Some people feel a little awkward talking about Sylvia Plath in the kitchen, but I don’t think the way she chose to end her life should overshadow how she lived. The fact is, Sylvia was pretty domestic and she loved baking. While writing some of the best poetry the world has ever seen she was also hosting dinner parties and baking lemon pudding cakes and her favourite tomato soup cake.
But after she married Ted Hughes she started to worry that her domestic tendencies were distracting her from writing. She struggled with balancing the two worlds. And while I’m definitely not comparing myself to Sylvia Plath, that struggle is something we have in common.
I’ve often told my friends that baking is like therapy for me. I find the act of following a recipe relaxing. It allows me to zone out and focus on one specific task, instead of letting my mind wander and get distracted by the millions of little things that need to get done. But I often let baking get in the way of writing. When the words are flowing easily I can type away happily at my desk for an entire day. But when they’re not, my kitchen is where I want to be. I can whip up a batch of cookies and feel better about everything. It’s an escape route, and I take it too often.
I recently spent an entire day in my kitchen prepping for a birthday party. I decided to make two birthday cakes because I couldn’t stand the idea that not everyone at the party would get a piece. Both were pretty straightforward layer cakes, one strawberry-vanilla and the other cookies & cream. I loved the process of baking these cakes, assembling them, and adding the finishing touches. People were amazed that I had done it all myself, but really I can’t imagine doing it any other way. If they’d only known how self-serving it was, they wouldn’t have been as impressed.
But anyway, here’s to Sylvia. Pass the cake.