She probably knew this all along, but like many of us, she first set aside her passions and inclinations in order to fulfill a socially conventional role. I think we all do this; it must be part of the Earth Education. She became an attorney laboring in entertainment law in Los Angeles. SoCal is a cruel place, and The Industry particularly so. Accordingly, she started baking “in search of balance and hope”.
I’ve been pulled back in to cooking and baking lately. When I was married to Mike years ago I baked all the household breads several times a week and pretty much made all meals and desserts from scratch. After our divorce I got away from that and for several very distracted years essentially nuked everything. A new frugality along with an urge to once again eat more healthfully brings me back to my kitchen. When I heard about Gesine and her book Confections of a Closet Master Baker, I leapt at the chance to meet her.
What a friendly and engaging woman! Ours was an intimate gathering of bibliophiles at a local beachside cantina. Gesine spoke of how she moved with her husband and dogs to Vermont, how she started Gesine Confectionary and launched a neighborhood business. A bright warmth and love of life radiated from her as she described that she would rather feed people and teach people than sell product. In her book she describes herself as a misanthrope. I sure didn’t see that.
Her hands moved as she described the flours and chocolates of her childhood Germany; I could smell the cocoa and taste the butter in the croissants and breads she described. She made me remember the feel of kneading yeast dough, and the satisfaction of a cupboard full of homemade rolls, breads, cakes, and biscuits. She made me remember Germany, and walking around Heidelberg with Doug one night, slightly tipsy on wine, as we searched restaurant after restaurant until we found the perfect chocolate mousse. I remembered stopping in German and Austrian pastry shops and seeing the bees buzzing, no one shooing them away, on the rolls drizzled with honey. How the flour tasted unlike anything I’d ever had before. How the chocolate was the best I’d ever experienced.
I didn’t have to search for chocolate tonight. We each had our own dessert plate. Yum.
It seems to me that for Gesine baking is meditation. She writes: “As I mix butter, flour, and sugar, I’m relaxed and accepting. I can see all those parts of my mother, my father, my grandmother, and my sister, all mixed up to make me.” She’s right. Cooking and baking with love. Feeding your loved ones. Nourishing them. Sharing food. That’s what makes a home magical.
I admire Gesine. I aspire to her self-realization. Of her personal journey she writes: “ I didn’t want more stuff. I wanted to be more happy. I wanted to be good. I wanted to stop hating people and start understanding. And the only way I knew how to feel like a good and kind person was through baking.”
Perhaps, if we each listened to the small voice inside of us as Gesine did, we could become who we have been trying to be all along. We could be happier. We could (apologies to Mr. Gandhi) be the magic we want to see in the world. She and I spoke briefly of magic. She gets it. She lives it.
Gesine has another book in the works. I can hardly wait. She also mentioned that in her new house she has various ovens and a... cauldron (!). That makes me gleeful. Now, whenever I see her sister Sandy in one of my favorite movies, Practical Magic, I shall in my mind’s eye see instead Gesine with her own particular brand of magic, and I'll smile. And then probably go bake something.