Baked-good riddance

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I’ve got an egg problem. We’re overrun with them, but that’s not the problem, as we have lots of egg-eating friends. The problem is that they’re bringing a very serious character flaw of mine out in the open for all to see.

Stop me before I bake again

Stop me before I bake again

Eggs don’t just sit on the counter, waiting patiently to be eaten poached, with whole-grain toast. They want to be combined with butter and cheese, sugar and cream. They want to be omelets, or custards, or soufflés. Most of all, though, eggs beg to be baked with. And I can’t have baked goods in the house.

I can’t have anything delicious and ready to eat in the house because I am ready to eat every last bite of it. Ice cream calls to me from the freezer. “Tamar!” says the Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk, “I’m delicious, and here for the taking!” Chocolate truffles call from the Lindt box. Cashews call from the cupboard. And forget baked goods. If Kevin wants any of that leftover pecan pie, he has to tie me to the mast and stop up my ears before he goes to work in the morning.

Kevin doesn’t hear the siren song of baked goods. He’s perfectly capable of letting the cake, or the bread, or the cookies sit on the counter until he gets hungry. Then he eats one reasonable portion and puts the rest away. I don’t understand it.

“It never calls your name,” I say, bewildered.

“It never has the chance,” says Kevin.

Why do I have such trouble with this? I manage to be disciplined in other areas of my life. I exercise regularly, I’m diligent about my work, I resist a wide range of ethical temptations – only to be undone by a pumpkin bread.

That’s what it was this time. A pumpkin bread. I knew I shouldn’t have made it, but I had an open can of pumpkin puree and just enough white whole wheat flour. And eggs. Dozens and dozens of eggs.

It wasn’t even a rich, decadent pumpkin bread. It was an austere, healthful pumpkin bread. I made it that way in part because I figured I’d probably eat too much, and if it was an austere, healthful pumpkin bread the worst-case scenario wasn’t too bad. But I also figured that an austere, healthful pumpkin bread might not taste very good, and I might just be able to find it within myself to resist it.

No dice. By some fluke, this was the best austere, healthful pumpkin bread I’d ever made. I used two eggs, instead of the usual one, and it had a moist, eggy crumb. Although I made it with white whole wheat flour, it had none of that dense, grainy texture. And it was just sweet enough. (The recipe is here.)

After I’d eaten almost half – half! – I gave Kevin two big slices to see him through his train ride to New York.  The rest, I gave to my friend Linda. 

Then I called my mother to ask her why food has such a hold on me. “Well,” she said, trying to avoid the obvious answer, which is that I’m an incurable glutton. “You write about it for a living, so you think about it all the time.” Hah! If only.

“I write about it for a living because it has such a hold on me, not the other way ‘round,” I said.

“Maybe,” she admitted, and added, “I’m the same way.”

She is, although not quite as bad. But her house, like mine, is filled with ingredients. There are vegetables and fruits, grains and condiments, but not a snack to be had. If snacks are to be had, we have them, and next thing you know we don’t fit through the doorways.

Is it just us, or is this part of the human condition? I know people who bake (and write about baking) all the time, yet manage moderation. One doorway could fit three or four of Rose Levy Beranbaum, who’s perhaps the world’s leading expert on baked goods, and maybe a size six. This argues against the “human condition” theory. So what’s my problem?

Eggs. Eggs are my problem.

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Comments

  1. I hear you, Tamar! Eggs are not my problem though, sugar is. Or maybe sugar is my solution. And like you, hearing, or lack of. My familial deafness notwithstanding, I can hear the tiny peep of a lone M & M from the back of the top shelf. I just don’t understand eating only when you’re hungry. Another great post – thanks!

  2. That half of a pumpkin bread was great!!!! It didn’t even make it out of the truck. The kids and I polished it all off within minutes.
    Don’t worry, just keep baking, we will rid you of your “treat surplus” any time. Maybe you should try whipping up a chocolate mousse this weekend…..

