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‘Rage Baking:’ Frustrated by politics, some find release in the kitchen

"Rage Baking" co-author Kathy Gunst in her kitchen. (Photo by John Hession)

A couple years ago, articles and cookbooks introduced us to the concept of procrastibaking: the act of stirring up a batter or pulling out a bag of chocolate chips to avoid doing work or finishing a to-do list.

But a new book called Rage Baking brings a different emotion into the kitchen. It’s co-written by Kathy Gunst, an award winning cookbook author, who was drawn deep into the Supreme Court hearings with Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in 2018.

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“By the end of the first day, my level of rage and fury was pretty high,” Gunst said. “That night I found myself in my kitchen baking, but not baking like a normal person. I baked a cake, and then I baked a pie, and then a batch of cookies. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on but it did help me feel grounded. The next day I turned those hearings on again and I listened for hour upon hour and I was even more upset. That night I [baked again].”

It wasn’t about emotional eating; Gunst gave all her treats away. It was about the process. Gunst usually gravitates toward savory cooking, where you can improvise and substitute.

“Baking, it is a science and it really requires that you are patient, something I have trouble with,” Gunst said. “There was something very soothing about following rules and knowing what you were going to get. The science of baking did not solve anything, but it did help ground me. As I heard from other women, I began to understand that I wasn’t alone.”

She started tagging her posts with #ragebaker and quickly found a community of women who were coping the same way. She teamed up with Katherine Alford, who worked at the Food Network for 20 years, to create the book.

“It is a compilation of baking recipes, both sweet and savory,” Gunst said. “But there are also essays from some brilliant writers, interviews with really interesting women, there is poetry, there is vintage photography and color photography of the food.”

There are recipes from folks like Ruth Reichl, former editor in chief of Gourmet magazine, and an interview with feminist singer Ani DiFranco. There are even essays from women who don’t believe in rage baking, like the one written by journalist Charlotte Druckman.

“She wrote this kind of rebuttal saying, actually, no, I don’t believe in rage baking. I don’t think it’s going to change things, I don’t think we’re going to suddenly respect women more, I don’t think we’re suddenly going to have women candidates. She really questioned the premise of it,” Gunst said. “It was incredibly important to us that these questions be part of the book. The message of Rage Baking is not, ‘oh ladies, get back into the kitchen and everything will be fine and things will be better.’ Hell no! That’s not what we’re saying. We’re saying that baking is one way to channel your rage in a sweet, productive way.”

The book is a mix of serious themes, delicious recipes, and lighthearted writing.

“There’s Virginia Willis’ wonderful Im-peach-ment Upside-Down Cake, which uses fresh Georgia peaches, there’s Not Taking Any More Sheet Cake. We also have a recipe called (Don’t Call Me) Honey Cakes.”

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Part of the book’s proceeds go to Emily’s List, an organization that helps Democratic women run for office.

“I always assumed that Emily was the woman who started it, but it turns out it’s an acronym for Early Money Is Like Yeast,” Gunst said “That whole idea of yeast that bubbles and rises and becomes bigger and stronger.”

The book has sparked some controversy, which can be read here.

Listen to Rachel Belle’s podcast, Your Last Meal! She interviews celebrities like William Shatner, Greta Gerwig and Moby about what they would choose to eat for their last meal, and then digs into the science/culture/history of that dish.

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