I don’t know much about being a man. I do not fix things well. I don’t know how cars work. If I didn’t grow hair out of my face, I could probably be mistaken for a startlingly bald lady the way I fawn over babies in public. Once, I assembled a headboard for my girlfriend, and when I finished, I realized I had installed one of the shelves so backwardly that it would have taken an hour to fix. But I do have one piece of advice for dudes. A simple and practical maxim that will make your lives easier. Every guy should learn how to bake one thing really well.
“Wha-wha-what?” you may ask. “Shouldn’t every man know how to change his own oil or throw a curveball or wrassle a gator?” Maybe. But in my experience, none of those accomplishments will earn you the kind of instantaneous admiration that whipping up a pie or a cobbler from scratch will generate. Besides, how long into your life are you going to be playing competitive baseball? Fastballs fade. Cookies are forever.
Baking isn’t easy, but it pays dividends. First of all, if you’re a guy and you’re not wearing a puffy white hat and an apron streaked with flower, no one will expect your prowess with a double-boiler. People love to be surprised. And there’s no more delightful surprise than a tray of homemade baked goods. They’re delicious, and they show that you put in time and effort to do something nice. You’ll be a hit at your office potluck or family reunion. Anyone can throw together a salad, but it takes motivation, dedication, and practice to engineer a platter of seven-layer bars. Your hard work will not go unappreciated.
Plus, if you spontaneously bake for a girl you’re dating, she will probably lose her mind with excitement. Most girls (according to my limited research) have never had a guy bake for them out of the blue. You will get major brownie points (pun intended and knocked out of the park) for all that legwork. If the baked goods stink, you still get credit for trying, and it’s a charming story for the grandkids. If they taste good, then even better!
“But Josh,” you’re asking now, “why not just learn how to cook? Baking is for girls, right? And cooking is manly. Like on a grill, with an open flame and sword-like skewers.”
Well, intensely sexist yet weirdly phallo-centric devil’s advocate that I invented, baking has it all over cooking. If you learn how to cook one thing, that’s a good start, but if you can make lasagna, people are going to assume you can make meatloaf or tuna casserole. In short, when people see you cook, they think you can cook. If you bake one thing, that’s usually good enough. No one looks a gift croissant in the mouth the way they do with a steak or a soup. Plus, you won’t get called upon to bake nearly as often as you would to cook. You’ll have to bake for Thanksgiving, probably. Maybe a random barbecue or two throughout the year. One or two close relatives’ birthdays, tops. If you show even remedial cooking prowess (and by this I mean the ability to combine foods without setting a house on fire) you will be enlisted for any family gathering, friendly get-together, and office party.
More importantly, the joy of baked goods last longer. If you put in three hours roasting a chicken, sautéing onions, steaming broccoli, and boiling water for rice, you get one great meal and then a week of lunches. A batch of brownies or a pie gives you a several treats to look forward to when you get home from work (or before you leave for work if you’re a grownup who LIVES LIFE TO THE FULLEST). Baking is a better use of your time.
Which brings me to my most crucial point: When you know how to bake, you can have pastry whenever you want! You can make it happen with your own two hands. It’s like magic. I imagine the same satisfaction a burlier guy gets from disassembling an engine block or hollowing out a canoe (I don’t know what actual men do) is the same sense of purpose I feel when I pull a key lime pie out of the oven. In fact, my pride at baking brownies is often so intense, I feel no need to ever father a child.
Maybe that makes me a wimp, but all I know is that baking has enhanced my romantic, familial, and professional relationships. I’m leaving my mark on the world by creating things that bring people joy and excitement. Isn’t that what being a guy is all about?
So bro, put down the wrench and pick up the whisk… if you’re man enough.