I thought she was gone, and then I found her.
This is the first cookbook I ever purchased. It was 1994. I was living in Burlington Vermont, and had just started working behind the retail counter selling bread at a small bakery called Klinger’s Bread Company. The only thing I wanted was to find a way into the pastry room. I got in with the power of dirty dishes. I offered a trade: I would wash all of the dishes if the pastry chef would teach me how to bake. She said yes, I started scrubbing, and earned the opportunity to work with the chef for two weeks. When she left and I stood alone in the pastry room in the middle of the night, I realized how much I needed to learn.
I went to the local bookstore, browsed the shelves, and left with this cookbook.
This book was my bible. I mean this in the most sincere way. I carried her with me wherever I went. To work, back home, to bed. I read each page, breathed the information in as deeply as possible, then slowly exhaled with admiration for the woman, Kathleen King, behind the cookbook.
I carefully made most of her recipes, following each step as it was written. Each new batch was the opportunity to learn how many elements matter when it comes to baking. The type of butter. The mixing process. The oven temperature. The oven, period. Hot spots, air flow, suggested baking times. From pans to frosting consistencies to learning how to make pie dough, I learned by trial and error.
My baking mistakes hovered in my brain from the beginning, reappearing in my dreams at night. The scones were always burning. I would get out of bed, pull open the top dresser drawer, and peer into the stacks of folded underwear in an attempt to assess the damage.
Back then, the days were long. In at 3am, out hopefully by 4pm, then home to shower and read more from my bible to figure out how to be better. Maybe that night I would be able to save the scones.
28 years later…t w e n t y e i g h t…and I found myself with an urge to bake one of my favorite recipes which, of course, was in the bible.
Only, I couldn’t find her. Panic set in, then desperation. This was my second copy, the book is out of print, and the only copies available were selling for $90 or more.
The hunt began.
I crawled through cobwebs and found the cover, but no book. I tore through our storage room at home, digging through bags, boxes, shelves. Nothing. I rifled through cabinets and milk crates at work. Nothing. Determined to keep trying, I returned to our storage room. As if led by angels, I walked toward a bin, opened the cover, and there she was.
There are things in life that can be difficult to understand. My attachment to this cookbook falls into this category. Without question, there are many other cookbooks that go into much more detailed, scientific information about baking. Why this particular cookbook became my bible is unclear. Perhaps it’s because it was the first time I went to the bookstore with the specific goal of finding a book to help me learn how to bake. Perhaps it’s because of the stories explaining the origin of each recipe. Or, perhaps it’s simply because this book made me BELIEVE.
Each page whispered to me.
Karen, this is you.
In the unexpected twists and turns of life, we all need to believe in something bigger than us. To have hope. To trust that there’s some safety net hidden beneath what looks like a dark hole in the ground. For me, it’s always been baking. This beat-up, worn cookbook knows my journey and will hopefully remain a steady companion as I move forward.
May we always have reasons to believe.