By Elizabeth Collis
In Hannah’s opinion, talking to your kitchen appliances was no weirder a habit than exercising for three hours a day, but Jason moved out anyway. He shouldered out the door with his last box of exercise equipment pressed to his well-molded pecs muttering, “Cra-zy.”
Considering Jason was her third boyfriend in two years, maybe she was the problem. Hannah had to do something. What was the point of making a strawberry margarita cake, which hit your taste buds like a starburst, if no one was there to savor your baking hobby? And without someone to split the big condo’s rent, she’d have to move to a less expensive place—one with a much smaller kitchen.
She had few friends—what with her habit of talking to kitchen equipment and all—but she baked for friend, foe, or stranger. A pan of cinnamon buns was ready for Willow, the professional organizer she’d hired to help her downsize. A tangy wood aroma over sugar-butter-yeast filled the kitchen.
Hannah stroked the smooth melamine head of her stand mixer. “Oh, this is so hard.” She scooped up her sugar dredger, like a mother gathering a child onto her lap, then shook it twice. “Gotta do this. Gotta make a change.”
The doorbell rang while she was rolling out more dough. Worried Willow might think keeping five rolling pins was excessive; Hannah hid the floury marble rolling pin on a shelf above the espresso maker.
With her dark hair piled on top of her head in a messy brioche bun, Willow didn’t look very organized. Her gangly earrings glinted as her head bobbed and arms flapped.
Hannah wouldn’t start the decluttering process until Willow had tried a cinnamon bun, and the organizer’s joyful “oh” when she took a sticky bite sent a tingle down Hannah’s arms.
“Now, I am here to guide you through the detachment process. You’ve got too much of the same stuff.” Willow pointed to the dozen colorful kitchen timers on the counter. “Your cooking equipment won’t fit into a kitchen half this size.”
A horrible agitation bounced between Hannah’s ribs. She suggested they start in the other rooms.
Hannah had no trouble letting go of three winter jackets. Parting with the macramé plant holder didn’t trigger a sense of loss. But the kitchen equipment—well, that was a different matter. After Hannah refused to get rid of even one measuring cup, the two women faced off across the granite-topped kitchen island. The more Hannah resisted “detachment,” the more strident Willow’s use of jargon became.
“All this excess stuff holds you back emotionally,” Willow said. “It’s not allowing you to live a life of clarity and fulfillment.”
Hannah stiffened all the way up her spine. “Oh, I’ve got clarity.” She swept the room with her arm. “Everything here is essential—the cake decorating sets, pastry boards, timers, the lot.”
As Hannah finished her list, she was surprised to find Willow on her side of the island, right beside her, eyebrows pinched in concern.
“You have a strong attachment to your bakeware.” Willow blinked her soft brown eyes. “Letting go of our possessions can be like losing a part of ourselves, but you’ll feel cleansed and free when you do. I promise.”
Hannah imagined an airy white meringue, light and clean—how good it would be. Willow had placed a warm hand on Hannah’s arm, creating the sensation a lemon drizzle cake must feel when syrup was gently poured over it. (Yes, Hannah thought about her baking’s sensations, so what?)
Willow started pressing buttons on the Miele espresso machine. “This thing, for example, is enormous. Total overkill.”
As the machine lit up and growled awake, a jolt shot through Hannah’s core. The grinder crunched, a beep sounded, and an “empty” message flashed red above the water tank.
“I paid three thousand dollars for that,” she yelled.
“That’s it exactly. By considering the monetary value, you’re over invested in something with no dynamic value. The coffee maker has got to go.” Willow reached for the off button.
With a furious cry, Hannah flung herself between the organizer and the hissing espresso machine, knocking the shelf above the counter. The heavy rolling pin rolled off and struck Willow on the head with a solid thunk.
Once she’d recovered from the blow, Willow tried again. “You’ve got to understand,” she spluttered, clutching a flour-covered ice pack to her head, “your machines can’t love you or hold you tight, or—” she pointed at the smug cinnamon buns squatting in their pan—“appreciate your baking. How could a partner compete with the attention you give your kitchen appliances?”
After Willow left, Hannah stood limp like a deflated soufflé for a minute. Then she cleaned the espresso machine buttons tenderly with a soft cloth. The milk steamer gave a little sigh of relief and turned itself off. “Yes, that’s how I feel too,” Hannah whispered. Willow was right, the cookware couldn’t love her, but a future without all her kitchen things would be like baking without baking powder—flat, tasteless, soggy.
She picked up a flier for a baking school dislodged in the melee with Willow, and the solution prickled the back of her head like steam rising from an apple pie.
“Of course,” she told her army of spatulas. “I need a boyfriend who bakes, and where do they hang out? I’ll sign up today.”
Hannah added the next batch of ingredients into her stand mixer, held the bowl in her arms like an infant, and addressed the entire kitchen. “Change of plans. We are not moving. I’ll find someone to share. Every one of you is going to stay right here.”
When she turned on the dough mixer, the blades spun and purred. A glazed spill of love filled every part of her. “No more kettlebells or weights. My next boyfriend will know how to split a vanilla bean to make pastry créme,” she told the assembled appliances. “He’ll talk to you too. You’re gonna love him.”