Under Pressure

I find baking a very calming. It does nothing good to my waistline, but it does wonders at giving my mind time to work through anything that is bothering me. Since I began writing this blog, I have found it helpful for ordering my thoughts and now keep a notebook to hand for writing down the words that spring to mind between adding ingredients that might be lost if I waited for a more convenient moment to recall them. 

“What do my baking habits have to do with the subject of organ transplants?” I hear you ask as you reach for the mouse to close your browser tab.

During the weeks I waited to hear if I would be placed on the transplant list, I baked a lot.  I had so many worries, thoughts and plans going running around in my head. 

“Was I too sick to get on the list?”

“Can I deal with knowing that someone will have died so I could live?”

“Who was going to take care of my arthritic husband?”

“Would I be able to cope with the pain of major surgery?”

“How long would I be in hospital?”

“What if I die, will they cope?”

“I need to write a will.”

Baking was the one time I found myself relaxing and letting go of the constant strain and stress. Stress is one thing you really don’t need when you have any kind of chronic health condition. It can mess with your sleep patterns, blood pressure, mental health and your food intake just to mention a few of the more obvious ones.  We are all different and all react in different ways when under pressure. Waiting for a transplant is pressure with flashing lights and sirens.

Talk to your family, friends or your doctor. If you share the concerns and fears that you have, they will stop seeming impossible or overwhelming and become things you can ask questions about during your hospital appointments. Write them down in a notebook or record them with an app on your phone. The important thing is to ask the questions so that you can learn to live with the answers. So, use the things that works for you, that eases the stress. We are all different you just need to find what works for you. It may be walking, tai chi, yoga, puzzles or maybe even baking, the possibilities are endless.

Baking works for me on several levels. Firstly, it is methodical. You follow a recipe and you hopefully end up with an expected result. I am not an orderly person in my everyday life so baking offers a time when I can switch off and follow the instructions. Which strangely allows me to work through my issues and with the bonus of having cake to eat too. It also gives me a sense of connection to family. I learnt to cook with my Mother and Grandmother. Many of the things that I bake are from recipes that have been passed down over the years After lots of practice, I finally get results that taste pretty good. For me baking is my thing, music helps too but I’m not so sure that Mother would have approved of Pink Floyd playing in the kitchen.

Nannie’s Norfolk Shortcakes

A short cake with dried fruit.

12 ozs Plain flour

4 ozs Lard

4 ozs Caster sugar

4 ozs Currants (any other died fruit can be used if preferred)

Cold water to mix

Makes approx. 12 cakes.

Rub the lard into the flour. Add the caster sugar, fruit and mix together. Add water to create a soft dough. Roll out to a thickness of about an inch. Score lines diagonally creating diamond patterns and cut into pieces. Place on baking sheet and bake at 200c/180c fan for 7 minutes before rotating the sheet and baking for a further 8 minutes or until firm and starting turn brown. Leave to cool on the tray for 10 minutes.

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