Bread is a particular reminder of what it’s like to be an introvert who just needs time and space in order to rise.
My nana taught me how to make fudge when I was a little kid, and it’s one of my favorite childhood memories. I was a super, super, super shy, quiet kid, and while I love my family, I often ended up in the introvert conundrum of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted at big family gatherings. For introverts, especially those of us who have a hard time voicing our needs, it can be incredibly helpful to have a person who can recognize our tired-out “I need space and quiet” signals.
Deciding it was baking time, my nana took me into her kitchen — just the two of us — and showed me the fudge recipe taped inside the cabinet door. She taught me how to create a DIY double-boiler out of two saucepans, showed me exactly how much milk and chocolate to add, and demonstrated how long to stir all the ingredients. Aside from my nana’s gentle directions and the wafting smell of cocoa, the kitchen was quiet and tranquil: no sensory overload, no need to chatter on and on. It was an absolutely peaceful break from the loud, stressful world – and in the end we got fudge! What more could a shy introvert need?
Over the years, I’ve loved quiet baking adventures with my mother, roommates, and (especially) by myself. During the pandemic, so many people started baking that flour and other baking products flew off the shelves. How’s that for proof that baking is a great stay-at-home-by-yourself activity? And since you end up with cake or bread or another delicious concoction, it’s a win-win. The more I practice, the more I’ve come to realize that baking is an art form that can help introverts embrace their quiet nature.
Here are the reasons why baking is my introvert haven, and how it helps me embrace my introversion.
3 Ways Baking Helps Me Embrace My Introversion
1. Food is my area of expertise — and that brings me out of my introvert shell.
I’m pretty quiet in most situations — in school, at the gym, even when I’m teaching English or yoga in my own classroom — but ask me about vegan food and I’ll talk your ears off. Oh wait, did you just mention you want to try baking bread? Let me tell you all about my loaves. Coming from someone who is terrified of most conversations, it was a pretty big deal to find out I actually might have a lot to say. While we may appear deceptively quiet or lost in our own thoughts, I promise you that introverts do actually enjoy talking about certain topics. The unpredictable, spontaneous nature of conversations may scare me, but I know I’ll have a much easier time talking if I know about the subject.
I’m actually pretty picky about conversation topics: I won’t get swept up into drama or talk about people behind their backs. And other topics just make me socially anxious: What if everyone’s talking about this new celebrity I’ve never heard of? What if I don’t have anything interesting to add to this conversation? Gulp. It’s funny, though: Pretty much everyone has a favorite food that they love to talk about. Knowing that I’ll have something to say on the topic of food makes it easier for me to participate, and takes away the anxiety I often feel.
2. It’s a type of art where our creative introvert powers can flourish.
Kneading bread is something you just have to get a feel for: You can read about how to tell when it’s done, but when your hands know what it feels like, it’s a different experience. Baking, in its essence, is art: It takes raw ingredients and turns them into something both aesthetically appealing and appetizing. Learning how to decorate a cake, delicately score bread, and weave a pie crust into a lattice helps me feel like an artist. As an introvert who thrives with a strong sense of when things just feel right, baking gives me space to experiment, try out new flavors, and learn how to tell when it’s perfect.
I’m at my best when I’m creating something, whether it’s pie crust or a new story I’m writing. When we exist in a world that so highly values people skills, being able to do art is like having a secret refuge to escape to. There’s something just so relaxing about putting a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies in the oven. Maybe it’s the full sensory experience: I can see, touch, taste, smell, and even hear the dough as it changes shape in the oven. By engaging all of the senses without creating an overwhelming mind trap, baking acts like a type of mindfulness. It’s just one thing for me to focus on, and I get to be the creator, crafting how the treat will turn out. It’s so interesting to me that flour, when mixed with the right ingredients, can become bread, pizza dough, muffins, cupcakes… The possibilities are endless! There’s always going to be another recipe to try.
The nice thing about baking, too, is that it’s totally possible to create delicious treats by yourself. As someone who finds it hard to focus when people are talking to me, the quiet space in my kitchen feels like a haven. With no loud TV in the background and everything organized exactly as I would like it to be, my kitchen is my introvert zen zone.
Bread is a particular reminder of what it’s like to be an introvert who just needs time and space in order to rise. The circumstances need to be right: Add water that’s too hot, and the yeast will die. Add too much salt or flour, and you’ll get a totally different texture than last time. If the kitchen’s a different temperature today than it was last week, the bread will take a different amount of time to rise. It’s all situational: The way yeast responds to its environment is much like how introverts respond to ours.
I do actually love spending time with people, but if I’ve been “on” at work all day, I’ll need some serious downtime before I’ll want to see anyone. Just like how introverts need to be left alone to function, to do their thing, bread is much the same way. If you stare at bread expecting it to rise, it somehow just won’t. Bread gets me: It’s a little temperamental, deceptively standoffish, and absolutely delicious when you get it just right.
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3. It’s quiet and calming, but also fosters a sense of community.
There’s something mesmerizing about kneading bread, watching egg whites get whisked into stiff peaks, and frosting a beautiful cake. And as much as I love baking, I also love being able to share my art with my community. Many introverts will find themselves bringing a cake or a loaf of bread to a gathering — I’m sure I’m not the only one who has gone out thinking Hi, please like me, I brought cookies! Or brought along a tray of muffins hoping I can make a friend without having to awkwardly start a conversation.
While many introverts can be quite expressive, especially through writing, baking for others is a love language that we use to show we care. Making a friend a birthday cake shows we are happy for them; delivering a home-cooked meal demonstrates that we are there in a time of need. For many introverts, actions really do speak louder than words: I might not speak much, but you’re important to me (and I hope you like this cake).
And I actually do enjoy baking with one or two other people: It provides a shared experience that can bring people closer, but without necessarily requiring hours and hours of mindless conversation. (I mean, I love deep meaningful conversations, but not the small talk. Please spare me!) It’s also helpful to have a concrete task to focus on when spending time with others. That way, there’s less focus on forced conversation, and more focus just on the enjoyment of spending time creating something delicious together.
Food is imbued with memories — smell and taste are strongly tied to our memories, and they create a part of the shared human experience. Whenever I make that fudge my nana taught me how to make, I remember that calm place in her kitchen, and a sense of ease washes over me. I think she knew exactly what a shy, quiet kid needed: quiet space, a culinary art project, and a bit of chocolate.
So next time you find yourself needing some creative space for some peace and quiet, try going into your kitchen and seeing what you can create.