Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Bakery Chronicles

Last year at this time, I was working at a small startup. I worked closely with my good friend, E; in fact, we shared both an office and desk (it was pretty big. and we like each other) when we were both in the building at the same time. One of E's many accomplishments in life is that she earned a Masters degree in Architecture. Unfortunately, she graduated right about the time the economy tanked. Thus, the startup.

In any case, one morning a coworker stopped by our office for some advice. C is a highly intelligent, highly energetic and excitable person who often stopped by to bounce ideas off of us or hear about our weekend or just take a brain break. But this visit was different. His daughter, I think around age five or six at the time, worried about a male classmate coming over for a playdate. She was worried they didn't have any "boy toys" for him to play with. Well, this plainly surprised C. After further discussion, including pointing out that she had Legos they could play with, his daughter was still worried because the Legos were pink, and furthermore, she adamantly asserted, "Girls don't build things." Well. C was at a loss, both trying to figure out how she got this idea in the first place and how to convince her otherwise.

C and E (a Woman. who can Build) chatted a bit, with me chiming in from time to time, and C eventually left and went about his day, armed with some ideas and determined to change his daughter's mind.

Last week, as I continued to learn my way around the bakery at work, I thought of this story and wondered what C's daughter was thinking these days. I'm hoping that she's changed her mind because, man boy wow, do we need some women designers!

Two men currently do the kind work I'm learning. One, J, is slightly taller than I, but significantly more muscular, and the other, S, is very tall. He's kind of gangly, but strong, and has the most enormous hands I've ever seen. I know I'm slightly taller (5'6") than the average American woman, and I don't think I'm particularly strong or weak, fat or skinny. But in terms of sheer physicality, I've run into two problem areas. The first is figuring out what tools will work the best for me. For example, S showed me how to make tiramisu frosting, and then scooped it with a spatula into a large storage container. When I tried to replicate the process, the spatula failed miserably, as did a scraper. The spatula was too long and flimsy, and the scraper didn't give me enough leverage. After two failures and some grumbling (mine), I tried a large metal spoon, and it worked like a charm. Since I don't have to wash the dishes, it was an easy fix.

The second problem is a lot harder to solve. Quite simply, the work tables are too high. I've run into this elsewhere, but it's especially frustrating when I'm trying to roll out 20 pounds of biscuit batter or scoop 300 cookies from a mixing bowl of dough or cut anything. I find myself lifting my heels off the ground in order to get any extra height. I'm sure I'll learn to live with it- haven't women been doing that for centuries anyway - and maybe even get used to it, but I doubt it will ever be comfortable.

So, C, if you're reading this, please encourage your daughter to build things! We women may be able to do all the jobs a man can, but it would be a lot easier with the right tools.

Ladies, what problems like this have you run into? How have you solved them?

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