Detours from home: Baking to feel a little less lonely

Detours from home: Baking to feel a little less lonely
Seeing the yeast bloom, smelling vanilla, touching the fermenting dough brings me comfort

[Editor’s note: Detours from home is a Rappler column where readers can share about the new things they have learned while in quarantine. A self-taught baker shares how baking has been helping him live through isolation. You, too, can share your own Detours from home story.]

The week before the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was the most anxiety-inducing time of my life. It included multiple grocery trips, excessive house cleaning, and late-night solo dance parties vibing to Robyn in my bedroom.

I spent most of my time scrolling through my news feed, searching for developing stories about the coronavirus. I grew more anxious day by day. I felt like I was falling into a deep, dark pit of despair and hopelessness every time I would see the growing number of infections and deaths.

I was aware that my mental health was on a steady decline, so I tried my best to mitigate the anxiety that I was feeling: I organized our kitchen cabinets, alphabetized my books, and cleaned my room and bathroom. But nothing seems to be helping.

That was until the night of the official start of the ECQ. I could not sleep so, I thought of baking strawberry cupcakes.

All photos by Maru Alberto


It reminded me of when I was just starting to learn how to bake, that what drew me to baking was the way it engages all of my senses and how I’ve come to attach these sensory experiences to certain memories.

At that moment, my most important memories were those days before the lockdown when I could still bake for the people I love the most. So, seeing the yeast bloom, smelling vanilla, listening to the bubbling caramel sauce, tasting chocolate ganache, and touching the fermenting dough – all of these bring me back to those memories and give me comfort.

Baking now, for me, is like listening to a white noise machine. It shuts out the nagging fears about the future and forces me to be in the present. It requires me to focus and to perform procedures with intent and precision or else I’ll end up with nothing. I get so immersed in each step of the process that I sometimes get lost in the mixing, whipping, folding. By the time I’m done, I’m already feeling more relaxed and excited to try the treats I’ve just made.

Like a lot of people out there, I was already starting to lose my mind while stuck at home, feeling like I wasn’t accomplishing anything. Baking has helped me overcome that feeling of guilt. More importantly, it made me realize how my definition of productivity has solely been based on my job and how I need to change that.

For the sake of documentation, I posted a couple of photos of the strawberry cupcakes I made on Twitter. I shared how baking was the only way I could cope with the ECQ. The next morning, I woke up to 250 people who have liked the photos, which never happens to anything that I post. People whom I haven’t talked to for a while and even random strangers were sending their replies. All of them seemed really pleased.

Getting a positive reaction like that made me feel less lonely and less isolated. I didn’t know how rewarding it felt until I caught myself smiling at their replies. What really surprised me was the fact that people whom I didn’t even know were responding to my tweet. I imagined that those people were probably just like me, staying at home, feeling lonely, and yearning for any kind of interaction apart from their family or their cat.

Since that day, I started sharing more photos of the things I made from my kitchen on social media with the hopes of connecting with more people through our love for baking and cooking. I send heart emojis to people who are posting their baked goods online. I share cooking tips with friends who are finding themselves cooking for their families for the first time.

I realized that at this time where the norm is to physically distance yourself from other people as much as you can, somehow the people I meet online are coping with isolation by doing the opposite – by connecting and engaging even with strangers. We are all in this together after all. –

Maru, who lives in Marikina, is a self-taught baker who learned his way around the kitchen by watching Ina Garten, Rachel Ray, and Giada De Laurentiis.

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