Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Anger Management Tip #1: Bake

When I was in high school, if I ever asked a friend if I could come over to their place for an impromptu baking session, their first question would always be "What's wrong? Are you okay?" When I shared a place with housemates and they came home to the wonderful aroma of carrot cake or banana bread, someone would always asked "Okay, who pissed off Chantal?" In both those instances, 95% of the time they were right... I confess, I'm an emotional baker.

I know I'm not the only person to think this, but baking has always been my primary method of coping with anger, sadness, frustration, stress, or some combination of those four emotions. I don't know when that habit started... it was probably when my babysitter Evelyn taught me to bake banana bread from scratch for the first time when I was about 13. Ever since that day, whenever I was pissed, whenever I'd gone through some tragic teenage heartbreak, or when I'd just had a bad day, I would turn to my favourite yellow mixing bowl and the white spatula that predated my birth for some kitchen relief.

Baking was and still is a primary form of stress relief to me. Some believe it's because it's aromatherapeutic, the smell of baked goods filling your space with scents of better, more carefree times. Others might simply see it as keeping your mind busy, away from the thoughts that are actually out there to bother you. But above all, there is something about going through the rhythms of baking, the familiar motions of feeling those three overripe bananas sink into a mattress of melted butter and sifted flour that just make the world make sense for 5 minutes. During those moments, I feel like I have control over something, anything. In those brief instances I can forget reality and focus on a science that goes so far beyond me and my problems.

I've never really needed "comfort foods" when I was upset, but I guess my emotions are still inextricably laced to the culinary world. While some people vent out their emotions by either eating too much or too little, I just bake. I've never been a girl who needed chocolate when I PMS, or tubs of ice cream when I'm depressed. While some choose to internalize their emotions by ingesting food, I've always externalized them by creating it instead. Of course all my friends or housemates would always be pretty psyched when I was pissed, because it always meant there would be tons of homemade yummies around for them to eat... And while many people say that you can taste the emotional state of food, I must have been doing something right because I've done some of my best baking when upset. Though I may have put some serious amounts of vitriol or tears in my cupcakes, I think their success was more about the deliberate and almost obsessive care I would put in making them to simply avoid thinking about anything else.

I'm grateful that I have such a simple way of dealing with my emotions during my alone time. It's much better than doing something damaging or unhealthy. Now that I've gone raw vegan, the satisfaction is not the quite the same, but it definitely still helps. Instead of baking, I've turned to similar processes, as long as I'm keeping busy in the kitchen, it helps. This might explain the raw banana pie in the fridge, the four extra pie shells for later use, and why I can smell the cinnamon from the triple batch of raw granola currently in the dehydrator... but at least everything feels somewhat brighter now.

So rather than wanting to slam a door, hit the send button on that text message you know you shouldn't have written, or make that sob-stricken phone call, just put that apron on, and bake. With that, I give you the recipe that started it all (I've had it for so long that I don't even know if this is the original or some amended version of mine, knowing me, it's probably the latter):

Evelyn's Anger Management Banana Bread
1 3/4 C flour
1/2 C sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 C of butter or Earth Balance margarine, melted
2 eggs (or egg replacers)
3 bananas, ripe (or overripe)
1. Preheat the oven at 350.
2. Mix in the butter/margarine, bananas, vanilla, eggs/egg replacer, sugar, and salt.
3. Stir everything until smooth. (I've always used an electric blender)

4. Slowly fold in the flour.

5. Pour into oiled bread pan, and cooked for about 40-45 minutes or until you can poke it with a knife and it comes out clean.
6. Realize that everything feels so much better!

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