When I began this blog, I called it “Icing and Ink” because I thought that in addition to writing, I sometimes would post about baked goods. Finally, here’s one.
I write a lot in cafes and bakeries. I am motivated by muffins as it were. In fact, I believe in the power of baked goods. They have physical, emotional, even spiritual qualities.
How do we stereotypically welcome someone to a community? By bringing over a pie or cookies or brownies. It is a symbol of celebration and fellowship. It shows abundance.
Most descriptions of feasts have some kind of table “groaning with pies.” In “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” one of the first thing Ichabod Crane notes in the Van Tassel mansion is: “the ample charms of a genuine Dutch country tea-table, in the sumptuous time of autumn. Such heaped up platters of cakes of various and almost indescribable kinds, known only to experienced Dutch housewives! There was the doughty doughnut, the tender olykoek, and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes and short cakes, ginger cakes and honey cakes, and the whole family of cakes. And then there were apple pies, and peach pies, and pumpkin pies…”
In Washington Irving’s story, the food has a metaphorical connotation, both sexual and avaricious. This makes sense. Years ago a study showed the number one smell that arouses men isn’t perfume, but pumpkin pie.
There’s a reason that grocery stores place their bakeries at the front and waft the air towards people as they walk in. It quickens our step. It both comforts and excites.
There also is another aspect to baked goods. The New York Times reported on recent studies that show people up for parole stand a better chance at being granted it if their cases are heard early in the morning or right after lunch or a snack break. We are more open-minded and willing to consider choices when our blood sugar level is up. When it declines, we mentally shut down to conserve our energy.
Years ago, when I was in graduate school, there was a tradition of bringing baked goods when you defended your thesis. On the one hand, I thought it was ridiculous. It struck me as a submissive, fawning, gesture. On the other hand, it made sense. Good fences may make for good neighbors, but good brownies make for good moods.