Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bake Me a Cake

I love baking. For me, heading into the kitchen to mix together eggs, flour, sugar, and a variety of other ingredients is not only creatively fulfilling but also relaxing. Whether I’m grating carrots for my award winning Carrot Cake, or zesting lemons for my Double Lemon Pound Cake, there is nothing quite as nice as licking the bowl after popping what I know will be a perfect dessert into the oven.

Baking from scratch has always been a source of pride for me. I still remember the first time I was in a supermarket in Maryland with Hubby around Thanksgiving and eagerly yelled down an aisle at him, “Sweetie, you’ve got to see this! It’s amazing! They have canned pumpkin here! Have you ever seen such a thing before?” The withering look I received from Hubby was nothing compared with the scathing looks the women within hearing distance shot my way.

My mother, you see, is a do-it-from-scratch kind of lady. From making fresh pumpkin puree and pastry for pies to throwing the bones from dinner into a pot to make stock, prepackaged conveniences just weren’t the norm growing up. (Kraft Dinner is a sacred meal and therefore does not fall into the convenience food category.) Most people don’t have time for details like this anymore and my mother certainly didn’t when I was growing up, so you can imagine the guilt I felt the first time I picked up a box of Betty Crocker Brownie Mix.

It took me moving all the way to Kenya to discover this amazing dessert in a box. No matter what distracted me while I measured out the ingredients, they came out perfectly every time without even a hint of a charred edge that my homemade White Chocolate Brownies usually had. Even Hubby said he preferred them. Suddenly, I realized what my peers had been drooling over for all those years. Mrs. Crocker knew what she was doing!

This love of baking, whether from a box or beloved recipe, is yet another reason my life in Egypt has been somewhat frustrating. You see I don’t have an oven. Full disclosure: I do have an oven but out of respect for the people who live in my building, I choose not to use it.

My stove has five lovely gas burners that light with the aid of an electric starter. Click, click, click, poof! The oven, on the other hand, requires a match. Scratch, light, throw, boom! I know millions of people out there do this every day without blowing anything up but I’m not one of those people. I am neither coordinated nor lucky enough to manage to not cause someone (probably myself) bodily damage whilst lighting my oven with a match.

There have been no wafting scents of Triple Chocolate Cookies or delectable crumbs of Pumpkin Crumble Pie in the Typ0/Hubby household for a year and half. The only person sadder about my lack of baking outlet than me has been Hubby. While my neighbours Black Beard and Adelpha have kindly offered the use of their oven from time to time, I can hardly sneak into their flat at two in the morning to create a batch of Boredom Cupcakes.

As much as I love Egypt and the life we have in Cairo, I look forward to the day I once again have an oven that won’t kill the neighbourhood just because I wanted to whisk ingredients together. In fact, I think the prospect of baking may be reason enough to dream about moving again.

38 comments:

Project Survive said...

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog!!

How cool is it that you live in Egypt?

Um... I would never use the oven either--> i would definitely blow the house up!

Emily
http://www.projecticansurvive.blogspot.com

Turquoise Diaries said...

From the way you are telling I am sure you are cooking delicious things even though you do not have an oven..Have a great day...

Brenda said...

I sympathize with you, its a bummer when we can't whip up the foods we want. I hope you have a functioning oven soon!

Anonymous said...

Well...this could be a LONG comment but: scratch is always better/the best.
BBA's children and I baked from scratch AND from package last weekend. Sratch WON! Those cookies were awesome.
I also baked apple cake and apple bread as well as scones and brownbread....need I go on?
However, even with my gas oven, I would NEVER try to cook in your oven.
Perhaps soon you can return to cooking your definitely The best 1,2,3 cake and your carrot cake with the best icing.
To The Scratch Cook goes the glory.
merthyrmum

LadyFi said...

I'm really hopeless at cooking, but I can manage to bake some things from scratch. (Don't like the boxes as they are far too sweet!) My kids just believe that all homebaked cakes come with that burnt edge... I tell them it's called love! ;-)

SunnyMorn said...

Oh lord is that really your oven?! SCARY!!! How come you never baked me a delectible carrot cake while you were in India??

I might forgive you if I could get the recipe for you double lemon pond cake ;-)

Jennifer said...

You have to choose life over baked goods?! Oh, lady, what a predicament!

WhisperingWriter said...

Eek.

That reminds me of my oven.

I can't cook worth anything.

I just buy stuff at the bakery. I LOVE baked goods but don't have the patience to make it.

the ungourmet said...

Yikes! That's just scary! Sorry you don't get to bake. :0( Can you get some other type of oven?

Corinne said...

When I was first learning to cook (without Mom's supervision), I had a gas oven that had to be lit manually. It took one casserole bursting into flames for me to be finished with that exercise. I know, at least in part, your pain!

Protege said...

Ah, what a great post! I can so relate to everything you say - I am a terrible cook but I LOVE to bake. As you say, it is very relaxing and it SMELLS GOOD. I hate the smell of cooking, that lingers for days and is impossible to get out (onions and curry are the worst!).
I have had an utter fear of gas ever since I was a child. I am not sure what I would do if I had to use a gas stove or oven, probably I would never touch it.
So, yes, I think your fear of an gas oven that has to be lit in succession is a very reasonable one in my book;)
Have a lovely Friday,
xo
Zuzana

American in Norway said...

I JUST made my first cake from scratch... hands down, WAAAY better than any cake mix I can find here in Norway. Can't wait to start baking for the holidays... ( I say that now..) - I really want to have some sort of cookie exchange or something.depends if I can get myself out of the fetal position. this weather is KILLING me.

only a movie said...

