Sophomore Charlotte James bakes as hobby

Vincent Ciullo, Writer

On marble countertops, pots and pans clatter and bang. Appliances beep and whir while a fresh, sweet scent fills the air. They are familiar sensations for Charlotte James, a sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who is constantly in the kitchen creating a multitude of treats to enjoy.

For as long as James could remember, she has been passionate about making foods from different cuisines. Subsequently, she has turned the activity into a frequent pastime that she finds rewarding and takes pride in.

“I come from a family where food has always been central, so I have been cooking from a very young age,” James said.

James’ family background in the kitchen contributes to her skill; she has never taken any formal or educational cooking classes.

“I have two aunts who really love to bake, so when I lived closer to them, I would often go over to their houses and learn a new recipe,” James said.

James has been whipping up delicacies since before she can remember. Vegetable tian is the first dish she remembers making from her childhood, which is a summer favorite made of layered caramelized onions, tomatoes, zucchini and sweet potatoes served over pasta. Another meal she enjoys making is ricotta ravioli, topped with herbs from her home garden.

Not only does James like to prepare meals, but she enjoys baking confections as well. Her first baking project was a New Year’s themed cake, which she and her neighbor made during the summer.

James likes having a few goodies to choose from when she just wants something small to munch on.

“I really love to make desserts I can throw in the freezer and then eat whenever I want,” James said. “I generally have a batch of cream scones and two or three different types of cookies in the freezer for a quick treat.”

James continues to gather and test different recipes from multiple sources. She has a preference for using cookbooks and the internet to research new techniques.

“I like cookbooks because they tend to be more to the point,” James said. “However, websites have much more variety and don’t require a purchase, so they are a great option.”

James sees baking as calming and relaxing, a primary reason why she envisions herself baking recreationally for the rest of her life. Though James enjoys her own creations, she also likes to hand out some to friends at MSD.

“Baking is very repetitive and generally allows me to just zone out which is very therapeutic,” James said. “Every once in a while I will bring a bag of chocolate chip cookies to school and give them out to people who want them. I’ve never met anybody whose day couldn’t be made better by a chocolate chip cookie.”

James hopes to spread her love of baking with friends and family as much as possible. She believes her passion is one that others should adopt as well.

“The bottom line is that baked goods are delicious, and everybody should be able to know how to make them,” James said.

No matter what, James will always have a spot in her heart reserved for baking. The activity has become one she puts careful thought into, filling her plates with the warmth of both her food and her utmost dedication. Whether finding new recipes to prepare or fixing up a dish tried-and-true, she aspires to bring smiles to the people that she shares her creations in the kitchen with.

This story was originally published in the February 2023 Eagle Eye print edition.