Cooking vs. Baking

 By no means am I a baker. 
I am a maker of salads and soups, griller of vegetables and meats, and consumer of omelettes and oatmeal.


The only things I bake are two crisps - Shauna Niequist's blueberry crisp and With Food + Love's cranberry apple crisp. 
For one, although I like baked goods, I do not eat them on a consistent basis, thus I find no need to bake them. 
Secondly, I have learned that baking is very different from cooking. 

Take banana bread, for example. 

One Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago, I did bake. I woke up inspired to bake a lovely banana bread after seeing it on Supper at Six's blog. 

I tried playing around with the recipe: I subbed half the flour for whole wheat flour, and didn't have baking soda on hand, so I replaced it with baking powder. After taking it out of the oven and cutting a slice, I realized it still needed to bake and popped it back in.

Ultimately, the bread was a bit dense, but tasted good, and I was satisfied with that. 

But back to the difference between baking and cooking. 
You see, baking is a science. Its recipes are very strict and specific: each ingredient and step of preparation has a purpose and cannot be forgotten. 
If you are in the business of baking, you are in the business of precision. 

Thankfully, I do not find myself in that arena very often. 
Cooking is where I find joy and creativity. Having learned the basics, I find I can cook with (an absurd amount of) flexibility
If I don’t have an ingredient, no worries! If I don’t like the taste of a dressing, let me adjust it until it suites my tastebuds. I can eyeball a measurement; I can follow a recipe loosely. 

Cooking is an observation-based process that you can’t do if you’re so completely focused on a recipe.
— Alton Brown

I think so often we try to live our lives like we’re following a baking recipe: we have to do x, y, and z because society or a friend or a thought leader says we have to in order to succeed. Not that the formula doesn’t produce good results, but it forgets a factor: we’re human. 

Sometimes we set the timer for the wrong amount of time (or forget to set it at all). Sometimes we think we’re smart to choose one path over another. Sometimes we forget steps altogether and wind up with flat cupcakes or we misread instructions and have to toss the whole thing out. 

Cooking allows for mistakes.

Cooking says, “Hey, it’s ok that you forgot the rosemary – it’ll still taste good.” Or “You added too much salt?  Increase the quantity of your main-non-salty ingredients.” Learn and work around your mistakes. 
Because I know the basics, I know how to respond when I make a mistake. 

The same goes for life. 

I make mistakes – some more glaring than others – yet I know the basics. 
I know the core truths for my life: despite my decisions, my thinkings, my mistakes, my value is not in my performance. 

For one, I have a God who rules sovereign yet is intimately involved with my life. And that means that I am loved, I am treasured, I have meaning, I have giftings. 

God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.
— Romans 8:29-30


When I read the Scriptures, I’m reminded why I’m in this fight. I’m reminded of the glory of my God. 

I love how Jennie Allen phrased it:
“It’s not about being strong and prepared – it’s about obeying God and him being enough for us.”
Those basics cannot be shaken by my mess-ups. 

And here’s the thing – every chef (and home-cook) slips up. (Just watch Chopped, and you’ll see)
And so that’s my little spiel on living with a cooking mindset vs. a baking one.

I hope it inspires you to cook and create fearlessly and with grace – I hope it inspires you to encourage others in their creations and to give them grace.


If you’re interested,  click here for the recipe that I followed for the banana bread mentioned above.
This is banana bread with banana chunks and almond slivers. But the best part is the turbinado sugar on top. If I could change anything about how I made it, I would have added more sugar. It adds a thin crust on top that makes it stand out from all the other banana breads. 
Oh, and the almonds on top? I meant to sprinkle them on half way through the cook-time, but forgot (oops, told you I'm not a baker), but they were still a nice addition. Try it, let me know, sorry if they burn. 

This is my advice to people: Learn how to cook, try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun.
— Julia Child