I am baking "Danish Pastry," but this is just a label for something that tastes very good and is made from only four ingredients: butter, water, flour, and eggs. Add appropriate heating techniques at various junctures along with a variety of mixing techniques and thus a double-layered pastry emerges: the bottom like a crumbly soft pie crust and the top like a puffy, almost sweet pop-over. Go out of your way to add two more ingredients (ok, three), and a polished product is on the table--confectioner's sugar, milk, and nuts.
Some of the things that I like about cooking, especially baking, is making just a few common ingredients do this kind of dance. Mix some of these ingredients differently, add yeast & some sitting-around time to let the yeast do its stuff, and you've got bread. A different proportion without yeast and with sugar and baking powder makes cake. Variations on a theme.
Making this pastry always reminds me of Harry Mathews' poem, "Butter & Eggs," the only source for which I have is the 2002 Best American Poetry anthology, the one Creeley edited. It's a long poem, six sections, and each section except the last, gives exacting instructions for making various types of eggs, each a bit different. The last section explains how to clarify butter. The language is really great, and part of what lifts it from instruction to poetry: words are repeated in patterns that oscillate throughout each line and the poem, and there's a grace and elegance to the phrasing that emphasizes the ways in which cooking is an art--an attention to detail, the visual, the olfactory, the tactile.
At the back, under his bio, Mathews says: "My intention in composing 'Butter & Eggs' was to create poetry unlike any I had previously written. It would be instructive, devoted to everyday subject matter, and eschew not only Oulipian but traditional poetic resources such as metaphor; the result all the same had to be unmistakably poetry. But what is unmistakably poetic? Readers know; but of course they may not agree."
I have spent most of the last several days cleaning my house myself after removing a domestic helper who was not, well, helpful. This, too, is a form of poetry: detailing surfaces, looking into corners and under objects, polishing and mopping and making the available components of my life, the composition of the daily sphere, burnished and best possible.