My first thought for this blog post was “Of course, baking is not a sport. Not in the proper definition of the word.” Then I searched the internet for definitions of “sport”.
According to Oxford’s online dictionary, “sport”, as a noun, is defined as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” Baking does, sometimes, involve physical exertion (see kneading dough for 10 minutes, especially if it is made of a tough wheat, such as “spelt”) but it does not involve competition against others (oh wait, Great Canadian Baking Show…or relatives who leave out an ingredient in a favourite family recipe so that theirs is still the “best” version – not that I would ever do that, seriously!).
As a verb, Oxford defines “sport’ to “amuse oneself or play in a lively, energetic way.” I am definitely amused by baking and can sometimes be lively and energetic while whisking egg whites or walking to and fro from counter to mixer to measuring cups. I prefer to think of baking in a happy and soothing way, as opposed to in a rage-full way as Martha describes in this post about Rage Baking.
Even in the before times, before self-isolation became the norm, I have enjoyed baking and cooking. They are a little different in the joy they provide. Both tap into my creativity, provide a comfort that is innate for me, typically end in something tasty and pleasing that I can share with others. However, baking typically provides more preciseness. More concentration. More focus for my “all browsers open, all of the time” mind. I don’t make intricate works of art like some people I know. But I find beauty in golden and shaggy crusts, floury and buttery batters, lemony curds and eggy plumes of meringues. I feel connected to my mother, my aunts, my relatives I’ve never met, who have passed down recipes for mandlebrot, rugelach, jammy thumbprints and challah.
Besides the dictionary definitions, how does the action of baking compare to the movement of fitness or sport for me?
Number one, they both provide me with a level of joy. Also, they can both challenge me.
When I am feeling anxious or unsettled, movement will typically help. So will a random muffin bake.
Active meditation, either in the form of a long run, or repetitively shaped cookies, is a great way to deal with “being forced to be alone with my thoughts”.
Both a heavy deadlift and a satisfying bite into a delicious, home baked treat, can be a kick in the ass to diet culture and fatphobia.
I have felt just as tired (and satisfied) from 12 hours of non-stop baking, as from a challenging, long run. It’s just as important to stretch your hamstrings, hips and lower back, before and after both activities.
Sometimes when I am working out, I will choose alternates. I know I need a step vs. a box, for step-ups, for example. Similarly, I know I can choose alternates when I am baking. I don’t have cardamom handy? I can use cinnamon. In both cases, I can choose the alternate that works for me. And, really, I will always add more cinnamon, vanilla, pepper, than the recipe suggests. I’ve never measured a 1/4 tsp of a spice in my life.
I have seen people get all academic with exercise, and also with baking. Not me. I am not going to be the one obsessively checking my heart rate or timing sprints. Nor am I going to be watching several YouTube videos and reading every bit of literature on the subject of making sourdough. I find out what I need (ingredients) and follow a recipe and then use trial and error from there. Both work for me. I use a bit of intuition in both cases. I am a sensory explorer. For example, with running, I have been running long enough, that I know when I am running at an easy pace or when I am doing speed training, without checking a HR monitor. Similarly, I know when bread dough looks right based on sight and feel. I stay close to the recipe directions, but I play around a bit too. I enjoy running and baking (and have good results in both cases) without being too specific about how to do either.
I have never been good at team sports. If I’m at the gym and they decide to incorporate a game into the warm-up that results in teams competing against each other, the 8 year old who feels inadequate, dodging volleyballs and shielding her eyeglasses from an awkward collision, rears her head. But with individual sports, such as running, or weight lifting, I have found ease and confidence. If baking were a group sport, I wouldn’t find as much solace in it. I do, after all, own a dish towel that says, “Get the Hell Out of My Kitchen”. Baking, as an individual sport, provides a similar ease and confidence as running or weight lifting. A solitary respite from day-to-day stresses. Although, I love nothing more than sharing the fruits of my labour with others. Especially if I can see that they enjoy them.
So, what have I learned from this comparison? Baking may not be a sport that will be included in the next Olympic Games. But it provides: a healthy distraction for both my mind and body; challenges and joy; is complimentary to my preference for hobbies that are more solitary than team-oriented; and in these pandemic times, I appreciate it as a “sport”, more than ever.
Does baking feel like a sport to you? Do you have other past-times, not typically considered a sport, that you think should be considered as such?