This story is part of the Elbows on the Table Essay Series. Illustration by Irene Lee.
By Becka Chambliss, Imperfect’s Merchandise Marketing Manager
It all started with The Great British Bake Off.
As a parent who is reasonably responsible when it comes to not traumatizing my kid, I don’t subject her to my preferred TV: true crime shows. But I also cannot deal with cartoons so cooking shows are our sweet spot.
During the pandemic, it also became our refuge and inspiration.
I’m a stepmom. Which is to say with trepid honesty, that I don’t have a forged in childbirth, innate biological bond with my daughter. I also have a partner who is very much my opposite (in a great way) and just like her.
The two of them can debate for hours over the best Pokemon and are a ruthless duo in Mario Kart. They frequently try to solicit my participation in co-op board games while I plead for a family bike ride instead.
If they’re two peas in a pod, I’m the random carrots hanging out in the crisper next to them. Unrelated in almost every way, but usually ending up together on the plate.
Being the only carrot can feel a little lonely, but during quarantine things were different. When work and Zoom school ended for the day, she and I spent most evenings in the kitchen together. My partner is an essential worker with the late shift so it was just her and I until bedtime.
Inspired by our favorite cooking shows, we had our own bake off, an ill-fated homemade pasta night (making pasta is a marathon, not a sprint), and fell victim to delusions of culinary grandeur when we attempted, yes, sourdough starter. That perfectly baked loaf of sourdough never materialized, but a connection and bond over food did. Together we chopped, sauteed, mixed, baked, and along the way discovered we loved a lot of the same flavors.
As restrictions have eased and life is starting to make demands on us again, we’re not cooking together as much. She’s got gymnastics a few nights a week, the social calendar is ramping back up, and I’ve got the daily task of being an adult.
In two short weeks she goes back to school, the in-person kind, and she’s at that age where her friends are about to become the center of her universe.
Parents have a finite amount of time to nurture their kids before they go out into the world. We’re like that little yeast packet you pop in the dough. We help get things started until they begin to rise on their own. It’s bittersweet to realize that as we approach pandemic re-entry, we won’t have this strange bubble of undisturbed connectedness anymore. Regardless of where the world takes her from now on, I hope we’ll always have Bake Off.