Blog, Bookish Life

My Bad Romance with Baking


I entered this year with a goal: finally use the daggone Pinterest dessert boards I am creating. My intention was to not wait for expectation. To not wait until I had big beautiful counters and my mint green KitchenAid mixer to bake fantastic recipes.

I started making milkshakes, waiting for the Birthday Bash ice cream to soften onto the scoop. I learned to add just enough milk. I poured the milkshake into a glass. The motion tugged onto my taste buds. I hoped I made Kelis proud.

For cakes, the counters were swallowed by flour, vanilla, cream cheese, sugar, and still caked cups of flour and teaspoons of baking soda. As I molded cookie dough in my palm, I experienced the incredible intimacy of baking. I am also semi-homemade. Shout out to Sandra Lee. I directly poured nearly a bag of chocolate chips into the batter. Measuring cups be damned.

I have not baked bread, which makes me believe I still have my sanity. Over the past couple of months, I baked more cookies, my favorite being “Funfetti Gooey Butter Cookies.” I shake sprinkles onto the dough like it is a Polaroid picture. 

Many say comparison is the thief of joy. I believe expectation is. The notion of belief with a pinch of fantasy. The following books defy expectations with humor, discovery, and a heaping of self. 

Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith is the first book I ever hugged. Evi is nine months pregnant when her husband, Eamon, is murdered. With his adopted brother, Dalton, Evi raises her son. She recalls the life she dreamed of with her husband while meditating on love, grief, and compassion. 

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez is a beautiful read, encapsulating the sudden impact of grief. Antonia Vega is a recently retired English college professor. Her husband, Sam, dies. Antonia’s sister breezes back into her life. Then, when Antonia returns home, an undocumented, pregnant teenager is on her doorstep. The story winds on an incredible road of life bumps and smooth corners. 

The Netflix film “Juanita” starring thee Alfre Woodard is based on the book Dancing on the Edge of the Roof by Sheila Williams. The Netflix film is a wonderful watch of solo traveling as a Black older woman soul searches in Paper Moon, Montana. She listens to herself amidst all the expectations and confusions from her loved ones. Juanita has fantasies of a beautiful, younger Black man that empowers her journey. 

Baking is my favorite romance. I search for new mixing bowls, vetting them better than a Supreme Court Justice nominee. Will they last through the oft-times that I bake? Can they handle the dense gravity of cookie dough? Can they stand under my umbrella?

As you leave this year, do not wait for expectations. Activate your anticipation.

Ashley Paul is a hopeless wanderer, baker, runner, and photographer. She is passionate about supporting high school juniors and seniors to write compelling stories for their post-secondary careers. Her favorite genres are young adult, literary fiction, and memoir.

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