Back Off, Williams-Sonoma
March 25, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Here we go again. Kitchen porn.
Every so often, Williams-Sonoma succeeds at brainwashing me with this stuff. A holiday nears, and the promotional blitz hits me daily with glossy photos of homemade baked goods, paired with pictures of the nifty pans and electrified spatulas needed to create such things. Seasonal catalogs start showing up two and three at a time.
A subliminal message is airbrushed into the hand-whipped cream on every page: You can do this. You love to do this. And by the sixth catalog received in the span of four days, I’m believing it. Look at all those fresh doughnuts piled up on a festive platter, spilling playfully onto the matching tablecloth – such a wacky abundance of doughnuts!
Before I know it, I’m planning an Easter Eggstravaganza brunch for 12. I need bunny-shaped cupcake pans shipped to me, stat, plus hand-harvested artisan sugar and gluten-free Peruvian jellybeans for decoration. It’s going to be Peter Cottontail’s Super-Bitchin’ Pastel Pastry Festival up in here.
Just one problem.
I want to like to bake. I wish I liked to bake. About quarterly, I go all Missy Muffincakes and pull out all my baking-related wedding presents and whip out my Barefoot Contessa cookbook and crank up the tunes on put on my apron and make an unholy mess of my oven and give it a shot. Come on, Contessa, let’s do this.
But here’s the thing: There’s a difference between baking and cooking. I enjoy cooking – mixing together fresh things in a pot or on a pan or in a bowl. There are few things I love more than having good friends seated on the barstools in my kitchen, sipping wine and tasting food and talking to me while I chop onions and stir. Needs a little salt? Somebody throw some in there, go ahead.
But you can’t chit-chat while you bake. Baking is math – one big, fat, #*@%ing word problem – and it requires attention to detail and proper use of tools. It includes steps like sift, fold, and worst of all, measure. I don’t do measuring. “Measurements” in my kitchen are, in order of amount: dash, swirl, slug, slosh, handful, assload.
It’s not that the results are always disastrous. I made zucchini bread last week for my kids. As they ate, my eldest said encouragingly, “This is so much better than the banana bread that time. The one that tasted kind of vomity? Remember?” Yes. I remember discreetly scraping my tongue against the edge of my juice glass and trying to give the leftovers to the dog, who fell over and feigned death to avoid having to eat any more. And I thought, oh my God, I killed my dog. NO. INA GARTEN KILLED MY DOG. It’s just – I never know, as I’m baking, which way things will turn out. I like positive outcomes.
I prefer, when I take a forkful of coffeecake, NOT to encounter tiny pockets of improperly sifted dry ingredients, such that with each bite, little powder bombs explode on my tongue and make me aspirate flour and choke. But that’s what happens about 50% of the time I get the itch to bake.
So stop it, Williams-Sonoma. I know you mean well, and you’ve taught me to consider a lot of good questions over the years. (Why just put fruit compote on your pancakes if you could use three separate specialty tools to cram it inside your pancakes and impregnate them with little jam babies?) But I will resist your sexy springform pans and cookie-icing guns this time.
That said, I do think I could really use that cast-iron bacon press, so I’ll take three of those, pleasethankyou.