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For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved being in the kitchen. I grew up watching both of parents cook and my grandmother bake for every occasion. I knew my parents loved cooking just by tasting the food they made. As I grew up, I noticed that my parents varied the meals they fed us and continued to introduce my siblings and I to different foods. But my grandmother was the one who taught me to bake.

Every year for our birthdays, my grandma made us our birthday cakes from scratch. And every holiday season, she would spend hours upon hours baking Christmas cookies for everyone she knew (even though she was Jewish and didn’t celebrate Christmas). She would start Christmas cookies in September and by the beginning of December, she would have made about 120 dozen cookies. Then she’d package them all and send them to family, friends, the bus driver—literally everyone she knew. And when I was little, all I wanted was to be in the kitchen with her.

But every time I asked if I could help with the cookies, my grandma would hand me a cookie and tell me to go play. In hindsight, I understood why; baking with an eight-year-old can be frustrating especially when the product is being made for other people. However, I pressed on her and finally, when I was eleven, she let me help out. I was always close with my grandma. She lived with us until I was about fifteen and we had to move out of our house, so we were all close with her. But the relationship her and I had seemed a little more special.

After baking in the kitchen with her, I developed a passion for baking. For years, I wanted to become a professional chef and my grandma would take me to cooking classes and culinary schools to see the classes. She would take me to fancy restaurants and introduce me to different cooking techniques. I loved sharing those experiences with her and I continue to love cooking and baking, even if that’s not the path I’m choosing career wise.

I use culinary skills, now, as more of an anxiety-coping mechanism. If I’m feeling anxious about anything, working with my hands and following a recipe helps to calm me down. I channel that anxiety into focus, and I create something I like. And it reminds me of simpler times, when I would bake with my grandma for Christmas. I’ve often thought about returning to a culinary career but I think I’ll just keep it as a hobby for now.

Elementary Education Major at Monmouth University 18 she/her
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