Tonight I did something I haven't done really in far too long -- I baked.
Not for a client, or a pop up or for testing, but just to bake. For myself. And perhaps one other person, the sisterwife, who dutifully cracked open many of the black walnuts whose meat is going into the particular baked goods in question -- namely, that all comfort all star of chocolate chip cookies done the Diaspora way*. It's theraputic when you bake this way, no intentions or goals other than making it; the mind slips away, as it can sometimes in production baking, and you seamlessly enter into a zone of clear headedness only ever afforded to you in the best of yoga or the high point of a hike**.
This sort of mental clearing house is useful these days -- I've just left one gig, and I'm entering a round of negotiations with the other. If those negotiations fail, I leave that position too, and for the first time since my bout of unemployment in 2010, I won't have a formal job, short of some consulting that will keep me busy through parts of January. There are second thoughts, apprehensions, certainly a fair amount of behind the scenes stressing, and just maybe a dash of imposter syndrome. For being 30, a lot of my professional record is scattered between industries and academia, some white papers and a couple of solid letters of rec and lessons learned. Nary a burned bridge, but nary a feeling that any of my career development is as good a launch point as others tell me it is.
Taking stock of all this -- the last ten years, the next two weeks -- I begin to clear out the pantry. Baking is good for this, too -- clearing out old product, figuring stuff that needs tossing, reorganization. Getting perplexed as to how certain things got in there to begin with (multi-color jimmies in kettle corn? giant still sealed canister of Cougar Gold?). Looking at the reorganized set, there's a certain order -- the things you forget, the things you use regularly, and the things you use sparingly but necessarily. (Cougar Gold, btw, is definitely the last, and makes a mean mac-n-cheese.)
The things you forget are occasionally useful, novel, but mostly they lack something that resonates deeply. The sparing but necessary group is the inversion -- novel, useful, and highlight something that wouldn't normally come into your wheelhouse. Each occupies the extremes of the storage pantry. The eye-level stuff the big choc-a-block materials are the everyday, the things that resonate - flours, nuts, dried fruit & beans, but also the spices, the hawaj and the zataar and the marash pepper and things that I don't think i spend a day not somehow throwing into any home cooking I make. It's the stuff that, besides making the practical kitchen and easy stuff you throw together in 5 minutes function, is also intensely personal -- it says a lot like your bookshelf does, spelling out interests, common activities, themes, and the occasional guilty pleasure.
I miss cooking at home, for people, or having a place/time to do that. I actually derive a large sense of pleasure out of it. It allows me to do the best kind of weaver work, drawing people together and getting to see sparks happen between them. To draw connections others might not see. I like building, tinkering, and having options to do so, to go beyond my comfort zone and trying new things. It allows me the ability to evaluate, experiment, and learn as I traditionally have, on my own, not in a conventional kitchen environment. So when I reorganize, it becomes a recharging thing; an ability to spy what I need to feel at center (more zataar, more hawaj, more rice, oddly enough), and to see where i could grow next (need to get back on the bread making wagon). It reminds me I want a profession, a job, that allows me to do these things, and occasionally be a warrior. One that allows me to explore and tinker in the service of others. And if I can't actually do that in these positions, well, maybe i need to build it myself. Just like we do with the pantry. We build it up ourselves, all the time***.
But for now, time to go bake off some cookies.
*which is to say, we brown the butter, caramelized the sugar (ATK style), and use half whole Red Fife wheat flour in it, and throw in some Manjari fevres, because Lord and Lady know those walnuts need something to counter-compliment them.
** minus, you know, sweat, heavy breathing, and sometimes less lycra tights.
*** see the amazing Trouble Coffee & Coco