I was a 13 year old 8th grader the first time I learned to make Oatmeal Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies! This was back when Home Economics was still offered in junior high and high schools across America.
The class wasn’t just about learning to cook, bake, or even sew (something I can’t say I ever accomplished outside of school). But we learned how to plan, how to follow directions, how to measure things (a smart way to show us the importance of math), and even the importance of patience. We learned how essential these skills were not just to running a household, but to personal survival as a whole.
It’s sad when I think about how classes such as these, as well as Shop (something my brothers took and learned basic elements of masonry and carpentry), are no longer being offered at many schools, even though they used to give students the type of life skills that despite all of the modern day smart technology and Artificial Intelligence, we find ourselves still in continued need of.
With everything that’s going on in the world today; and especially in our country over the past several months, stress, anxiety, and depression is at an all time high in America (according to multiple mental health and psychological studies and associations). So it’s no wonder many people are looking for ways to de-stress; to find comfort in the chaos.
Monday morning, I woke up to snow falling, and temperatures below freezing. That’s called an average winter morning in almost half of the country, but for me, it was a “not going in to the office; working from home today” moment. But being the fourth straight day indoors, trying to focus on prepping for the start of a new school semester, and trying not to think about or watch the onslaught of more news coming out about the recent violence and political events, I found myself in need of some immediate comfort; a de-stressing distraction.
Baking came to mind. But going out to buy ingredients to make something was not going to happen. As I tried to keep working to keep my mind off of this sudden desire for something sweet, and kept peeking out the window to see that the snow was actually sticking, I couldn’t shake it.
So I gave in. I went through my cabinets in my mind first; remembering that I had all the fixings for a favorite, quick cookie recipe I used to love — rolled oats, peanut butter, cocoa, sugar, and butter!
As I pulled each ingredient from the refrigerator and cabinet shelves, I was suddenly back in that eighth grade classroom, hearing the voice of a teacher whose name I can’t remember, but whose influence will forever be a part of who I am.
As I watched the butter melt in the large pot, and stirred in the sugar, cocoa, and peanut butter, it was a relaxing state of being as my eyes followed the wooden spoon around in the pot; mindlessly stirring, slowly, and waiting patiently for the mixture to boil.
I thought back to making these no-bake cookies before, when things didn’t work out so well. It was always because I didn’t allow the mixture time to boil long enough before removing from heat and adding the remaining items. So I made sure not to hurry the process this time, allowing all of the bubbles to form, and then starting the clock before the final steps.
After a while, I realized my breathing was slower. My mind was at ease; my thoughts not consumed with all the other stuff weighing me down.
I was in my “comfort zone.”
Within minutes, my no-bake, Oatmeal Peanut Butter cookies were ready to cool for me to later enjoy. And I was ready to return to my desk, back focused on work.
We all need ways to comfort when things start to become too much. Especially while we’re still dealing with this pandemic, forcing continued stay at home and social distancing measures, as opposed to physically connecting with friends, heading out to a movie, or traveling somewhere fun.
Reading a good book, journaling, listening to music, binge watching a new series, cooking, and of course baking — all are great options to help relax, destress, and find a comfort zone to help maintain good mental health.
So when’s the last time you “comforted?”