About 3 years ago, my parents and I went to visit Kor in Australia where his company had sent him for a short work stint. One of the days during our two-week holiday, we took a day tour along Melbourne’s picturesque Great Ocean Road, all the way to the 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and Gipson Steps.
Our tour guide was witty, informative and I remember him sharing with us about how taking visitors out to tour Melbourne gave him a thrill, a buzz, that made him want to jump out of bed every morning to share the beauty of his country with them. He not only loved being able to show off Australia’s gorgeous landscapes, he also relished being able to meet people from all over the world and interact with them, albeit for just that one day.
Just this afternoon as I was taking a swim, I suddenly thought back to this man and this idea of getting a buzz out of doing something you love.
All through my childhood and teenagehood, it never crossed my mind that I would ever enter the world of baking. It never seemed to be in my blood. Sure, I could cook an egg, whip up a pot of instant noodles, and make pasta – not necessarily from scratch. I never showed much flair for cooking or baking during the home economics classes we had to attend back in Secondary School. I remember making curry puffs with my partner and not cooking out the spices enough so they still tasted raw. I recall making mini sponge cakes that tasted incredible, only to find that swallowing them almost choked my friends and I as it was drier than the Sahara desert. And our pancake session resulted in the guys having a pancake flipping competition, so of course my partner eagerly entered himself into the impromptu session of pancake tossing.
It was only during my A levels when I was in London living with my grandparents that my interest in baking picked up. Grandma’s lighter than air pandan chiffon cakes always carried with them a comforting sense of nostalgia as the familiar sweet pandan flavour weaved through their crumbs. It tasted of home for me.
So one afternoon, as grandma plodded around the kitchen collecting her ingredients to create some of her kitchen magic, I watched. Observing her whisk and fold and pour the batter into the cake tin, then seeing the fruit of her labour come into fruition as the cake rose magestically in the oven and its fragrant aroma punctuate the air piqued my interest. How could eggs, flour and sugar – elements entirely separate, come together to form something so wonderful to eat?!
The first cake that grandma taught me to make was the butter cake. I know now that my initial attempts at this cake weren’t close to perfect, but they were edible and the joy it brought me bringing my bakes to school and sharing them with my friends was immense. From baking butter cakes, I delved into grandma’s plethora of baking books and began to work my way through them.
When I returned back to Singapore, my interest wavered and it was when I fell into the ED and had to take a semester off school that I began to bake again. I started at first, to bake because I found it therapeutic following one step after another, weighing each ingredient with precision and putting everything together to create something edible. We often had too much cake and cookies left around the house so Mum and Dad would distribute them to our neighbours, share them with our security guards, and take some to church for the aunties and uncles to eat. They would come home and tell me how much everyone enjoyed the sweets. It was only when I began to attend church again and had the uncles and aunties gush to me about which cakes they loved or which cookies they devoured, did I actually believe what my parents had told me. That spurred me on to bake simply because I could see how my baking could put a smile on people’s faces. That, was my buzz.
Over the years, there have been periods where I question my decision to go into baking instead of taking up a ‘proper’ job in the office. I wonder how much more financially stable I could be if I had a regular income with a career ladder to climb. But then I ask myself if I would be happy. Perhaps.
I have seen grandma throw away cakes that didn’t make the cut – cakes that didn’t rise, cakes that turned out overly dense, batters that weren’t mixed properly. I know and understand that feeling now because I have done the same. It is that desire for perfection especially when something means an immense amount to you. It is that desire to present the very best to the people around you. It is that desire to marry both passion for baking and love for people so that the people I love receive the bakes I am most proud of.
The buzz I get when I get feedback from delighted customers; the buzz I get when I see children’s faces smothered with frosting while digging into my cakes; the buzz I get when I hear laughter and see smiles surrounding the cakes I bake… These things keep me going. These things keep me buzzing whenever I think of baking. And I cannot wait to pass my love for this art to my future children in whatever ways I can, just for them to be able to experience a little of how much of a joy baking is. Even better if that joy blossoms into something more! 🙂
So tell me, what makes you buzz?