15 May 2016
One Baking Session at a Time...
A new day, and I am ready for another challenge! Even saying that frustrates me. When has anybody ever referred to baking as a challenge? Yes, maybe when perfecting an identical array of petit four to meet the standards of The Ritz; but never for a bit of home baking. However, this is an enjoyable activity that, once again, I became convinced that I hated.
Memories of baking with my Gran and cousin, arguing over who can lick the bowl, were overshadowed by negative thoughts. Questioning how I was so stupid as to let myself desire cake mixture. Doubting what on earth would have possessed me to ingest baked goods composed of fat, sugar, and undoubtedly, calories. Asking myself why I would want to even partake in an activity that may have presented some temptation. Not once did my unhealthy mind consider the laughter, joy and opportunity for bonding that family baking sessions brought to my wonderful childhood. Analysing the way in which my eating disorder has made me question my intentions in the past made me realise just how demanding this illness is. It is not just satisfied with making you question everything that you are doing right now, it also delves into your past and tries to control a time in which it was not even affecting your life! My childhood was special, and I will not let my mental illness skewer that.
In order to rekindle my love for baking, I needed to establish what prevents me from wanting to engage in the activity- the ingredients. In the past, and even up until recently, I trawled the Internet in pursuit of recipes that I can use to create a certain type of snack without the normal ingredients. Endless searches for ‘fat-free’, ‘sugar-free’ and ‘flourless’, my quest could take hours of precious time; but I was determined that such recipes existed. Using substitutes such as yoghurt, sweetener and black beans, I felt somewhat more at ease with whatever it was that I was baking. I convinced myself that cookies made with yoghurt were so much more delicious than the real thing. I persuaded myself that biscotti turned out ten times better when made with sweetener. I was confident in the fact that brownies were improved when made with black beans. Yes they tasted nice, but they didn’t taste like the real thing. They may have left my mind more at ease, but I still felt guilty when I ate them, so why didn’t I just endure the guilt whilst eating something that was actually so much more palatable? I tried to remind myself of this whilst choosing a recipe for my most recent baking venture.
I established that I wanted to make something that was going to challenge me, but not push me over the edge, especially considering my recent set back. With the weather warming up I wanted to make something that was refreshing, but that I could also make plenty of for snacks and desserts. So lemon drizzle flapjack it was! Typing the product into the search engine for a recipe, I clicked on the first link, and it dawned on me just how difficult this was going to be. There on the ingredients list was butter, sugar and lemon curd- along with the porridge oats and lemon zest of course. My instantaneous reaction was to immediately close the link and adjust my search to ‘healthy lemon drizzle flapjack’. I know I shouldn’t have done it, but it was force of habit. It must have been some kind of sign because the search results did not alter at all. I was left with one recipe, and one recipe only. I could have completely differentiated to another product, but I had committed, and was not going to give in to the pressures circulating my mind. I was going to tackle this project, and I was going to tackle it properly, so I headed to the supermarket to buy the necessary ingredients.
Hurdle one- butter. Who knew the variety of butter that is available! Salted, unsalted, spreadable, light, with olive oil, organic- the list goes on. As if in a trance, I stood and stared at the display cabinet. How on earth was I going to do this? I referred back to my shopping list and refreshed my memory on the need for unsalted butter.
Hurdle two- the temptation to go for the ‘better option’. By this point I had told myself that I was not going to leave the shop without butter, whether it took my two minutes or two hours. My eyes kept drifting to the ‘lighter’ options, which regardless of their additional ‘salted’ labelling, I was going to take it. Placing it in my trolley, I glanced back at the full fat unsalted block and shook my head. I grabbed the ‘lighter’ product and placed it back on the shelf, replacing the space in my trolley with the full fat unsalted package, swiftly marching away from the area.
Hurdle three- doubt. As soon as I made it to the end of the aisle, I halted. Like a crazed woman I made an instant U-turn back to the butter display cabinet, removed the product from my trolley and placed it back on the shelf. I allowed the mental battle to play itself out in my head, grabbed it again, put it back in my trolley and walked off.
Eventually I managed to purchase the full fat unsalted package of butter, but as you have just read, the process was long, challenging and exhausting. But I did it!
The actual baking activity itself was also demanding, but I found it pleasurable. I don’t know if it was the wonderfully refreshing scent of the lemon, or the pride in knowing that I was defying everything my illness wanted me to experience, but I was enjoying myself. Chatting to my Gran as I coated the oats with the melted concoction of butter sugar and lemon curd, I was reminded of those precious childhood memories and felt comforted. Placing the tray in the oven I was content in the knowledge that I had followed the recipe to a T. Not a substitute in sight or a gram missed. I felt like it was mission accomplished, but I knew that the hard part was going to be consuming a piece.
So far I had disobeyed the needs of my Anorexia by firstly acknowledging that I wanted to bake, secondly choosing the lemon drizzle flapjack recipe, thirdly shopping for the ingredients, and then actually baking the product itself. I had taken responsibility for my desires and actions, and up to this point, handled a manageable level of distress. But I was not quite sure how I was going to react mentally to eating the product, or if I would even get as far as getting it on a plate in front of me.
It was snack time. The flapjack had cooled and was drizzled with its citrusy icing. I made Gran and I a cup of tea, accompanied with a slice of the freshly baked produce. My initial reaction was to break it up, but I managed to overcome the need to cave into this behaviour, as I knew exactly why I wanted to do it. I took a bite, and it was absolutely delicious. I am smiling even now as I write this because it was at that point when I finally realised that now it was mission accomplished. I was well aware of what had gone into this product, and yet I still found the strength to not only eat it, but also acknowledge that I enjoyed it. I think it is important to add here that making and consuming the flapjack did not prompt me to engage in any other behaviours, particularly restriction. In fact, I even made a completely new recipe for my evening meal, which challenged even more of these stubborn rules in my head!
Now, today has been one of those exceptionally good days, and who knows what tomorrows mindset will bring. But I wanted to document this experience to prove to myself that these good days do happen, and when the do, they make the fight incredibly worthwhile. I may not have pushed the boundaries in terms of my culinary skill, but in terms of my self-belief, the bar appears to have been raised up a notch.