Reading and listening to more and more stories of people who are lonely, depressed, anxious and with mental illness, Michelle Symes decided to do something about it the best way she knows how.
Michelle, who is mum to 4 year old Lily and 15 month old Otis, is a professional cook with her own biscuit company, The Vintage Baker, in Daylesford, Victoria.
“When I want to show someone I care, I cook for them,” she said.
“And when I need cheering up myself, I head straight to the kitchen.”
So in thinking about the alarming statistics, and those she knows who are affected by anxiety or depression, Michelle’s idea brings together what she loves doing with being practical and doing something thoughtful for someone else.
“The idea is simply to show someone in your life who may be struggling, that you care.
“I know I feel great when someone gives me something they’ve made themselves. To know that someone has thought about me, and taken time to do something, can have a real positive and profound effect on the person receiving it – not to mention the giver.”
“Since hitting my 30s I know so many people that are affected by depression, anxiety and loneliness. Organisations like Beyond Blue do an amazing job in addressing the issues, but I believe all of us can do more to educate and highlight how common mental illness really is, and do something practical to help people.”
Michelle has decided the 1st day of winter – Friday 1 June – is as good a day as any to start the ‘Bake the Blues Away’ day.
“It can be as personal as you like. It might be a friend, a relative or even your neighbour who you don’t often talk to for no reason other than lack of time.
“It’s about letting people know there are moments of light, and showing some kindness and compassion through food.”
Michelle says that people can bake whatever they like.
“I have one friend who just doesn’t touch sweet things, so he is baking a lasagne instead.
“On ‘Baking the Blues Away’ day, it really is the thought that counts.”
She says for people who do not want to or don’t have the time to cook, they can be part of ‘Bake the Blues Away’ day by buying something handmade from a food store.
On the day, Michelle will be baking for a couple of close friends, and also hopes to enlist the help of friends to bake and distribute cakes to the local community centre and the local food bank. Also assisting her will be four year old Lily.
“My daughter has definitely inherited the foodie gene so she will be getting involved. She wants to make a bowl chocolate cake which she can pretty much make without supervision.”
Michelle is baking a personal favourite which isn't one of her own – an almond, pear and passionfruit cake, which she has picked up from various sources over the years. She shares the recipe with us below!
“It is beautifully moist and so tasty. And it always disappears very quickly.”
Michelle says she would love to make ‘Bake the Blues Away’ day an annual event but is relying on friends, family and social media to get the word out this year.
“I hope people choose to get involved,” she says. “It’s not about raising money, but just an opportunity to do something nice for someone else.”
- ‘Bake the Blues Away’ day is Friday 1 June. To find out more, check out the Facebook page here:
- Follow Michelle on Twitter @thevintagebaker
Michelle’s Almond, Pear and Passionfruit cake
185 grams butter
½ cup castor sugar
1 ½ cups almond meal
¼ cup plain flour
420 grams canned pear halves (can be fresh, but canned seem to hold their shape better)
1 tin of passionfruit pulp or two fresh passionfruit
Preheat oven to moderately slow (165C)
Cream butter and sugar.
Add eggs one at a time ensuring each one is thoroughly combined.
Stir in almond meal and flour.
Grease and line a cake tin (22cm); spread mixture then top with pear halves.
Bake for approximately 50 minutes.
Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes. Turn out top side up onto a cooling rack.
When ready to serve drizzle with passionfruit pulp.