New novel The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughn goes back and forth in time between 1966 when Kathleen Eaden, cookbook writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, published her cookbook and launched her culinary career, and the present day when five amateur bakers are competing to become the New Mrs. Eaden. The audiobook, read in a delightful British accent by Julie Barrie, is full of hopes, struggles, secrets, unlikely alliances, and delicious descriptions of baked goods. It’s hard to listen to without getting hungry. Inspired by the audiobook, our kitchen-phobic publicist Mitali took on a culinary challenge.
The Art of Baking Blind description says, “There are many reasons to bake: to feed; to create; to impress; to nourish; to define ourselves; and, sometimes, it has to be said, to perfect.” I learned with my little experiment that I don’t fit any of those categories. But I’ll keep trying.
I’m not an expert baker. I’ll be honest, I’m not even a great baker. My idea of baking involves having my mom do the actual baking. I just serve it. This weekend I decided to try to make banana bread. Simple enough, right?
It was an utter disaster. It started out innocently enough with grand ambitions of making more than one loaf. I had done my research, looked up recipes on Cookstr. And I had mom on standby. What could go wrong? Turns out, everything.
I could blame myself for this, but I blame Amy Poehler. Why? I was listening to the Yes Please audiobook while prepping. This was my first mistake. I’m not the best listener so I have to intensely concentrate when I’m listening to audiobooks. I can’t do anything but listen, but I was at the point in the book where I couldn’t stop. That was my second mistake. I really should have stopped listening and paid attention to what I was doing, but I couldn’t because Amy was dropping life lessons and truth bombs before you could even hit pause.
Here’s an old quote from Ruth Reichl in Gourmet magazine that someone shared with me: “I think that audiobooks are one of the world’s truly excellent inventions. .”
While I agree that audiobooks are the greatest inventions, I tried to picture myself doing as Ruth did and failed. That should’ve been a sign! Personally, I’m better off listening to the audiobook while someone else does the peeling, chopping, and stirring.
I was fairly excited but distracted by Amy and therefore the following mistakes were made solely because of her:
- Preheating the oven to 450°F not 350°F
- Forgetting to butter the loaf pan
- Mixing up the flour and the baking powder measurements
- Instead of walnuts as the recipe called for I added chocolate chips because well…because
- Burnt bread because I overheated the oven
The Art of Baking Blind epigraph quotes The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” That should have been my warning, but I am ever the optimist and so I shall try again and again. Until I get it right.
Do you listen while you bake? And what have you been cooking up?