Baking Culture

30 November 2001

Strange, strange dreams last night. I dreamed an alternate history where this boy Mandy and I laughed with and bedeviled in junior high didn't kill himself last year. Instead, he bought a little golden dog and hung out with my college friends and saved people's lives. So I suppose it was a good dream....

I had a hard time sleeping last night. There is no comfortable position for being a M'rissa any more, at least, not horizontally. I think my body is quite glad to be vertical for the moment. Mark is bouncing my mail to my hotmail account just to be safe, in case the outage happens today. I hate these people. If they think Excite @ Home is going to go boom...and AT&T @ Home has a network up ready to go...why haven't they been switching people over a few at a time, so that they don't have a big ol' rush to get the new network going? Ah, but that would make sense, and these people are dumber than a box of hair. So instead, I get to wait until things don't work, and then wait. They claim "it won't be two hours, but it won't be two weeks." And I suppose for less than two weeks, I could use a dial-up connection to Stanford for necessary stuff. But it would -- to quote my mother -- suck pond scum.

(If you don't think that's a nasty expression, you've obviously never been to Lake Madison, South Dakota.)

It's my aunt Ellen's birthday. Also Mark Twain's and Jonathan Swift's. You would think if this birthdate personality stuff had any truth to it, Aunt Ellen would be pretty cynical and acerbic. Cynical not so much. I deal with her mostly in her grandmother mode, so I don't have a chance to see acerbic. But she's a Lingen. I can sense that it's there.

That's a good thing.

I confess that sometimes when my aunt Ellen tells my stories about my grandma Elaine, her sister-in-law, the one who died before I was born, sometimes I don't hear about my grandma Elaine. Sometimes I just hear about my aunt Ellen, because sometimes that's more important to me, to hear what she thinks is important, what she thinks is worth mentioning.

I'm going to call tonight, possibly before Amber gets here, and wish her a happy birthday.

So. A couple of days ago, Columbine had a weblog item upon which I commented, about cookies. For those of you who don't want to follow the links and read the exchange, it started out with a discussion of the colored-shape-sugar-cookie dough they sell. You know the stuff I mean? Millefiore style, Columbine says. Well, I said -- and I stand by this -- that the new cookies where they have preformed the dough for you, and you just bake them, are beyond dumb, and that their commercials are worse. The commercials have a mom talking about how now that she can just drop and burn, rather than having to chop, drop, and burn, she has more time to spend with her kids. And my contention is that many children like to bake. Perhaps most of them, in fact. And that you can spend time with your kids baking and not have to buy nasty preformed crap for them in order to spend time with them.

Columbine says I come from a baking culture, which is totally true. But then yesterday Timprov and I were trying to figure out which one. It's not Midwesterners -- there were plenty of people in high school in Nebraska who were nothing short of flabbergasted that my mom could work and bake. It's not Minnesotans -- same deal with college friends. ("Tell your grandma we love her and we especially love her cookies!") And it's not ScanAms, because a lot of college friends and acquaintances were ScanAms but were not baking people.

Timprov suggested it was traditionalists. I'm not sure how that term should really apply here. Certainly my grandma does traditional grandma things like baking cookies, and my mom does traditional mom things. But Grandma also does non-traditional grandma things like, say, co-chairing a political party for awhile back in the day, doing all the plumbing herself including taking out a toilet completely and getting it back in there in working order...well, you get the picture. Mom does non-traditional mom things, too, and neither of them would have argued that One Ought Not To. And I guess that's what I associate with a traditionalist. On the other hand, my family seems aimed at keeping the good parts of the traditions -- the lefse, not the lutefisk -- so maybe that's all it takes.

You are not, however, likely to get baking cultures where it is hot a lot of the time. It won't be the tradition in the first place. Even in our baking culture, summer is the off season. If you're going to bake in summer, you do it in the early morning or the late evening; often you make no-bake treats that don't heat the house up so much. I would imagine that a few more months of that would make bars something that you only have for a very special treat, if at all. I don't know how much I'd keep it up if we lived somewhere hot all the time, but by this point in my life, it's a pretty ingrained thing.

I don't know. We have a couple of partial pans of bars sitting on the kitchen counter in testimony to my firm membership in the baking culture. I think it would take a good deal to break out of it now, and I don't really want to. When I think about it, though, the ScanAm thing isn't entirely unrelated -- there are pretty much baking-less cultures. The Irish -- what on earth do the Irish bake? Soda bread? Is that it? Before soda bread, I was of the impression that baked goods were, well, good. That a store brand or my aunt Kathy might screw them up, but otherwise, they were going to be pretty good. Then I had homemade soda bread. Nooope.

Despite soda bread, I think it's good to bake. It fills the house with lovely smells and makes people feel loved. Not everybody interprets the Baked Goods = Love equation correctly, but I prompt them when they seem confused.

And further so. Kind of burned out on that one, hmm? I've gotten messages successfully bounced to my hotmail account, so I'm less worried about losing Important Mail. And I need to finish my BEC article. My brain was really scattery day before yesterday, and last night it was really focused, just not on anything useful. I ended up writing much of a short story that nobody would ever want to buy even if it wasn't Entirely Too Personal for one of the people I care about. So I need to finish that off.

Timprov suggests that if I want to write a networking department romance in the vein of "The Handmade's Tale," I could try, "He, She, and I.T." But I don't really want to write a networking department romance. I'll let Sarah take care of that....

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