The Joy of Taking the Long Way

When I was growing up, there was a sign in my friend’s kitchen that read, “The kitchen is the heart of the home.” It was probably purchased at a Hallmark store next to a non-ironic portrait of 1950s housewife, but regardless, I think of it often. The kitchen is where a family comes together. It’s the most central part of the house. It’s the place where hard work becomes nourishment for the people you love most. For me, the kitchen is where a lot of healing takes place. Whether it’s a soup for the week or a loaf of challah for a dinner party, some of my happiest days are spent sleeves rolled up, Fleetwood Mac playing, flour everywhere, filling my apartment with delicious smells.

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with jams and breads because to me, there’s nothing more traditionally comforting than sharing bread with people you love. I have a lot of learning to do yet; making bread is the most challenging and time consuming thing I’ve practiced in the kitchen. When I do get it right, however, the reward is a house that smells like a French bakery and a deep satisfaction knowing that I’ve spent my day creating something nourishing and warm for the people I love.

Making food from scratch has taught me a lot about the art of taking the long way. Sure, it would be much easier to buy some jam at the grocery store, which of course I often do. But when I take the time to do it right, I get to talk to the strawberry farmers at the farmer’s market, I control how thick the jam becomes, I get to decorate the jars, and best of all, I get to give a homemade gift that lets the people I love know how much they mean to me. Not to mention it tastes ten times better. There is so much simple joy in giving thoughtful gifts and putting intention into giving your beloveds the type of love they deserve.

When I approach self-love and how I love the people in my life, I don’t want to take shortcuts. I want to do the work it takes to nurture and build lasting relationships. In bread and in life, I’m practicing rolling my sleeves up and ‘letting the dough rise’, constantly reminding myself along the way of how deserving my loved ones and I are of my very best love. When the work is done, the reward will be a kitchen full of wonderful smells, a table full of friends, and an overflowing heart.

- Natalie Warther [@nataliewarther] is a writer and photographer in Los Angeles. When she's not working, Natalie can be found nesting, cooking, writing poetry, and continuing the life-long search for the perfectly ripe avocado.