I make cakes. Bloody good cakes, I’ve been told.
In fact, people pay money for my cakes, and have told me on several occasions that I should start a proper business, because lots of other people would pay money for them too. I have been quite resistant to this idea, because cooking is something I do for love, and I felt distinctly uncomfortable about monetising my hospitality. OK, I’m happy to accept payment for outside/on site catering, but when friends want to pay me for baking them something, it always feels a bit wrong. But I did it, because it seemed to be what people wanted. And I asked around, and as people generally agreed that me starting a cake business was a Good Idea, I thought I would. But I’ve been thinking about this (always dangerous), and here’s the thing: being the fickle cow that I am, I’m not going to.
To me food is something prepared with love, shared with people – friends, strangers – for love. It is a gift. And it’s going to stay that way.
If you want to buy a cake from a cake shop, you go in, you choose your cake, you pay your money, you have your cake. And eat it, too, I assume. You don’t need to ask the baker’s name, you don’t need to chat to them to prove you’re a nice person not a child-snatcher, you don’t need to ask ‘Have you got time to make my cake?’, “Could I have this cake but shaped like a tiger?”, “Can I have ten cakes every week for a year?”, in fact, you don’t even have to say anything at all. If you’ve got the money, you buy the cake. If you haven’t, you don’t. Shops are so easy. And I am not a shop.
So here’s the deal: if you want a cake from me – for a birthday, a special friend, just because you like cake – you ask me. If I can, if I have time, I will make your cake (or brownies, or flapjacks, or whatever). You can pay me for the ingredients, so I’m not out of pocket, but I will not accept any money for my cooking. It’s a gift.
And that’s hard, isn’t it? That’s negotiating all the messy, human interaction that goes with receiving a gift; and not just receiving, but asking to receive. What if I say no? What if I’m too busy? What if I don’t like you? Just teasing, I like most people, but yes, I have bills to pay like everyone else, so if I have too much other stuff to do, I may say no. But is that so scary? You will have to decide if you’re taking the piss or not (ten cakes every week for a year is taking the piss, by the way; I’ll give you that tip for starters).
Please, owe me by all means. Make me something, give me some babysitting, do something for me, or for someone else – it’s up to you. Yes you. *You* will set the price, even if that price is nothing at all.
I cook because I love cooking, and I share it because I love people. My food is, always, a gift. It is a gift that heals, and welcomes, and I will not cheapen it by charging money for it.