I don’t always bake, but when I do… wait, I never bake. That’s what made my recent urge to make a mess in the kitchen a little unsettling. I was enjoying an evening cup of coffee when visions of pumpkin bread danced in my head.
One of my favorite comfort treats when I travel is a Starbucks coffee and a slice of their amazingly moist and yummy pumpkin bread. But it was cold and rainy night and a drive-through run was out of the question. No problem, I said to myself. I have three cans of pumpkin in the pantry left over from Thanksgiving. How hard can it be to make pumpkin bread? I found an online recipe that promised to be “just like Starbucks’” so it was decided; I would bake.
With recipe in hand I opened the pantry and gathered all the ingredients; flour, sugar, pumpkin, spices, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking soda and baking powder. With everything assembled it was obvious that the can of baking powder was aged. The paper wrapper was faded and even the package design seemed vintage. I searched for an expiration date. There it was: March 1996.
I was astonished. What in the world would I have bought baking powder for in the 90’s? For Heaven’s sake, I had toddlers in ‘96; I barely bathed let alone baked. Old or not the baking powder would be put to the test. It’s not like I was adding 20-year-old eggs to the mix. And so I set about measuring and stirring until a beautiful amber mix was poured into two bread pans – which I do remember buying to use in our sand box in the 90’s.
With full anticipation of success, I slipped the pans into my preheated oven. An hour later out came two pumpkin loaves as delicious as any coffee house treat I ever tasted. Admittedly, though they lacked the statue of the original. It seems that while the baking powder had some effect, its staleness kept the bread from rising to it’s full potential. Still, it was tasty, so I sent a loaf to my husband’s office. It’s diminutive height was noted but reportedly consumed with gusto.
Now, having tasted a modicum of baking success I was determined to make a treat that would be every bit as perfect as the original. This time I set my sights greater than a Starbucks treat. I would duplicate a true master – my mom. She is famous for her chocolate sheet cake. Since I had offered to bring a birthday cake to an event, one I had fully intended to purchase, I decided I would attempt ‘the cake.”
I bought all fresh ingredients for this attempt. I read over the instruction several times until I was confident I had the procedure and all the ingredients and cooking paraphernalia assembled. Then I launched my baking assault. Whisking, stirring, melting, measuring, pouring, (only three phone calls to mom) mixing, baking, and finally icing.
It looked and smelled just like mom’s but the real test would be in the tasting at the birthday party. Of course, that would be a terrible time to find out the cake was inadequate – but I’ve always been a risk taker. Then again, using the freshest ingredients and doing everything by the book eliminated most of the risk – for all of us. Indeed, to my relief, the cake was a triumph.
What I discovered from my foray into the baking was not an inner desire to have my own cooking show. Nor do I now love baking. My little kitchen adventure showed me something more important: the dangers of letting things you might need grow stale. Life, like recipes, often demands from us something essential that we have not had cause to use in a while. Circumstances may call for unique wisdom, perseverance, patience, forgiveness, peace, sacrifice, or any number of “special ingredients” so that we can find triumph in the moment.
The only way we can be sure these are kept fresh and ready to be used at anytime is to make sure we are constantly replenishing them.
“But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:14-16
God’s Word is both the recipe book and the panty that provides everything we need to be equipped no matter what is brewing in the future. Our part is to be refreshed by it every single day so that when things heat up, what we produce resembles the Original.