Every once in a while I get the urge to bake chocolate chip cookies. Or chocolate brownies with melted chocolate drizzled over them. Or devil’s food cake or maybe slow cooked chocolate fudge.
On normal days, I enter the kitchen with about the same amount of reluctance that others would face the inquisition. Every utensil and tool there seems to rear up and look at me like they can think of myriad ways of chopping me up and casting me out so that I never again disrespect the sanctity of the place with my slipshod ways.
Thus, in my mind, the small white dish rack, takes on the shape of a medieval rack stretching my bones and muscles and popping my joints out of their sockets. The handy vegetable slicer and crusher seems to have my head in a vise, subjecting it to enough pressure to crack my jaw and make my teeth fall out.
Yes, you got it. The kitchen is not my favourite room of the house — so why, then, do I get these urges to don an apron and start sifting flour and cocoa and tossing nuts and chocolate chips around?
I used to tell myself that it was not an “escape from” but a “resort to” and I was clearing my mind to better concentrate on whatever I was writing — and at the same time I was preparing something delicious for the household and friendly neighbours or any visitors who happened to drift in.
But now, the household is practically empty. There is no one around who can be inveigled into eating those sugar and butter-filled calorie bombs, but it does not stop me from my now not-so-secret pastime.
And every couple of weeks, whether there is a party in the offing or not; whether we anticipate visitors or not; whether we are planning to go off to meet someone who may appreciate my efforts or not; I still slink into the kitchen and get out those bowls and sieves and whisks and begin to indulge myself.
The results, of course, might find their way to a child’s birthday party or into a friend’s send-off gift or just get hidden in the freezer, but I emerge from my lair feeling replete — having licked down all the chocolate that clung to the bowls — and sometimes quite fulfilled because I figured out exactly what should happen next in my story.
I don’t feel guilty about “wasting” my time away from the laptop. The deadline I had been labouring under has come closer, but I was “in deep thought”, wasn’t I? And surely, when I get down to work again, everything will move faster, considering how it was worked out in my head.
Actually, for me, almost certainly not.
It takes just as long — maybe even longer — to get to the story, whether I was stuck over the beginning or the middle or the end. I rue those wasted hours (and the empty calories I had consumed) but I don’t admit even to myself that it was all just a ruse. Another way of putting off what I didn’t want to do.
But now there is a name for this: Procrastibaking — and apparently there are many people in the world who are thus afflicted.
Now that a spade has been called a spade, and all I have been doing on those many, many occasions is postponing the inevitable and prolonging the agony of actually writing, you would think I’d stay far away from the oven and the cocoa and the flour.
But no. That doesn’t seem to be happening.
Instead, with safety in numbers, and a whole lot of others like me baking up a storm — anyone for ready-in-a-jiffy chocolate chip cookies?
Cheryl Rao is a journalist based in India.