Baking, Politics, and the Power of Women Combine in the New Cookbook "Rage Baking"
It's a wonderful way to celebrate women's voices through food.
Kitchens are powerful places. They're where we create meals for sustenance, of course, but they're more than that. At times, they're the joyous heart of the home, where we gather cooking, talking, and laughing; at others they give us a space to work through our emotions. Often when I'm trying to process something, whether it's the events of the day, an assignment that isn't quite coming together, or a decision I need to make, I find myself baking. There's a comfort to it, a clearing of my mind I find, as I follow along recipe cards my great-grandmother wrote decades ago in her loopy cursive.
"The pounding, the kneading and the physicality of baking. There's this zen place you get to when you're in the kitchen and doing something," says Katherine Alford. Culinary instructor, greenmarket manager, and former Food Network executive, Alford and her longtime friend Kathy Gunst, journalist, cookbook author, and resident chef on NPR's "Here and Now," are the authors of a brand-new cookbook, Rage Baking: The Transformative Power of Flour, Fury, and Women's Voices ($22.49, amazon.com). It's a book that speaks about the power women can and are finding inside the kitchen and ultimately celebrates women through food.
"We're not saying that if women get back in the kitchen and start baking their troubles will disappear; we're saying this is a place and a process where there's a good, productive way to work out frustration," Gunst says. While mentions of rage baking, a movement Gunst describes, as women channeling some of the anger they feel over how they are perceived and treated in this country in productive way, show up on social media, in fiction and poetry dating back to 2012, it wasn't until the Kavanaugh hearings that Gunst herself began rage baking. Frustrated and angry over the hearings she began baking and then speaking about her rage with other women, including Alford.
From those conversations came the idea for the cookbook. Rage Baking: The Transformative Power of Flour, Fury, and Women's Voices is much more than a simple cookbook, though. It's a community. There are recipes from renowned bakers like Dorie Greenspan, Carla Hall, and Virigina Willis, as well as from Gunst and Alford. You'll also find essays, poems, and quotes from a diverse group of women bakers, writers, comedians, and activists that the pair reached out to include in the book.
"Most of the women responded immediately with a 'Hell yes, count me in, so glad you're doing this,'" Gunst said. The result is a collection of fun, accessible cookie, bread, cake, pie, and tart recipes, some with poignant titles—like Gunst's Wild Maine Blueberry Supreme Court Crumble and Willis' Im-Peach-Ment Upside Down Cake—set alongside stories that speak about what it is to be a woman. Take Elle Simone Scott's recipe for her great grandmother's lemon pound cake, which appears alongside a poem she wrote about the cake's history within her family. "It's an unbelievably beautiful poem, it's really moving," Gunst said.
Gunst and Alford gave writers a word count and the prompt, "Does the term rage baking speak to you, and if so how?" Some of the writing is serious, some surprisingly funny, and some will make you angry. Still, there's a lot of hope to be found in the book. A portion of the proceeds will go to Emily's List, a political action committee works to elect pro-choice Democratic female candidates.
"It was very satisfying to use our skills as writers and cooks to do something that feels important and to be part of the national conversation," Alford said "It's so much more than a cookbook. It's political, it's women's advocacy." It's a book that, as we dive headfirst into this year's election season, you might want to share with all your friends.