I hate math. I hate it because I’m bad at it, and I’m bad at it because it has rules. There is only one correct solution, and infinite wrong solutions, and you’re not supposed to ask ‘why’. That question has gotten me in trouble in class more than once over the years, because I like things that you can over-think. I like things that have more than one solution, each of which leads to even more solutions. Math feels limiting, like you have to follow all of these rules that previous geniuses have come up with, instead of elaborating on their thoughts and finding new insights of your own.
The only thing similar to math that has rules that I like is baking. Baking is a science, and you have to follow the recipe exactly in order for it to turn out right. I like baking because if I can over-think a recipe, I’ll burn it. Certain artistic creativity is not wanted when it comes to cooking. Apparently tuna and strawberries don’t mix well, and throwing whatever spices strike you as pleasing into a dish altogether isn’t really a great idea. So I like baking because they tell you exactly how much of your favorite spices to put in and what temperature to pre-heat the oven to. Basically, when it comes to cooking, one solution is typically preferable.
Sometimes the desire to bake just strikes me, as it did a few weeks ago. I made a loaf of dark rye bread, although I thought I never would after a few days of trying. I had to make my own sourdough starter, which, if you don’t know, is a living thing. You have to nurture it like it’s a baby, which, well… it is. Unfortunately for me, even with instructions, I kept killing it. Yes, I’ve been told more than once that I wouldn’t make such a great mom. But after a few tries I did manage to get it right, so I finally made a nice, if a bit oddly shaped, loaf of bread. The day after I finally accomplished that, I decided to make a chai spice cake for my friend’s birthday. It turned out beautifully, and I was so proud of it. My only mistake was that I had forgotten to put non-stick spray on the pan. I didn’t think that the cake would come out of the pan, but I decided to try anyways. Well, it did come out, quite easily, in fact, but the problem was that the instructions failed to tell me how to take it out of the pan. So long story short, it broke into three large pieces, and I just barely managed to keep them all from landing on the floor.
With all rules and instructions behind me, I decided to over-think my situation. First I tried to just piece the cake back together like a puzzle and cover up the cracks with confectioner’s sugar, but then I got a better idea. I found a round cookie cutter and tried slicing out little cupcake-like pieces from the cake. The first one that I cut cracked on the top in several places, but it actually looked kind of cool, and there was no going back at that point, anyways. I proceeded to cut out about 12 pieces of cake, each of them with different cracks running through the top of them, which slightly resembled fault line cracks after an earthquake.
Light bulb. It was an earthquake cake. Or, when I thought about it even more and made punny, it became my ‘earthcake’. I lightly garnished my natural disaster with some sugar, stepped back to admire it, and thought to myself that this was one of those moments when you get to say, “It’s okay. I’m an artist.”
I’m happy to announce that I cooked dinner for my parents 47th anniversary dinner the other night, and it was quite good. Nothing was burnt, and I even got the potatoes tender. You may proceed to congratulate me now.