Croissants. Those flakey, buttery confections have always ranked high on my delicious meter. Every time I’d eat one, sinking my teeth into the paper-thin layers, I’d marvel at the wizardry it took to produce them. The closest I ever came to making them myself was the refrigerated tube variety. (I’m not gonna lie, those are still delicious and convenient.) But I recently decided to tackle the impossible not for my enjoyment, but for my husband’s.
Brian isn’t a fan of baked goods, or any sweets for that matter. For example, I’ll make a batch of cookies and he’ll eat 2 at most, leaving me with a lot of hazardous calories. But I can’t NOT bake–it’s hard wired in my DNA. I end up offloading most of my treats on friends and family. They never complain.
Recently, I’ve been exploring the more savory side of baking. I’ve always made traditional loaf breads, focaccia, biscuits, etc. But I wanted to expand my repertoire and in doing so, find some things that would appeal to Brian.
I started with bagels. Everyone loves bagels, right? They were labor intensive, but not difficult to make. I was pleased with the results (Yum! Super yum.) and am looking forward to tinkering with the recipe and technique. It would be great, however, if I didn’t burn myself with the boiling water used to make them chewy. But, eh. Baking hazards.
Yet when I presented my hubby with a warm bagel (and a flourish), I was bummed at his response. “It’s good.” That’s it?! His everyday Cheerios are good. His seltzer waters are good. This warm, everything bagel was waaaaaay better than good. But I didn’t say anything, and a little part of my soul died.
<——-This was right before they went in the oven. I forgot to take a picture when they came out.
My salty bread quest would not be thwarted by one lukewarm reaction. After reviewing several recipes, I landed on the croissants. There were so many steps, so much butter, and a crazy amount of refrigeration time required–any number of things could, and probably would go wrong. It seemed like the perfect option. If they turned out, then he’d love them, and I’d be showered with praise. If they bombed, no problem. I’d still be able to share the adventure here.
Here’s the croissant gauntlet in picture form:
It was a two-day process to get these stinkers from dough to plate. I timed it so that I’d get up extra early and have fresh out of the oven when my husband woke up.
I couldn’t believe my luck when I pulled them out. They were beautiful. Not perfect like you’d get at a bakery, but far better than I’d hoped for. And they tasted so divine! Everything that I wanted and loved. I knew if I had this much success on the first run, then I could only get better with practice.
Waiting for Brian to get up was like waiting for Christmas morning. The moment he came out of the bedroom I was bouncing up and down. “Good morning, baby! I have a special treat for you!!!” He’s not a morning person and doesn’t emote nearly as much as I do, but that’s okay. I knew he needed a cup of coffee. I plated him up a croissant while he was getting his cereal, and then sat down at the table to watch him eat it. He ate it and said nothing. Nothing. Finally, I had to probe him for feedback. His answer was the same as with the bagels. “It’s good.” He didn’t even smile, but just stared ahead at a fixed point and washed it down with his cup of Joe.
Now I’m hurt. All day long I thought about it–why did I even bother? Does he not notice or care when I try to do something special? Does he not know how many people would love to have a constant stream of homemade baked goods? Maybe it’s not just my baking. Maybe he hates my cooking. Maybe it isn’t even my cooking. Maybe he doesn’t love me. Maybe he is going to leave me and I should have seen it coming a long time ago when I first started making him cookies. Oh, my god! I’m about to get a divorce!
Then I wanted to pick a fight. I wanted to sling words like invisible darts, and hurl accusations without ever stopping to get any actual facts. Clearly this croissant was indicative of a much deeper problem.
Overreact much? Yes. These kind of intrusive, black and white thoughts are very typical of Borderline Personality Disorder and are something I battle very frequently. My temper flares easily, and I have a tendency to say hurtful things before I’ve thought about the consequences of my momentary anger. It all swirls together in a mix of anxiety and poor self-worth. It’s not fun for me, and it’s super not fun for the people in my life who have to tread lightly lest I lose my shit over a bran muffin. Thankfully therapy helps, specifically Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. It can’t stop the thoughts from coming on, but it helps me challenge and reframe them. It’s the lifeline that keeps me from getting sucked into a bottomless, cognitive vortex.
It took me awhile to realize what was going on inside. I did have to acknowledge my disappointment, but I couldn’t let it consume me. And furthermore, I needed information from my husband. Maybe there was a reason he only said good, and maybe there wasn’t. But me reading into the statement was only causing myself harm.
I waited until after dinner when we were hanging out with our dogs. Then I asked him for clarification with the meekest, most non-threatening tone I could muster. He made several similar, noncommittal responses before he finally said, “I just don’t really like croissants.”
What? We’ve been married for 6 years; How did I not know this? #communicationfail He told me they were good as croissants go, he’d just rather have something else. I wanted to cry. Mostly because I came inches close to starting a fight over nothing. But also because I didn’t, and that’s growth. We chatted, and I told him what I was trying to do with the non-sugary stuff. He thanked me and we discussed options he might enjoy. (I’ve already made some breadsticks and pretzels are next.) We also revisited our communication techniques–something I think most couples could always use more of.
Living with mental illness is messy, and so much of it is beyond your control. This situation is a prime example of my BPD, but I also live with Bipolar 1, anxiety, and a little bit of OCD. I don’t know when my brain is going to be an asshole, but it doesn’t mean I have to be one too. The battle is real, the thoughts and feelings are real, and sometimes I will lose. But make no mistake. I will win the war. I will also eat croissants.