  3. beachnitpicker says:

    I think for some bakers (ccoks, not so much) the pleasure is in the process and in the beauty of the finished product. The beauty includes, of course, the scrumptious odor and the palate-pleasing properties, but a lot of it is visual. And that’s spoiled by cutting into the art object, let alone eating it. Less egoistically, many people bake and cook mostly to please others, although not being one of those people myself, I’m inclined to believe that their productions are less delicious than mine. I also think they gravitate towards baking, which depends heavily on chemistry, so careful attention to recipes and meticulous measuring are more important than a good palate. That’s the quality, of course, that you and I possess–it couldn’t be just plain old gluttony.

  4. My problem is buttermilk. I like having it in the house to whip up a batch of pancakes, or biscuits, and it’s great in colcannon mash, and you can’t make ranch dressing without it, but don’t, do NOT pour me a glass of it. Because I will drain the glass, sucking on it, and then have another and another and another until darn it! There’s no more buttermilk and I promised Steve pancakes for breakfast! I don’t know why- most people can’t stand buttermilk, but OMG- I dig it!!

  5. We also have a glut of eggs – why are they laying so well in this cold weather? Weird, but they’re young, so less finicky about when or where they lay.

    This snacking subject is interesting. We have a whole household of people who detest sweets. The kale disappears off the plant and even faster off the plate and onions vanish, we can’t keep enough cheese or yogurt or pickles or nuts around, but the prize-winning pie will languish until it molds. I give muffins and cookies and cakes to the chickens before they are completely inedible. Hmmm. Maybe something in the genome?

  6. Mimi — In my entire life, I don’t think I’ve ever had M&Ms in the house, for that very reason.

    Linda — I’m glad the pumpkin bread went to a good home! And since there ARE eggs in chocolate mousse …

    BNP — That’s a fine rationalization. Bakers bake because they can’t cook, and we’re just better than that. I like it, I like it …

    Paula — Of all the food obsessions to have, buttermilk has got to be one of the weirdest. But I actually like buttermilk too. Not as much as you do, but enough to understand liking it so much that it calls to you.

    Beth — I know people who can resist sweets, I know people who are neutral about sweets, I even know people who prefer not to eat sweets. But this is the first I’ve heard of people who detest them! I’ll be hiding the kale when you come over! And I’m with you on the genome. I think compelling food preferences are hard-wired. But I think everything’s hard-wired …

  7. Judging by your photo you either have a high metabolism or a good photoshop program. I’ve often wondered how you keep that figure and talk so passionately about food.

    I too have no self control (and am a good 4 dress sizes bigger than you). I read cook books like porn, I’m thinking about my next meal while I eating this one, if I’ve got a good ingredient (someone dropped off 2 live crabs the other night) I will cook and eat it even if I’m not hungry. My husband is not bothered by food at all (the freak…)

    And if I cook something that someone raves about, I feel like I’ve won the Nobel prize. Part of my self worth is wrapped up in cooking good food.

    Your new lifestyle with its direct contact with ingredients and knowledge of just how much energy goes into producing it, is going to make your obsession worse. Eggs and lard are just the beginning my friend…

  8. Jen — My fondness for food means that I have to get a lot of exercise and pay close attention to what I actually eat. Weight’s always been a fight for me — I’m winning right now, but I haven’t always.

    And I know exactly what you mean about the food prize. Just last night, we had guests. They were unstinting in their praise, ate heartily, and I was ridiculously proud of myself.

    I’d like to thank the Nobel committee …

  9. I think beachnitpicker is onto something. I am much more of a baker than a cook. I like to cook, of course, but baking is like therapy…I have been known to cook 3 cakes in a matter of two days, and most of the time, we never get through them all.

    The weird thing is, the best part of the whole baking, or even the cooking, is right before the first bite when the meal looks just so perfect. Maybe this is why porcelain cake stands call to me more than M & M’s?