The art of baking: bringing back a taste of home

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Hannah Bean
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when people around the world take to their kitchens to bake a variety of sweets.

Like any creative pursuit, baking can be a form of self-expression and an opportunity to pour a little bit of passion, creativity and love into each recipe they make. Baking can even be used as a form of communication when words don’t say enough. It can convey love, thanks, appreciation, and even sympathy to those around you.

For one Yokota member, baking is a way to give back not only to the service members, but the high school students as well.

"I enjoy working with the students, watching them achieve and prepare things they've never prepared before,” said Barry Oxendine, Yokota High School culinary arts teacher. “The most rewarding part of my job at Yokota High School is working with the students, watching people enjoy the food and seeing they are happy when they are full."

Oxendine retired after serving twenty-one years as a culinary specialist in the National Guard and uses his knowledge and passion for cooking to teach his students.

"I feel every student should take a cooking class so they can see that cooking is not just something where you can eat, you need to have that love and it brings out that spirit in you,” Oxendine said. “This teaches them organization, learning to read the recipe, mixing in large quantities, and using math to measure it out."

Oxendine, with the help of his students, oversaw the baking of more than 3,500 cookies for the Yokota Cookie Crunch to ensure service members living in the dormitories at Yokota Air Base receive treats for the holidays.

Hosted by the Yokota Spouses Club, the Team Yokota Cookie Crunch originated in 2005 as a way for members of Yokota to deliver homemade sweets to unaccompanied service members residing in the dorms while living away from home.

Over the years, it became an annual event with participants including the Yokota High School, Yokota Commissary, United Service Organizations and more.

“Every year the Yokota Spouses Club asks us to contribute to the cookie crunch,” Oxendine said. “They donate the supplies, and our high school students work hard to produce the cookies for the event.”

Throughout the week, Oxendine said his students have been cheerful and working hard to help achieve their goal of baking more than 3,500 cookies. From measuring out and mixing up large batches to cutting out shapes, Oxendine and his students worked together to ensure the cookies can be delivered to the unaccompanied personnel on base.  

"It shows me the dedication of the students who are willing to prepare something for Soldiers who are not going to be home with their family,” Oxendine said.  “I was deployed to Iraq twice, so I know how it feels to be away from home at a place where you can't get that home cooked meal or can only get cookies through the mail. Here, they get them fresh to their dorms."

This year, Oxendine expressed he’s had a good group of students that are really dedicated to the Culinary Club, ready at any time to work or do whatever needs to be done. 

“It's part of giving in the end,” Oxendine said. “It feels good to help and give back to the community. I hope it puts a smile on their face and gives them that feeling that someone cares.”

This year more than 7,000 cookies have been pledged to the Team Yokota Cookie Crunch. Cookie donations will be accepted at the Main Chapel Dec. 11 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Dec. 12 from 7 a.m. to noon.

"I hope they enjoy [the cookies],” Oxendine smiled. “They are freshly made by the students and from the heart."