For many people the idea of baking conjures up thoughts of a flour-covered Julia Childs, or perhaps memories of their mothers and grandmothers taking treats out of the oven. To some this image of a traditionally feminine pursuit doesn’t align with contemporary feminism, but the process of baking could actually be doing far more for your mental health and self-empowerment than you realise.
Baking is a deeply personal experience that aids more than just your taste buds. The shift from chore to hobby has enabled women to take back the baking as a form of empowerment, using the process to develop a firmer idea of themselves and their place in the world.
By drawing parallels with baking, women can get a physical understanding of how mixing a set list of ingredients may never turn out the same for everyone. The flour and eggs become career and family, and each woman can produce a different result – each delicious in their own way. By being so deeply involved with the process, the reward at the end is equal parts personal achievement, affirmation and deliciousness.
Baking is also hugely advantageous for improving mental health, with benefits that include increased mindfulness, satisfaction and sensory pleasure. By using baking as a form of behavioural activation, bakers that struggle with depression or other mood disorders can escape into a focused activity, occupying the whole mind/body spectrum. This redirection of thoughts is a subconscious form of therapy.
More and more adults are turning to baking to relieve stress and anxiety, with many finding the practice enlightening and a perfect way to re-focus on something other than what is troubling them. “The physical act of baking, the way that you knead bread for example, takes your mind out of the intellectual and connects you to your body,” Julia Ponsonby, author of’ ‘The Art of Mindful Baking’ told HuffPost.
“For example when you’re baking sourdough, you’re letting things develop at their own pace and you’re observing them. I think not trying to control everything and accepting that things will happen when they’re ready is a useful tool to have in life,” she says. “We’re always afraid of missing out on opportunities, but when we slow down, we often become more successful in life because we gain a heightened sense of awareness,” Ponsonby says.
The sisterhood of bakers is demonstrative of how the activity has transcended the boundary of ‘housewife obligation’ to become what is now – a mentally beneficial feminist pursuit. In Nigella Lawson’s baking cookbook ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’ she writes how taking back the hobby is a step in the right direction for feminism. “There’s something intrinsically misogynistic about decrying a tradition because it has always been female,” Nigella writes.