The “-er” behind baker

Food is complicated! Today, their is so much debate between what to eat, what you should eat and what you want to eat. It can get confusing. However, lately, I find myself wondering about the people producing and consuming the food. For this entry, I would like to share some of my thoughts about the people behind this industry.

Who are bakers? The Webster’s English dictionary defines, baker, as: ” a person who bakes and sells bread, cakes, etc.” and, bake, as: ” to cook by dry heat in an oven.” So, basically, a baker is anyone who uses an oven to produce food. This is a pretty simple definition. Alberta’s learning information service (ALIS) website provides a more detailed definition about bakers. Also, this video about a baker’s helper is interesting.

Baker Profile: http://occinfo.alis.alberta.ca/occinfopreview/info/browse-occupations/occupation-profile.html?id=71003073

Baker’s Helper video: https://alis.alberta.ca/videoplayer/player.aspx?vk=413

Now that we know a little about who bakers are and what they do, what about why they do it. While reading Professor Ken Ashwell’s book, The Brain Book, I came across interesting information about taste that could be relevant to this topic. He says;” our sense of taste allows us to enjoy the flavor of food and drink, and also warns against toxins. Taste includes very specific sensations from receptor cells on the tongue, as well as related input from nerve endings in the mucous membranes of the mouth, and textural feelings provided by touch receptors on the tongue or in the jaw.” He goes on to explain;” some taste information triggers reflexes that originate in the brainstem (salivation, swallowing, and coughing), but most of the information reaches the higher parts of the brain for conscious awareness. Taste is important for influencing behavior, causing us to seek out some foods and avoid others, so taste information must be able to influence memories and motivations in the cerebral cortex and limbic system.” In essence, within our brains their our two pathways taste can follow. One a conscious appreciation for taste and the other an unconscious taste pathway affecting emotions and appetite.

I’m no neuroscientist, but I think this means that some people eat for taste whereas others eat because of experiences. In other words, food for fuel versus being fueled by food. This is one of the reasons why I believe food and eating are so complicated. Taste is only one of our senses but we eat with all of them, and no two people eat the same way. Bakers enter this industry for many different reasons and their customers are led to it for various reasons as well. We really need to know what kind of baker we want to be to serve the right type of customer. I came across this automobile commercial that illustrates my point.

Back in November, I attended the TEDMED 2015 session called Food Fix at the University of Alberta (http://tedmed.com/event/stage2015). Topics ranged from how sugar has become the new drug to insects as the new source of protein to a plant based hamburger substitute. The topic that really stood out to me was Raj Patel’s presentation on gender equality related to cooking.

Watch the video here: http://tedmed.com/talks/show?id=529961

After the session, the UofA organizers brought in local foodies from the area to have a panel discussion. The discussion eventually led to the idea that any significant changes to the food scene starts through education.

This leads to my next thought.  During NAIT’s open house, I had the opportunity to discuss the baking program with potential students. All of the people I spoke to were female. It seemed like males only came to our display to get a cookie whereas females saw baking as a possible career choice. I’ve always enjoyed cooking and baking but I can relate to those guys. While we were decorating wedding cakes, I found myself goggling wedding cake ideas and I even walked into a wedding store. I felt very unmanly. Around that time, Aaron told us how he had a toolbox full of cake decorating tools and his daughter called him out on it. I find it strange how when I went through culinary arts we had a fairly even distribution of students but in baking its 90% female. Does our society have a hunter gatherer mindset toward gender and cooking? Are we seeing a slow change to this mindset or should we even change it?

In this blog, I wanted to discuss the baking industry and the people behind it. I tried to show who bakers are and why they do this. I touched on redefining our stereotypes about who should be in this industry. I don’t have the answers but I hope this discussion was food for thought.

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