I, along with millions around the world, watch and savor The Great British Baking Show when it is on TV. The judges, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, often offer sage tips to improve one’s baking; the hosts, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, provide quips and consolations to the bakers in equal measure; and the contestants spur my imagination with their creative flavor combinations and plans for their showstoppers. Each week, one baker has to leave the tent, no longer in the running. Recently, Val Stones had to leave the tent. She was one of my favorites, not for her bakes but for her sunny personality. In her farewell, she said, “When you bake, you always bake for a reason. You’re giving it to people, so you make it the best you can, and you make it with love. And whenever I make anything, I stir love into it. So when I present it, it’s special.” Over the years I’ve thought and said much the same thing, only not quite as eloquently. The bottom line is that I bake for people I care about.
And after all that I’ve experienced over the last two years, I still put love into my baking. But the love is not only for others but for myself as well. When I bake, I have to focus. Leaving out an ingredient or measuring out too much or too little of something could result in a baking flop. Concentrating on my measuring, stirring and kneading frees my mind from worry about that twinge I felt in my side today. Before my cancer diagnosis, I was not a hypochondriac. Far from it. But in the course of my cancer treatments, I’ve become hyper-vigilant about every little twitch. Slowly, I’m working my way to a more balanced way of being. I want to take care of myself and my health, of course, but I don’t want concern for my health to occupy my mind 24/7. Baking allows me to think of something else, have fun, and express my creativity. Baking is truly about giving, to others and to oneself.