FARGO — Do me a favor all of you stressed-out, stir-crazy, homebound people. You probably already have your Netflix within arm’s reach — as much a necessity during Pandemic 2020 as hand sanitizer and toilet paper — so this should be easy. Find “The Great British Baking Show.” Click on it. Press play and watch it for at least 15 minutes. Are you still stressed out?
I’d hypothesize that you are not. I don’t have any scientific proof here, just my own anecdotal evidence, but I think it is virtually impossible to feel stress when you’re watching lovely British people bake biscuits, tarts and breads to the soundtrack of classical music.
For years, I’ve noticed I use baking to relieve my stress, and over the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that I’m not alone. We bake. Therefore, we are. Not only does baking give us something to do with our long hours indoors, psychologists say there is actual real evidence that the art of baking is beneficial in easing anxiety.
“Baking is mindful. Mindfulness means paying attention to yourself in the moment and not being in the past or the future, but really being there,” Philip Muskin, a Columbia University psychiatry professor and the secretary of the American Psychiatry Association told “The Atlantic.”
Baking is that creative outlet we all need sometimes — a chance to try new recipes and take in the delicious aromas of vanilla, spices, cocoa and more. It's also something a family can do together, whether it's in the creation or just the eating.
Studies show that people feel a sense of purpose, satisfaction and joy giving baked goods to others. It is a way to express love and concern without saying a word. There is a reason funeral food is so abundant and delicious. Oftentimes it’s good enough to give our breads, cookies, cakes and pies to friends, family and neighbors. And most of the time you can bet they’re willing to accept it.
Those who can’t usually accept baked goods? Hospitals, nursing homes and homeless shelters. It’s a nice gesture to want to give love from the oven to those on the front line of the COVID-19 fight or the elderly or those less fortunate, but in most cases health department regulations restrict organizations and institutions from accepting and/or serving food made in private kitchens. If you’re not sure, just call ahead. A safe option is call and have doughnuts or cookies delivered from a certified commercial kitchen.
So that means during this pandemic, you’re either left to keep your baked goods for yourself or give to people we know personally. Even if you’re just giving food away to friends and neighbors, you’re urged to use caution. North Dakota State University Microbiologist Dr. Sheela Ramamoorthy has some advice for bakers during the pandemic.
What you need to know if you’re giving food to others at this time
Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food.
Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety. Throughout the day wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or going to the bathroom.
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated or frozen temperatures.
If you have illness in your household, don’t make food for others. “I would consider any material from a COVID-19 positive household to be potentially contaminated; however, I am sure the family will have the sense to not hand out food if a family member is sick,” Ramamoorthy says.
If you need any further guidance, Ramoorthy suggests you read the guidelines from the CDC.
With some common sense, baking can be a sweet distraction while we’re social distancing — a way to get our minds off the virus, be creative and show our love and concern to others. Last week, my friend and colleague Tammy Swift reminded me of some of the best cookies I’ve ever made - her mom’s Thumbprint Cookies. So this past weekend, I whipped up a batch and delivered them to a handful of neighbors with this message. “Hi Neighbors! Enjoy these cookies made from our highly sanitized kitchen! Can’t wait to see you again soon.” I dropped some on the doorstep and had ever so brief interactions with those who answered their doors. For now, it’ll have to do. We’re all in this together, and at least we still have chocolate.