Nothing wrong with a comfort zone.

My daughter lovingly (at least that’s how I choose to hear it) teases me that I think cake is the answer to everything. I see where’s she’s coming from–anytime someone is sick, had a bad day, did something nice for us, etc., my first thought is “I need to bake them a cake.” And while she may be right, that I think cake is the answer to everything, I also think I might be right: maybe it IS the answer to everything.

Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream, Smashed Heath Bars, and Salted Caramel Sauce.
Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream, Smashed Heath Bars, and Salted Caramel Sauce.

This week was challenging. I was grateful for Friday’s arrival because the week felt like being knocked around and tumbled about inside a Laundromat sized dryer. I had a morning of bliss, thankful to be able to just breathe a bit. And then just shortly after lunch, the cat ran into the room with thread dragging from his mouth. Great. Knowing how incredibly serious thread or string ingestion can be, my husband and I grabbed him and hauled him off to the vet for emergency surgery that literally saved his life. Upon arrival at the vet’s on Saturday morning to collect our eclectic eater, we were told he had a fever. Best case, it was just stress from pain and once the meds kicked in, he’d be fine. Worst case, peritonitis was settling in and we’d be looking at rushing him to the emergency vet for round the clock care and potentially more surgery that still may not save his life.  Dejected, we came home to wait for an update.

After a fair amount of sitting in my kitchen chair thinking about not thinking about the cat,  I decided to start working on a test cake for next weekend. I turned on some music, made some Irish Coffee, and started the rhythm of sifting, weighing, mixing, tasting, tweaking, and baking. With the rain pouring down outside, a collection of Black-Capped Chickadees, Varied Thrushes, Juncos, and a squirrel family eating seeds in the rain out my window, and the warmth of the oven and tender sweet scent of cake inside, I found my way to my comfort zone. A call shortly thereafter informed us that the fever was dropping, it was pain not infection, and the madly spinning world righted and slowed to a reasonable pace.

Cake and the production thereof is my comfort zone, though certainly the beauty of a comfort zone is that it’s nondescript. It can be anything to anyone. For Jennifer, one of her comfort zones is also her kitchen. Not just cooking for her family of 5, but also canning and preserving. The laying in of provisions is indeed a comforting thing. It’s her lovely way to honor the generations before her, continuing their traditions of not wasting, of stopping the clock right at a fruit’s sweetest point, of ensuring the fish her husband caught that day will make a nourishing meal not just today, but in the future. It’s a sweet, time-honored way to love your family and honor your ancestors with actions, not just words. It is a physical manifestation of the loving efforts we make today in order to affect change on the future. An understandable comfort zone.

Today, Jennifer will come and collect the cake for her husband’s birthday–a chocolate sour cream cake with salted caramel buttercream, smashed Heath bars, and salted caramel sauce combined as a nod to his true favorite, Jennifer’s freshly made chocolate chip cookies. Talk about comfort zone; it’s hard to think of anything more comforting than warm chocolate chip cookies made by someone you love.

Here’s to comfort zones. Be it making cakes in a kitchen on a rainy day after a tough week, preserving nature’s bounty for your family’s benefit in the future, or freshly made chocolate chip cookies made by someone who loves you, there’s nothing in the world wrong with finding your comfort zone and refuge.

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