Monday, October 19, 2009

Baking vs. Cooking

I bought a pie pumpkin last week and this weekend I made it into a pie. I've been baking since I was a kid, partly, I think, because it was something to do on rainy days. My best friend Amy and my sister and I would page through my mother's loose-leaf Betty Crocker cookbook, which was full of little homey pieces of advice that we thought were hilarious. (The editors evidently thought that housewives would not willingly cook or bake unless the recipes were made more exciting with little rhymes and mantras.) I still use a slightly earlier edition (1950) of Betty Crocker, and the baking recipes, while somewhat lacking in oomph, are good as ever. While I was rolling out the pie crust, I paused to think about why I am a good baker and love to do it, while I don't much like cooking and don't do it too well and I came to the conclusion that the answer lies in the fundamental difference between baking and cooking. Baking is orderly. You do step one (cook pumpkin), step two (puree pumpkin), step three (mix pie crust ingredients), etc. You nearly always have to complete a set task before going onto the next one. Cooking a meal, on the other hand, usually requires doing a bunch of different things all at once, hopefully timed so that they all finish together and can be served that way. I'm just not very good at that. Also, I have a tendency to sit down and read a book in the middle of things, and it turns out that baking is conducive to this, and cooking is not. I think this comparison may extend to writing as well. I like to know what I'm doing, and do it, and complete it. I'm not the type of writer who will have a bunch different plots going and hope they will all come together -- although its nice when they do! And yet there are some writers, I'm sure, who can do this, and very well. But I'll stick to baking.


Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Gotta ask: The only time I tried to bake a pie with fresh pumpkin it was too loose, like the pumpkin was too juicy. Is there a remedy?

Laura Canon said...

You definitely have to squeeze out the water before you puree it. I was using a pumpkin specifically labeled for pie. The big jack o'lantern pumpkins aren't as good for pies and I think they are kind of watery. Try it again with a small pumpkin, if you like. I'm not above buying the canned stuff myself.