“Happiness is Baking”

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Lily Sickman-Garner

“Happiness is baking cookies. Happiness is giving them away. And serving them, and eating them, talking about them, reading and writing about them, thinking about them, and sharing them with you.” This is how Maida Heatter began her most recent and final recipe book, “Happiness is Baking.” Heatter passed away on June 6, 2019, at age 102. “Happiness is Baking” was her last of 14 cookbooks, and possibly her most relevant in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As social distancing becomes increasingly necessary, more and more people are looking to baking as a way to pass time and be creative while staying at home. The recipes found in “Happiness is Baking” are meticulously written, and range from classic chocolate chip cookies to a decadent chocolate layer cake. The cheerful illustrations that accompany each recipe give the entire book a sense of comfort and brightness, and the recipes themselves are accessible for beginners but also complex enough to satisfy more advanced bakers. 

The current global pandemic is inspiring a variety of emotions in different people: boredom, grief and, for many, rising levels of stress. In the introduction to “Happiness is Baking,” Heatter described a time she saw a doctor speaking on television about stress and the dangers it can impose. 

“[He] listed ways of coping with stress. Exercise. Diet. Do yoga. Take a walk. I yelled, ‘Bake cookies,’” she wrote. “Baking is a great escape. It’s happiness. It’s creative. It’s good for your health. It reduces stress.” Although “Happiness is Baking” provides many quick and simple recipes, it also has some that are more time consuming. Several need to be left overnight to set, or refrigerated for several hours before being frosted or filled. Currently, many people find themselves in the rare position of having an abundance of time and very little to do with it. These more intensive recipes allow bakers to use their time spent social distancing well, to view it as an opportunity instead of a loss.

“Happiness is Baking” is the perfect cookbook for the COVID-19 pandemic. It celebrates baking at any skill level, simply for the sake of creating something. With the fast-paced nature of modern society, most people spend a large part of their time doing things because they have to. To find themselves without some of the responsibilities and time constraints they are used to is, for many, a jarring and difficult experience. “Happiness is Baking” invites its readers to view this time as a gift, a spot of brightness which, in light of the suffering caused by the current pandemic, is more crucial now than ever.