Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Bake Sale that Almost Broke the Camel’s Back

I love to bake. I love to bake from scratch. Most of all, I love it when I bake something from scratch and it comes out perfectly.

I love to know that I lovingly prepared something delicious and special for my family, from the best ingredients I could afford. I love that they appreciate the time it took, and that it tastes better just because I made it.

I love to learn new recipes from my beloved cookbooks, and to teach the skills to my children so they can do the same for their own families.

There used to be a Holly Hobby plaque hanging in the kitchen of my childhood home. It said the “secret ingredient” was love. Scientific studies have actually shown that, given all the same ingredients, positive emotion put into baking actually has a healthy effect on the receiver!

I love to bring cakes for family birthday parties. I am known among my in-laws as the cake baker, and they love both my Hershey’s Cocoa Chocolate Cake and my white angel cake. I make the same ones for every occasion, with a variation on the decorative icing, and they never tire of them.

I enjoy sending my children in to school with cupcakes on their birthdays. I usually make these from a mix, for a number of reasons. First of all, I have to make several batches of cupcakes, and it just is not feasible time-wise for me to do these all from scratch. I will save that time for making the cake we will eat together as a family. Second of all, most children really cannot differentiate between a baked-from-scratch cake and one purchased from a store. So, while I know they are receiving superior ingredients, they do not, and so part of the pleasure is lost.

Several times a year, I am called upon to bake something for a bake sale. If I have the time, I really do not mind doing this. However, very often it happens to be at the very worst time for me. I just know that it will be something I will regret having committed to. They also expect you to write down what you will be making, and I really do not bake that way. I do not have the time to select a recipe and go shopping for the specific ingredients required. I keep a well-stocked pantry and bake according to what ingredients I have available. What if I say I will make chocolate-chip cookies and someone eats the chocolate chips the night before? And if I happen to have enough frozen bananas I might feel like making a huge batch of banana bread – if I do not have enough, I am not going to go buy over-ripe bananas for the occasion. So I really dislike having to commit to making a specific item.

There was one time when I signed up and had such a busy day that I was still whipping it up at midnight. Then, after I had carefully wrapped up the box of goods, my child forgot to bring it to school! I received a telephone call from the bake sale coordinator, asking if I could bring it in. I really did not have the time to drive to the school that day, and had to apologize. From that day on, I decided never to sign up for a bake sale. If I had the time, I would make something and they would be pleasantly surprised. If not, no harm done.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to bake for the track bake sale. It happened to be on a Sunday, right after we had planned on giving out baby bottles after church for the Pro-Life cause. We were going to have to rush home, do a quick change, and rush back out to the track meet. I just knew it was not a reasonable thing to expect of myself to (1) bake something and (2) remember to bring it.

After I explained all this, the lady told me that if I did not have time to bake I could just go to the store and pick up some cans of soda. I said I would keep that in mind, but what I was thinking was: “Is she crazy? I just told her how busy I am. Does she think I have time to make another trip to the store with four kids in tow? It would take me less time to bake something! And what makes her think I can afford to buy even more food when I have six mouths to feed?” I wound up avoiding her and the whole bake sale table on the selected day.

After track practice on Saturday, I went home, made dinner, put the baby to bed, and went food shopping. After all this, I had a varicose vein that was bothering me. This tends to happen when I am under a great deal of stress and do not take extra vitamin E (which helps keep the circulatory system healthy). I put my legs up and asked my husband to put the food away. “Thank God I said no to that bake sale!” I exclaimed. It was really the bake sale that would have broken this camel’s back.

This was really what set into motion my series – which I shall continue – on hearing God’s call and staying true to your specific call. There are so many good causes, and only so much of you to go around. Your number one priority is your own family, and you are doing them a disservice if you exhaust yourself doing too much. Remember the basics of decision-making. Every “yes” is a “no” to something else.

I was called again to bake something for a meeting, this time by a lady who was very understanding as to how busy I was. I also explained that I would be hard-pressed to even get to the meeting on time, given my husband’s work schedule, so the promised goods would not even be there for the pre-meeting social time.

After I said no to that, I hung up and my husband walked in the door.

“I was just asked to bake something for the meeting tomorrow night,” I said.

“You don’t even bake for us any more,” my husband complained.

(This, by the way, was not true. I supervised the baking of chocolate-chip and blueberry muffins two nights previous, but they disappeared in one night. I also promised to bring a cake to the next family birthday party, coming up soon. It is true that I have not baked much lately, and probably will not pick up the pace until winter.)

“That is precisely why I said no,” I said, matter-of-factly, making a mental note to make something yummy just-for-us as soon as possible.

In the picture above are the cakes I made for the double celebration party we had in August. On the left is a white angel cake with white frosting, topped by our original wedding cake topper, to celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary. On the right is a Hershey’s Cocoa Chocolate Cake (see recipe on the container of Hershey’s Cocoa, in the baking aisle), to celebrate our baby’s second birthday. In the middle is a flower centerpiece that I was given to take home from our friends’ wedding, which we had all attended the day before the party. In the background is a line of white chocolate heart-shaped lollipops, which I gave out as favors.

1 comment:

Loren Christie said...

Elizabeth, I also struggle with obligations stepping into my family time. I really admire your baking skills.