Bonding over baking....
Sometimes, the simple act of baking a cake together is all it takes to build bridges.
For the past 5 years I watched with pride and joy as my daughter studied in Mumbai and London, embarking on her journey to become a patissiere from the iconic Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. I could not believe that the little girl who pottered around in the family kitchen had finally fulfilled that dream and become a pastry chef. She is now a self-confident young woman who has her own interests, friends and pre-occupations but sometimes I feel I have lost my daughter to the years in between, when I got busy with my career and she with her studies.
Then, last week, she got an interview call from a prestigious prospective employer and my 22-year-old woman of the world was suddenly a mass of quivering nerves. She had to plan and perfect 7 different desserts in a day , to be impeccably reproduced at the kitchen trial next day.
“Oh, my god, mom. How am I going to do this? When am I going to procure all these ingredients and put so many things together in such a short time? Nayan’s face was flushed pink with excitement, much like the cupcakes she tempts me with occasionally but I could trace the anxiety in her voice too.
That was when I claimed my child back from all the distractions that had taken her away from me. ‘If you want me to, we can shop together for the ingredients. And I can assist you while you bake,” I said casually, praying silently for my pathetic ruse to work.
“Will you? That will be really helpful,mom”. For the first time in many years, I was ready and raring to go out, in ten minutes flat!
“ You would think it is your kitchen trial and not mine”, she said later that evening as I stood by her, sweating, as she deftly kneaded dough for sweet pastry, stirred up a divine concoction of cream and other mysterious things in a pan , beat up eggs, butter and sugar, simultaneously.
“ Don’t worry so much, mom. I know what I am doing ,” she said once, catching me glancing anxiously at the chocolate fondant that was baking in the oven.
My domestic help stared in amazement the next morning, at the sight of me stirring something over the fire. My visits to the kitchen are usually limited to making myself a cup of tea.
There was a minor setback that day when Nayan discovered that couple of desserts were simply not turning out exactly how she wanted it. The next hour my otherwise composed daughter was a mass of jangled nerves and jumped at the idea when I suggested that she opt to bake a couple of perennial favourites- a carrot cake with frosting and some cupcakes. Who can resist the sweet temptations of this duo of worthies? The mood in the kitchen was sunny all over again.
“ Do you remember how we would stop over at Spicers to buy carrot cakes and lamingtons, on the way home from school, ? she said and that shared memory of a special treat took us to all sorts of places from her childhood. We spoke of an impromptu picnic on the green lawns of the Pune University where she, all of five, had laughed and chased after butterflies that flitted around enjoying the profusion of flowers in the garden that spring day. Later, we sat under a tree eating a slice of carrot cake .
Last week, our sweltering day in the kitchen had the same magic as that long-forgotten picnic. We giggled, tasting all the bakes and sang along, she raising her eyebrows at my choice of some seventies numbers. At some point during the day I found the two of us had inexplicably switched roles. My girl was suddenly playing mom and I had, somehow, become the little girl who was taking instructions. I don’t why but I danced around the kitchen that day, chopping nuts and fruits, whisking, kneading and stirring all kinds of glorious ingredients till our kitchen was a fragrant heaven.
Later that night, tired from an entire day of lining up what I thought was a king’s feast- Mango Mousse with cream of coconut jelly, aromatic carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, an array of cupcakes, chocolate fondant, Amandines, Ricotta Bavaroise among other things, we slumped , exhausted, on the drawing room couch, watching Comedy Nights With Kapil.
For me the best reward for the slogging in the kitchen came when I felt Nayan’s hand slip into mine and the icing on the cake was when she gave me a peck on the cheek , saying : “Thank you for all the help, mom. It was fun working with you. You might actually make me a good assistant”, she said, referring to my frequent threats of giving up my writing career and switch to baking so that I could get to eat endless amounts of dessert.
I told you, sometimes all it takes to get your family back together is to bake a cake together….