Before kids, I loved loved loved to bake. Especially at this time of year.
Your oven would cause me to lose sleep.
Also, I am baking a carrot cake for next week. I used to make a killer carrot cake and I'm craving it. Plus, I don't like pie, so that's my dessert for Thanksgiving.
;-D

Life with Kaishon said...

How impressive are you : ) Pumpkin puree! Wowza! I am sorry you can't bake right now. I can't imagine that. I mean, even though I am a terrible cook, I don't think I could survive without an oven! Ick!

Susie said...

I couldn't do it. Baking is my zen and if I couldn't do it, you might as well put me in a rubber room:-)

Christine Gram said...

I never baked from scratch until I moved to Italy. It's been a fun adventure... and not nearly as difficult as I imagined.

Gaston Studio said...

I've always been scared to death of gas stoves! I know, fires can happen in electric ovens too, but gas is just scary.

I don't bake as often as I used to and frankly, have no desire to return to "my old ways" as it's just too time consuming. Don't want to dash your desires tho, so hope you get a new oven soon!

BLOGitse said...

hahaha, 'baking may be reason enough to dream about moving again' - for me that would be cooking, food!
Or
able to walk outside! Just walk without worries of the traffic or pollution...

Kat said...

I would be scared of that oven, too. I still don't like to use the gas starter on our fireplace. I just know I am going to turn the gas up too high and singe my eyebrows off.

But the baking. Sigh. I wish I had more confidence to cook from scratch.

Emma said...

I totally agree. I love baking and cooking from scratch. I have NEVER picked up a box of some bake mix and always loudly make scathing comments to my husband about them when I see someone picking one up.

Your oven sounds scary, I would be really freaked out to light it with a match too!

Caution Flag said...

My youngest boys came across the name Cairo today and wondering how to pronounce it. I did a good bit of blog name dropping, I'll have you know. They were very impressed. So I thank-you.

Little P said...

Haha - I love the comment about the canned pumpkin! I know - my aunt once was saying how she was going to make coleslaw from scratch and my mom was asking her some questions about how she was going to do it and my aunt got very confused... she was talking about getting the bag of ingredients and just having to mix them together --- nothing more! :)
Wow - that is crazy about the stove - I grew up on electrical stoves and now have the gas ones and it really takes a while to get used to. Thankfully I don't have to light it, but I know I'll have to do that at some time in the future and it freaks me out!

Eva Gallant said...

I had a gas stove once and was terrified of it. I would never have one again, so I get where you're comeing from!

Sorry you have to survive without baking!

Jenni said...

oh that is so sad! I love baking...I hope you can bake again soon and when you can it will be amazing! Beautiful post and beautiful blog. :)

Yaya said...

Yup, my mother bakes from scratch and now I love baking from scratch too.

GutsyWriter said...

Home baked from scratch is what French patisseries taste like too. I love the flavors from fresh ingredients. Where did your oven come from? Hell?

Monique-aka-Surferwife23 said...

oh man. Life without an oven for an extraordinary baker is just so worng on so many levels!!

OT: I would like to nominate your blog on Bloggers Choice Awards. Would you mind?

Sharon said...

I thought not having a microwave was hard... but no oven? I don't know how I would do it -- I love to bake too and I would go into withdrawal!

sprinkles said...

I don't usually cook or bake because I don't really buy much food. If I have food, I eat it and that's not always a good thing!

You can always stop by my house and use my oven if you want! The only oven that gets much use at my house is the microwave oven! LOL

Conquer The Monkey said...

Hi I am new to your blog! I am fascinated by your adventure in Cairo. I love to cook / bake too,and can see where it would be soooo difficult not to be able to do that when you feel like it....
I will be following now!
Cameron

Betty said...

Don´t they have these "stand alone" electric ovens that you could buy? Almost everyone uses them here and it´s a good solution if you don´t want to use the gas oven. I hate them too, that´s why I bought an electric stove/oven.
Hope you find a solution.

blueviolet said...

I have to say that I'd be scared out of using it myself if I had to light it.

Michelle said...

Oh my. I would have a hard time without the oven myself. While I've never made pumpkin puree (partly because I don't like pumpkin?), I make all my crusts from scratch, etc. I have friendss who have never used anything in their kitchens other than the fridge for beer (literally), which blows my mind. But I suppose I can understand why you've avoided lighting your oven ;)

lizzy-loo said...

so easy to not bake from scratch in the usa. i love to bake aswell and having a oven was one of the criteria in finding housing here in china. they don't really use them and many homes have only stovetops. i can't imagine having to deal with the stove from hell.

Bluefish said...

My father bakes but I can't bake to save my life! Maybe that's because I don't like to eat sweet stuff.

Lydia said...

I heard a story once about a woman whose mother cooked 'from scratch'. So when she got married, she wanted to cook 'from scratch' as well. She went to the store and asked them, "Um, where do I find the scratch?"

Nicole said...

I hear your pain and frustration!
I got used to the gas stove while in Hungary for the last year though.
I had long matches at the start and then small ones.
I am not the Best coordinated person on the Globe either and I have a huge respect for any kind of fire, but especially for Gas.
Yuck.
In most cases for me, I am missing ingredients or baking forms or whatnot.
And since we never ship our whole household anywhere, I got pretty tired after a while to buy everything new :(

Sandy said...

I had to study that photo to figure out what the hell it was. Yikes!

In my younger days I was a dedicated do-it-yourself cook from scratcher. As I have gotten older I have learned that there are some amazing shortcuts out there and I don't beat myself up about using them like I used to.