When I was younger, I had a friend with whom I spent a lot of time in the summer months. We’ll call her Jane. Jane had a large family, so her mom was often in her roomy kitchen, preparing big meals that I never enjoyed. But I did admire her dedication and her aura of domesticity. And I coveted her KitchenAid mixer.
Though I’d never baked anything on my own and didn’t know my way around a kitchen, I knew this appliance had magic to it. It was large and sturdy, and it came with different attachments that helped orchestrate all kinds of dishes. It was a mysterious symbol of adulthood, and like so many children, I foolishly dreamt my youth away, longing for the day when I could be old enough for one of my very own.
In college, I took a course that would have a great impact on me: Cookbooks as Literature. I still wasn’t much of a chef, preferring the easiness of Ramen Noodles and macaroni and cheese over just about any other recipe, complicated or otherwise. But, food can be a great unifier, and in through readings, class discussions and projects, I developed a kinship with my classmates. Once again, I also felt a pull towards a version of myself I hadn’t yet met; one that wanted to do things like cook and bake.
In that course, we discussed the satisfaction that comes with preparing meals for our loved ones and how eating fast food out of paper bags in our cars robs us of this joy. I thought I understood it then, but in the years since, I have come to appreciate this a lot more. When Mike tells me that dinner is delicious, that he couldn’t get a better chicken/pasta dish/salad at a restaurant, it fills me with immeasurable pride in a way I never expected.
And though Mike may be my guinea pig on most occasions, I have to say that I like feeding people in general. Navigating through a recipe for the first time always fills me with a little anxiety, but this is matched by a twinge of excitement. If the dish is a success, I feel vindication. If it falls short, I am eager to try it again with some alterations. It’s like a puzzle with a worthwhile end-product. And I hope someday, if Mike and I lucky enough to have kids, that they will look forward to the dinners I will lovingly concoct for them.
For my wedding shower, Mom bought me my KitchenAid mixer, and I was elated. Though I do not subscribe to many of the rules regarding traditional male/female roles, and I abhor the idea of getting old(er), I did see the gift as a realization of a fantasy I’d been crafting for quite some time. Like the china pattern over which I salivated for years, the KitchenAid mixer was a rite of passage. It would sit on my kitchen counter, announcing to the world that I had arrived, and that I was now ready to bake things for people I care about with proper utensils and sophisticated appliances. Hurrah!
It would take another year before my mixer was freed from it’s box, not because I am lazy but because my former kitchen had no available counter space, and it was impractical and a bit sad to take the thing in and out of the box just to make brownies. I promised myself that when Mike and I moved to a bigger home, I would reward myself by unpacking my KitchenAid mixer for the first time and using it for something fantastic.
And, ladies and gentlemen, today was the day.
To beat the mid-summer doldrums, I decided to bake my way towards happiness. My friend Luanne had given me a zucchini fresh from her community garden, and it was to become the sole inspiration for zucchini bread, a favorite summertime treat.
Enter Sir KitchenAid.
I plucked him from his corner, untied his cord, cleaned out his mixing bowl and used him to beat eggs, oil, vanilla extract and sugar before adding the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Then, I folded in the zucchini and walnuts, proudly watching as it all blended together to make what I hoped would result in fabulosity.
And the experience was everything I always hoped it would be and more.
The loaves are now sitting on the counter, waiting to be consumed, and Sir KitchenAid has been cleaned and placed back in his spot on the counter, ready for the next dance.
Domestic life will not always be the stuff of dreams. But, once in a while, there’s a glimmer of recognition, there’s an instant just like the one you envisioned all those years ago as you watched Jane’s mom in her kitchen. Of all the moments you’ve imagined for yourself, these aren’t always the grandest; however, they are perfect little pieces worth collecting for later, to cherish during disappointing times when things just won’t go the way you planned or expected.