea, steps on an infinite treadmill and keeps moving towards that something regardless of whether we are actually getting closer to grabbing it.  So how do you change? With food, this is easy(ish). If you feel like you are missing an ingredient or things are not progressing the way you envisioned all you have to do is karate kick your brain onto another track to start thinking of other flavours you might enjoy and see what comes of it.

In life? Not so easy.

As a single woman, I've spent the last 35.5 years with the same message shoved down my throat: grow up, get a job, meet a nice man, settle down, get married and make tons of babies. How do I achieve this? Follow the "tried and true" recipe of online dating profiles,  time invested in digital exchanges and continual "putting yourself out there". Over and over and over again. Until you are exhausted and left with a bitter taste left in your mouth. I can't help but start to wonder if Is this the only thing I can want and need? Or if maybe there is there some delicious alternative out there that hasn’t crossed my consciousness yet? I guess I am still trying to figure out what's on the menu here.

With the shortbread cookies, the last minute emergency swap sent me down a path that I may have never set upon myself. Having taken a bit of these (ok more like 50 bites at this point). I can’t imagine having not tried these. I mean they really are that fucking good. I didn’t know that I wanted it, or liked it or had the ingredients on hand to make it.

A funny thing happened. I did eventually hear from this dude, later that weekend, and it seems we were both sitting at home waiting for the other one to make contact and finalize plans. Both sitting and waiting, trying to "play by the rules", maintain our dignity and do the right thing.  It goes to show just how multilayered dating can be, and then to complicate things further you sprinkle in a bit of modern technology based communication and serve it up alongside some past dating war wounds. All of this rolling together into a recipe for which if you are not careful can result in a gigantic cluster fuck. I swear to god it amazes me that people even manage to navigate it all to form any semblance of a successful relationship.  Life would be some much easier if it worked like a recipe. Take 2/3 dating profiles, sprinkle in a dash of texting, meet at room temperature café for 20 min, let simmer until cool. But would it be as satisfying? That I am not sure. Thank god there is cake. And cookies. And pie.

Want this delicious cookie recipe? Head on over to the baking archives via the image below:


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