Besides a week-long stretch when I was sick and lay on the couch watching the entire first season of Grey’s Anatomy, The Great British Bake Off is the closest I’ve ever come to obsessively binge-watching a tv show. Each time an episode ends, I strongly contemplate staying awake just so I can watch a collection of Brits stand in a nostalgically decorated tent and construct biscuit towers, 20 layer cakes, esoteric pastries that absolutely no one has heard of, and intricately designed sugar work.
Ever since returning from our October trip to Venice and Slovenia, I’ve been unable to stop baking. In analyzing this compulsion, I’ve drawn several conclusions about why my oven is almost always on, and why, even as I’m sitting here typing this post, I really want to be standing in my kitchen prepping dough and combining wet and dry ingredients.
While abroad, especially in our final landing spot of Klavze 28 – a guesthouse tucked into Slovenia’s Soca River Valley in the foothills of the Julian Alps – my husband and I felt enveloped in a sense of warmth and coziness. We experienced crisp days and even chillier nights at the tail end of our trip, and yet this weather didn’t affect our moods or energy levels. At the end of the day, Klavze’s owner Ben would light candles and prepare nurturing dinners and dessert. He’d also share as much wine as we wanted to drink, and the night would progress very pleasingly. The darkness and cold were welcome elements because it meant we could focus on internal comforts. I have no interest in lighting candles, wrapping myself in a blanket, or chomping into a heavy scone in the summer, and yet, in the fall and winter, this is precisely what I crave.
Writers, policy makers, chefs, and tv personalities love to strike the “food as community” gong, urging us, their audience, to gather around the table, to cook for each other, to know who grows our food, and to connect over a plate of whatever is freshest and most in season. After all, one of the tenants of small-scale (mostly organic) agriculture is Community – it’s the focused word in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), in which a farm’s wider network of customers pays in advance for months of just-harvested food, essentially propping up a farm’s financials at a time when the farmers need it the most (before any of the actual food is ready to harvest). A recent study by the University of Iowa found that so-called locavores eat local produce and meat because it makes them “feel a part of something greater than themselves – a community that shares their passion for a healthy lifestyle and sustainable environment.” The study called this exchange of money and food both “relational and ideological.”