Let's Bake

As a child, I remember I was incredibly fascinated by baking. It amazed me how a person could just whip up some eggs, milk, flour, sugar,butter and create something so gorgeous. It was make believe; it was stuffs of fairy tales.

Mind you, this is Bhutan we are talking about. We were not ‘cake’ people. We were not even ‘sugar’ people. We are ‘air-dried beef- fermented cheese- rancid butter’ kind of people. And this was back in the days where people hardly knew what an oven was. So you can understand my fascination with cakes and pies.

I used to watch a lot of Walt Disney classics; mouth gaping when Snow White made this perfect pie, with the help of twittering blue birds. For me, the pie represented a world beyond me, and consequently a world I wanted so badly to be a part of.

We lived in a small town between Thimphu and Phuentsholing, and honestly, no matter how much I rack my brains- I can only remember close to 20 families living there. There were cowherds and shopkeepers, of whose lives I have no idea of. We were the ‘civil service’ family- a diaspora of sorts.

Since this town functioned around a logging industry, we had several lumberjacks from Canada or the USA. I befriended a Canadian, Elsie, who was a housewife and had nothing much to do. I pretty much didn’t speak English; we were taught English in school (verb, noun, adjective, and the likes- which was of no use when talking). I like to believe I took up the challenge to string words I learnt in the classroom and blurt it out to her. She was kind, especially with my English.

She generally liked children, but I like to think she was extra special to me. She introduced me to Barbara Striesand (I can still remember that movie where she disguises as a boy), books and my first ever pink watch and Barbie doll (with the perfect pink gown!), which she brought it all the way from Canada. But of all, I love her for letting me have my very own fantasy on my 7th birthday.

My first ever decorated whole cake! I saw this beautiful creation out of a fairy tale on the coffee table, surrounded by neighbour’s children. It had the perfect white puff (which I now know as icing) embedded with colourful sprinkles. I really felt special; I was my own princess that day, when I blew out the candles around little hands clapping enthusiastically.

It’s amazing how in a short span of time, I embraced the ‘other’ world and almost forgot my entire journey on cakes. I remember the strong desire to understand a world different than ours. I really believed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs existed and there is a world where birds help you trim pies.

Probably the story is similar for most of us. We are remnants of the isolated, and now barely quasi-cosmopolitan population of Bhutanese. Not two decades ago or back in the days, our treat was flat pale biscuits (flour, sugar & water) from neighbouring Indian towns, and on special days it was Krackjack (a packaged sweet & savoury biscuit by Britannica), Wai Wai and Maggi (thank god!). When we had a weekend trip to Phuentsholing, my parents would treat us with ice-cream in orange cones and soft brown slices of cake (without the white puff). These were the highlights of my childhood.

And now, a cake is not a cake- its either vanilla, banana, carrot, pineapple, chocolate or several other weird flavours. How could I have gotten so used to thinking I grew up around these? Especially when I cried my parents into buying a Baby Belling oven from a German guy who was leaving, just so I could bake- and didn’t have a clue how to go about it! There was a recipe book along with the oven, and for the longest time I thought margarine was German for the ‘white puff'.

There is still so many things I have no clue of, but I can proudly say that after a decade of baking fiascos, I discovered Google and a zillion recipes. Now I bake!

We are a new ‘modern’ country with relatively progressive people, but I will warn you; you will bump into persons who think wine comes in two shades- black or white and the sweeter it is- the better, that international cuisine begins and ends with fried rice, and the French are crazy to think snails a delicacy! 

When you do run into these people, be kind and help them on their journey.


  1. Loved it Karma. So that's how you came to own that oven of yours which still runs well to this day. That was a good investment! That lady must have been really kind to you, bless her. :p

  2. its old gold...as far as experience is concerned...in fact, now it functions so well! Prolly because its heavy duty ni..


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