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baking alone sucks!

In the future, when we tell our kids/grandkids/any youth who will listen to us about this unprecedented time and the memes that followed**, no doubt people will mention Zoom meetings, Animal Crossing, that weird gelatinous instant coffee creation people have decided to make, and all the bread baking. Everyone is a bread baker now, stores are out of yeast, sourdough is having a moment, and I just searched "baking pandemic" on Google News and got 10.8 million results back.

Clearly, a lot of people are finding joy in cooking and baking right now. To be honest... I'm... not really at all? Yes, I've checked off many of the "basic bitch alone at home" tasks so far (e.g. "bake sourdough", "bake banana bread", "create running plan", "buy boxed wine", "order ukelele"), a lot of those are food related, and maybe I've been more active in my kitchen than I was, say, six weeks ago. But during the time I've been stuck at home, in the tougher moments, my food anxieties have been amplified, and, overwhelmed at the idea of having too much food in my apartment, my infrequent grocery trips accidentally sometimes become just a bunch of flowers, Amy's frozen meals, frozen blueberries, and oatmeal. It's really hard for me to find joy in preparing food when I'm alone. If anything, this time really hammers home for me that my favorite part of both eating and preparing food is fellowship. Whether it's been dining at restaurants, going to potlucks, organizing a pizza crawl, starting a cookbook club, or just going to a friend's home to bawl into a plate of New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp (yes, I have done all these things), sharing food with friends has been one of my favorite past times. You don't "break bread" alone. Even the foundation of this whole dang bagel project has been about sharing food. It started with me just attempting bagels with a friend in their home, then evolved into me bringing my bagel kit to the homes of many friends, turning those evenings of bagel prep into a silly wine fueled social activity, and the next mornings a fun coffee fueled, bagel boiling brunch. Also, the pop-ups I've done were fun because it was a community experience, not because it's exactly fun to bake 100 bagels at 3am. So yeah, it's interesting to be introspective and curious about these feelings right now, and certainly makes me appreciate the memories I've built around baking. In my solitary time, I'm not making myself bake, I'm mostly spending my more leisurely moments reading, walking around, and hey, maybe I'll be into that ukelele when it arrives, and I continue to still nurture social connections despite being home alone. This weekend, I actually found my first joyful overlap in quarantine between my attempts for social connection and baking. A group of local friends and I were planning a videochat brunch on Easter Sunday, and I sheepishly asked if any of them would be interested in a "no contact" bagel delivery that morning. Not only were they on board, it turned into a full on brunch exchange. I brought bagels, I picked up biscuits, quiches, Tim-Tams, cookies, I got to say hi to sweet friends (and even though I had my mask/gloves on and was at a 6+ ft. distance, it still warmed my heart). I returned home for a really lovely brunch. Turns out there's still something really connective about sharing food you've made, and eating food others have shared, even if that connection is through a webcam.

Y'all please trust, my plating doesn't do this justice (neither does my yellow linoleum table which, while I love it, really adds a jaundiced element to everything it touches). This moment was wholesome and sweet and delicious, I promise.

Also connective, I had a fun, silly time doing some really informal streaming on Instagram Stories this weekend while I preparing these bagels (though wait, is "making Instagram Stories" also a task on the "basic bitch alone at home" list? Damn, I'm really knocking these things out...). Thanks to folks for joining in on that, I hope you enjoyed me accidentally knocking things over and forgetting to put the barley malt syrup in the dough (it wasn't too late, everything was fine!). That was fun, and if you see me doing some more of those streams, it means I am in a baking mood and leaning into it and would love for you to hang. [related: I don't know if it's across Instagram accounts, but FYI I've recently noticed browser based Instagram is actually LEAGUES better now and you can watch streams from there. This is great for me as I don't have the patience to watch a stream from my phone, but now I can from a browser tab!] Anyway, I guess I'm writing this out as a reminder that everyone is reacting to this time in their own way and so it goes, but it's also nice to be curious with ourselves about why certain things feel more joyful than others right now, and also throughout all of this there are still ways to keep connection with those we love. Also, the things that don't exactly feel fun right now (or the things that just aren't possible right now), well, I'm gonna put those on a list of things to do once we're able to move a bit more forward. <3 Jo

PS Also, even though I'm not finding a lot of joy in baking at the moment, I am legit happy that a lot of people are! It's really fun to see people build new skill sets, shape their first sourdough boule, worship at the Church of the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen. Please keep doing your thing!

** Yes, I'm focused specifically on talking to the future generations about memes because I know you archivists are documenting them, and I just keep thinking about the inevitable grad school thesis papers about the creation and distribution of memes during a global pandemic


Hi, I'm Jo.  I live in Marfa, and seem to be fixated on trying to master baking a perfect New York bagel.  In the west Texas desert.  Yep. More about me.

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