Learning to bake in lockdown reminded me I actually exist and helped my mental health - Alexander Brown

Lockdown got to all of us, with most stuck at home with lots of free time and nobody to spend it with.

Living in a green area, I was fortunate enough to have nice walks nearby, but pounding the same pavement every day gets dull eventually.

A big city is wonderful normally, but the gaps between me and those I care about felt larger than ever with no just cause to see them.

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We would have phone calls and WhatsApps, but conversations fell into the same pattern of talking about the pandemic.

Alexander with a soured cream bundt. Picture: JPIMediaAlexander with a soured cream bundt. Picture: JPIMedia
Alexander with a soured cream bundt. Picture: JPIMedia

I would read about the coronavirus when I woke up, write about it all day, then talk about it after work.

And it was getting to me. I lost socialising, the gym, football, my freedoms and the ability to make memories to smile back on when the day ends.

What’s more, my ability to read a book in bed completely disappeared, with my nights instead collapsing into doomscrolling Twitter hoping for good news and finding none.

I needed something, anything to lift me. So I decided to bake.

Alexander with some delicious rocky road. Picture: JPIMediaAlexander with some delicious rocky road. Picture: JPIMedia
Alexander with some delicious rocky road. Picture: JPIMedia

Now I love food, sharing it, eating it, and talking about it.

During lockdown my flatmate and I would fantasise about the restaurants we would take each other to when this was all over, or live vicariously through endless episodes of Anthony Bourdain.

But I had never baked, with my experience limited to messing up a swirl cake at school, or seeing that clip of Diana from Bake Off taking Iain's Baked Alaska out the oven.

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I started with simple recipes, looking up things I liked on the internet and then trying to make it myself.

The process itself was rewarding, scouring barren shops for ingredients, the satisfaction of beating them together with my own hands and the thrill of seeing something come from nothing.

I had filled the time in making it and then always had dessert in the house to eat.

Soon I started posting them to Instagram, sharing a picture of the cake and one selfie with it, like a proud dad.

And then the messages started coming in. “How is it, do you take requests, do you deliver?”.

Responses on social media gave me a sense of self, I bake therefore I gram.

Posting pictures of my baking sparked conversations with friends at a time devoid of anecdotes and company.

It prompted new challenges to be excited about, new favourites to make or bakes that friends could collect if I left it outside the door.

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Baking allowed me to share something I love with friends, see their face after a bite and then want to make them something else.

It also gave me a new connection with the world’s best cook, my mum, who would video call to help me with the complexities of a Babka.

When she shows pictures to my grandma, she tells her how proud she must be, which would mean a lot if she didn’t treat the fact that I can breathe as an achievement greater than splitting the atom.

Baking gave me comfort in the process, the consumption, and the sharing with friends.

Lockdown was horrible, and I needed something. Having constant cake and cause for conversation got me through, and I can’t wait to eat whatever’s next.

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