Most of you readers know that I belong to several online baking groups (how could you miss it), but it has occurred to me that many of you who don't also belong to said groups may not have any real context for what I'm doing here. I joined all of these groups because I wanted to have weekly recipe assignments and really delve into certain cookbooks or techniques, but along the way I have become fascinated by the communities that make up each group.
The group that started it all was Tuesdays with Dorie, a baking challenge started by Laurie Woodward of Slush. It began as a challenge between a few friends, and quickly grew almost out of control. Laurie, however, girded her loins and took real charge, and now runs her unexpected kingdom like a serious pro. The group is now closed to new members, and has some simple rules--you have to make at least two out of every four recipes, and post on Tuesday. I usually make at least three out of four monthly recipes, though I'm not always stellar about posting on time. Beyond the recipes, the TWD bakers are a mixed lot, but mostly they are home bakers (many I would characterize as down-home bakers), many of whom just want to make some chocolate, many of whom are in it to expand their comfort zones.
Some of them, presumably unknowingly, are also in the business of expanding my comfort zones. I'm about as stereotypical an Eastern liberal as you can get--Jewish, raised in Western MA, living in Brooklyn, NY, where the majority of my family comes from, Seven Sisters, artist, librarian, Democracy Now-loving, huge believer in social services, foodie...well, you get the point. Some of my fellow TWD-ers, not to put too fine a one on it, do not fit this profile. They're from all over the country, from many walks of life. I have a vague impression that many of them are home-schooling Mormon moms (this may be a broad impression gained from just one or two blogs, conflated). That impression may be a little general, but it is true that many of them are mothers, many live in places very unlike Brooklyn, and many are religious in a way that is very different from the religion of many of the people I know. We do not all share a political viewpoint, to put it mildly. Some of us, hell probably a lot of them (I am not included in this category, for better or for worse) would rather never talk politics on the intertubes. We vary in age from college students to grandmothers. Some of us are more polite about leaving comments for one another, some of us (um, look over here) were never cheerleader types and rarely leave messages say 'You did a great job!,' much as we may appreciate them.
A random sampling from this morning's blogroll, just to show how limited the above descriptions are:
Nichi, from Bakeologie, is a certified pastry chef with a degree from Le Cordon Bleu Patisserie & Baking Program at the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. She makes her living at a computer software company, and is, incidentally, a better blog designer than I.
Amy, of Amy Ruth Bakes, is a mother of teenagers, a very witty writer, and has a beautiful aesthetic sense in her plating.
April, of Short + Rose, lives in Memphis, and, in her own words, "like[s] to bake, knit, garden, travel and hang out with awesome people. [She] hate[s] hot weather, mosquitoes, rude people and answering the phone." She has a second blog about infertility and Canadian emo plays on her site.
Mary Ann of Meet Me in the Kitchen stages Ancient Greek cafes with her kids.
There are legions more of us, including French, Aussie, and German members, and many Americans living abroad. There is, as far as I know, one man participating. As you can see from the brief sampling above, variety is king. In addition to their blog posts, I get to know these people from Q&A forums on the TWD site, where everyone shares issues and queries about the recipes. There's no final moral here, no 'we all bake and blog, and it brings us together' moment. But I do like being a part of TWD, this odd little affiliation.