This is going to be one of those posts. One of those where I have a vague notion of what I’m going to write and a strong feeling about it but no actual concrete plan for how I’m going to get from the beginning to the end without getting lost, losing you along the way, or both. So just be forewarned.
Last weekend, The Beloved and I attended the public wedding ceremony of two of our very dearest friends, Jennifer and Michael. Jennifer is the one who officiated at our wedding, so it was particularly poignant for us to be able to participate in their ceremony.
Aside from attending the wedding, I made pound cakes for the reception. Jennifer and Michael were not interested in a fancy cake or dessert but rather wanted something familiar and homey for guests to enjoy after dinner. Pound cakes fit the bill perfectly, and they “ordered” two chocolate, two pineapple upside down and one strawberry pound cake. They were a hit. They were so good, in fact, that many people found me during the reception or at breakfast the next morning to ask if I was the one who made the Van Halen pound cakes and that they were the best pound cakes they had ever had.
Before all that, though, we had to set the cakes up on plates and stands and slice them all for serving. We dusted them Attractively with powdered sugar, and there they sat on the dessert table as a dessertical backdrop to the toasts that people offered up to the couple. Until Michael, saying that he wanted to save the pound cakes from sitting too long, wrapped everything up with a toast to his beloved. At which point we dove in.
All pretty awesome blog fodder, no? I mean, I could’ve wrung a few procedurals out of making the cakes, glazing them and even slicing them for service. I could’ve taken all manner of photos of the batter stage, the in-the-pan-in-the-oven stage, of the cooling stage, of our drive to Asheville for the ceremony. I might have thought to whip out my camera to capture moments of the wedding itself–of blessings, of invocations, of vows exchanged, of smiling faces, of love. I could’ve taken photos of Jennifer and Michael feeding each other bits of pineapple pound cake and of other guests as they devoured pieces. Then could have come the pictures of dancing and singing and hanging out by the fire pit.
I mean, I am a blogger, after all, right? I do blog about food. Mostly desserts. And I did make the pound cakes. And they were awesome. So why no pictures? Why no play-by-play of the ceremony? Why no pictorials on cake cutting? I mean, it’s what I’m supposed to do. Document the desserts I make and then share with you all the context for why I make them.
The fact of the matter is that I have always considered myself a teacher rather than a blogger. Oh sure, sometimes I might tell you about where we went one weekend or what we did on The Beloved’s birthday or about my family and Auntie Ev’s plum pudding. But most of the time, what I really think that I am here to do is to teach. To teach you how to look at a list of ingredients and know what to do with them. To show you how to cream butter and sugar together, or to spatulate (my new favorite word, by the way) butter and sugar, until they are perfectly light and fluffy before you start adding eggs. To teach you enough of the basics to give you the confidence to decide whether you want to incorporate ingredients using the creaming method or maybe the two-stage method. Heck, I even came up with my own mixing method when I was making wedding cakes, so I want you to have that one in your repertoire, too.
Like a good teacher–like all the teachers who came before me and who have inspired me–I want to nurture your excitement about baking and cooking and to help minimize your fears. Not by showing you crazy shortcuts or recommending convenience products that contain Lord Knows What, but by sharing my knowledge. They say knowledge is power, and that is true. Knowledge also begets confidence, and when you’re confident, there’s no need to be afraid.
And guess what I knew about some of my favorite teachers’ personal lives? Not a hell of a lot. Sure, Mrs. Kale had a kid and Mr. Curtis eventually left teaching to become a preacher. I have no idea what made Miss Feaster tick, but I can still diagram a sentence. Mrs. Hill scared the shit out of me; Mrs. Audry and Mrs. Mabe ate at our house for dinner once apiece (I was that kid), but as far as I knew, they lived at the school.
Would my education have been any richer knowing what Mr. Williams’ hobbies were or how Mr. Brevard liked his eggs cooked or if Mrs. Smith had to take some sort of MAOI? I don’t think so, because education is about knowing yourself, not your teachers.
So, does this make me a bad blogger? I dunno; maybe. But I know this for sure: I am a good teacher. I am, in fact, a very good teacher. I know this because you guys, my “students,” tell me all the time that you’ve learned a lot about baking because of what you read and see and watch here. You know that if you ask, I will answer (except for the folks who are still waiting on that egg foam tutorial. I haven’t forgotten you, and I sleep fitfully), and you will learn something from the exchange.
Yes, I still want to share parts of my life with you–after all, it’s a big, wide voyeuristic Hinternet, and I am enough of an exhibitionist that I will occasionally feel the need to streak, as it were. Some parts of my life, though, like the wedding last week? It did occur to me many times throughout the weekend that “now would be an Excellent time to take some photos.” But you know what stayed my hand, what made me keep my P&S in my pocket, even amidst all the tell-tale beeps and trills of other folks’ cameras, phones and video recorders? It was the intimacy of the affair. I looked around at all the people with whom they chose to surround themselves to bless their union, and I knew that each and every one of us was dear to them and had been invited for that dearness. And it was not my place to invite anyone else into that circle with us.
So, I share with you my pound cakes, but keep the wedding itself. I share with you a green smoothie idea or three but choose not to go on about my body image. I freely give you Auntie Ev’s plum pudding recipe but minimize the saga of our dwindling family. I share with you The Beloved’s birthday dessert but am selfish with his name.
I know that what I offer is solid information. I know that you will become a better, more confident baker by hanging out with me here, by asking questions, and by getting in the kitchen and baking. The pictures I take will never grace the cover of a magazine, but they will illustrate a point. I don’t want you to drool over my food. I want your family to drool over your food. I am a teacher.