I can’t pinpoint the moment when my chocolate brown Birkenstock Boston clogs became my dedicated baking shoes, but sometime between their arrival at my apartment in 2016 and the time they conformed to my deeply messed up feet, they became my constant companion in the kitchen. When I slide them on in the morning, a little signal goes from my toes to my brain that says “it’s time to bake.” I affectionately refer to them as my “Indoor Birks” because I can count on one hand the number of times they’ve experienced sunlight since they’ve been in my possession. They aren’t my first Birkenstocks and they certainly won’t be my last (I have three other pairs), but they are definitely the hardest-working and my favorites.
I am not exaggerating when I say that these clogs are the most important piece of baking equipment I own. Over the last eight years, I have amassed all the baking paraphernalia a modern American home baker could possibly need (tart pan and ice cream machine excepted). I have three mixers (two stand, one hand, all Kitchen Aid). I have four sets of measuring cups and so, so, so many measuring spoons. I have a whisk, two blenders, a food processor, a waffle iron, a scale, and silicone spatulas in every color, shape and size. I have two favorite brands of pans. I have a drawer for sprinkles, a cabinet for cookie mix-ins, and a mini-fridge that is only for butter! But I’m here to tell you that these shoes are the real MVPs.
This blog doesn’t happen if I’m not wearing my Indoor Birks. They are the thing that delineates my working from home from my just being at home. They have no known magical or mind controlling powers, but they do seem to get a Pavlovian response from my ADHD brain. I put them on the moment I roll out of bed most days, and from that point, I am baking or blogging or both. I don’t bother to get dressed or even put on a bra for these activities, but the Birks are non-negotiable. Though they have seemingly never been captured on camera (probably because of the aforementioned pajamas and bralessness), they have become my official-unofficial work uniform.
My Indoor Birks have been to Texas, Maine, Massachusetts, San Francisco and Washington DC. I’ve worn them to make countless birthday cakes, a wedding cake, dinner for hundreds, and many meals for my nearest and dearest. They’ve seen me develop more than 500 recipes. At various times, their leather tops and cork soles have been covered in flour, dairy products, hot oil, boiling water, molten sugar, beaten egg, dishwater and god knows what else. They’ve protected my toes from broken glass and more than one falling knife. They’ve never failed me.
About six months ago, I started to really see the wear and tear on my beloved clogs. They continued to be comfortable and provide support to my (seriously screwed up) feet, no matter what I threw, splashed or dropped their way, but there was no denying they were dirty and busted. Their sheen had long since disappeared. Their tread had smoothed to a probably-dangerous point. They squeaked so loudly that for months they announced my presence to my roommate’s dog long before I arrived in his sight line. I went on the Birkenstock website in search of a new pair, but my fellow Birk enthusiasts had cleaned out the stock, so I waited. Even when the supply was replenished, I waited. After five years, and having given in and bought a pair of interim floral “Indoor Crocs,” I just wasn’t ready to let go.
Luckily, I didn’t have to, because if there’s a niche job to be done, New York City has people that will do it. Enter the magicians at Vince’s Village Cobbler, who not only asked about the history of my shoes upon arrival (and really seemed to care), but also did a full refurbish. In the span of a week, they cleaned them, returned the leather to close to its original quality (but kept the character), and replaced the soles and tread, all for much less than a new pair would have cost. I can’t begin to say how delighted I am with the makeover my Indoor Birks received, not least because it means I might get another half-decade of baking out of the deal.
This not an ad for Birkenstock and I understand that not everyone needs or can afford dedicated baking shoes (though you really should cover up your toes in the kitchen). I just wanted to acknowledge the silent (occasionally squeaky) partners in E2 Bakes, that support my arches and keep me standing even when I have to test something 27 times and probably should lie down. My relationship with these shoes has been longer than that of any of my ex-boyfriends. They’ve sustained more trauma than I anticipated, but they’re still there by my bedside whenever my baking inspiration (or my iPhone alarm clock) strikes.
If you’ve ever had a fresh pair of Birkenstocks, you know they take time to conform to your feet, but once they do, they’re yours and yours alone. Nobody can comfortably borrow them for any length of time because they’ve molded to the contours of your feet. I haven’t quite reached that point with these fresh soles—they’ve only been home four days—but I know someday soon I’ll forget all about having them refurbished and they’ll just be my Indoor Birks again, covered in something but carrying on nonetheless, one recipe at a time.