Baking for a Reason

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.

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A Reflection on Beatriz at Dinner

A week ago I saw Beatriz at Dinner. In this film, Salma Hayek plays Beatriz, a Mexican-American massage therapist and healer based in the Los Angeles area. Beatriz goes to a wealthy client’s house to give her a massage, and stays to dinner when her car won’t start. What ensues is a stark contrast between the haves and the have-nots, the takers and the givers of the world. I won’t go into the issues raised in the film. Instead, I’ll focus on a situation mentioned in the film that I noticed, but others might not.

Beatriz knows this wealthy woman (Cathy, played by Connie Britton) because she first worked with Cathy’s daughter. As Cathy explains to her friends, her daughter had chemo, radiation, and surgery, but wasn’t  doing well. So she and her husband enrolled their daughter in this alternative medical clinic, and their daughter was placed on a regimen including massage, special diet, and other alternative therapies. Under this treatment, Cathy says her daughter thrived and recovered.

This treatment center is where Beatriz first met Cathy and worked with Cathy’s daughter. The clinic, which looks more like a rustic resort, is a tranquil place. All the patients are white and probably prosperous.  I’m sure the therapies offered there are the absolute best but, unfortunately, such alternative treatments can be out of financial reach for many. Insurance companies are now approving complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) more than they once did, but it can still be a struggle. Fighting cancer takes all one’s energy; filing appeals or looking for grants and other funding is a drain of that precious energy. In my case, I was worried that my insurance company would deny coverage for my participation in a clinical trial for Keytruda, if I needed to join the clinical trial. Luckily, my insurance company approved coverage, although I haven’t needed it as yet. But I and Cathy’s daughter are some of the fortunate ones. What of those who are poor and/or uninsured/under-insured? The inequity of medical treatment in the U.S. is truly sobering and frightening.