Being a Baker

Working at the Main Library has surprising advantages. Just now I stepped out of my office, walked five paces across the hall, scanned a badge, and walked under the civic center plaza to the elevator that stretches from beneath the earth up to the mayor’s office on the fourteenth floor. I didn’t have so far to go—just up one level to the utilities counter, where a sympathetic, amused woman named Sue shut down my gas payments. It took less than five minutes.

I finished packing up my kitchen days ago. My cake pans were in boxes sometime early last week. But as I walked through the underground loading dock on my way back to the office, I was distinctly aware of the finality of what I’d just done. I would never, from that moment on, be able to bake for anyone out of that kitchen.

Maybe it doesn’t seem like a very big deal, but I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of a certain identity, namely being “the person who bakes a lot”. I made a tiered wedding cake for some friends (because their original plan of buying a Costco sheet cake sounded fairly sad), princess cake for a Swedish friend feeling homesick, banoffee pie for my Irish friend who hadn’t tasted it since moving to the States over a decade before, pecan pie for another friend’s Thanksgiving dinner, maple bourbon pecan peach pie for another friend’s birthday, Canal House chocolate chip cookies for a dozen odd events, buttermilk breakfast cake for Saturday morning visitors, orange olive oil cake for backyard dinners, and so many cakes, breads, pies, cookies, tarts, tortes, and more for so many gatherings, celebrations, holidays, birthdays, and births past counting.

Packing has been hard. I’ve shed a lot of tears. This apartment, this kitchen, have meant a lot to me over the last four years. But as I walked away from city hall, realizing that my last baking project in that kitchen (two almond tortes) was now irrevocably far behind me, I felt…free. I am no longer the person who bakes a lot. I’m just myself.
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