Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Let There Be Muffins, Let There Be Life
After excitement we are so restful. When the thumb of fear lifts, we are so alive.
-Mary Oliver ("May")
It doesn't really bother me, but I think I worry too much. Or maybe what I really mean is that I think too much. At different moments throughout the day, the following thoughts float through my mind: how will I read all these journals? Do I even have to? How will I write this massive thing called a dissertation? Will anybody ever even read it? Will I make it to the bus in time? How can I justify preparing x dish for dinner? And, yes, I will admit that occasionally thoughts like "why are homemade vegan cookies so tasty?" or "where did that girl get those adorable shoes?" also help to constitute the whirlwind that is my mind.
All in all, you might say it's not a bad life. In fact, I would agree with you. It's not. But even nice lives are marked by moments of doubt. This, however, is the moment when I can't sit still anymore--when flipping through the pages of basically obsolete journals becomes impossible and I have to get up and move. I do find that if I allow myself to sit and dwell on the task at hand, oh, I'll dwell; honestly, I can dwell with the best of them. Which is why I like to think of myself instead as a woman of action. Perhaps of the self-made variety. :) There's a canonical article on nineteenth-century Russian literature, one that I stumbled on in my first year of graduate school: "The Superfluous Man and the Necessary Woman." To apply these terms to my life, I'm your average necessary woman. Although, do let me assure you, there's no superfluous man in the picture. :) To explain my metaphor a little, it's really just a state of mind.
The point is that after a day of reading, of straining my eyes, of contemplation, there's nothing better than arriving home with a project in mind. What can I say? I'm a planner at heart. Some nights it's all about doing the dishes. Others, it's about getting my hands--and the kitchen-- dirty and making something that I'll get to enjoy not only when it comes out of the oven, but that also can either be shared or frozen and enjoyed in the weeks to come: split pea soup, cookies, muffins....Oh, how I love my muffins. I can't think of muffins without thinking of 30 Rock and Jenna's Muffin Top song beause we all know that "the muffin top is all that/whole grain, low fat... " Ok, that last part is a bit untrue, but whatever. Depends on the ingredients. And the ones I'm sharing aren't necessarily not low fat, but, well ok, they're actually not. Wisconsin cheddar cheese, corn meal, buttermilk and almost a stick of butter hardly spell whole grain either. Oh well; we eat to live. Brains need food to thrive. And if I could potentially die tomorrow (in a freak accident of some sort), I'd like to know I died eating the good stuff; cornbread masquerading as a muffin with gobs of grated cheese clearly falls into that category.
To again go slightly beyond muffins (obviously, a leitmotif/symbol in this narrative), it's all about balance. And allowing yourself to be human instead of a page-producing/reading machine. When you're a student, I think you often too easily forget that, although you do have your work (and work that, should you so desire it, could last forever), you also have your life, the books and DVDs lining your shelves, the food that could go bad if you put off using it, your friends, the world beyond the confines of the library walls. Maybe it's a silly thought to voice, but it's nice to think that, in addition to a body of knowledge, we're also building lives.
And I guess that the moral of this particular story is that, because I want to enjoy mine, I bake muffins. And other things too. Coping mechanism? Mayyyyyyybe. Coping is as coping does, but I happen to prefer a happy end to a long day...an end that's shaped like a muffin, tastes like a muffin and probably, in all honesty, is a muffin.
P.S. Fun fact of the day about moi: rainy, windy days make me pensive.
Cheddar Cornmeal Muffins
Adapted from Bon Appetit's Taste of the World
Cookbook (it falls into the American food category)
Yields 12 happiness-inspiring muffins
These pair well with omelets, salads, Creamy Tomato Soup, Black Bean Soup...and even cherry jam. Remember, muffins are eternally versatile.
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white cornmeal
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup buttermilk
6 Tbsps. unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
1 large egg
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
black pepper and sesame seeds (to be sprinkled on the muffins before baking)
-Preheat oven to 425°F.
-Line twelve muffin cups with paper or foil liners.
-Stir first 6 ingredients in large bowl to blend.
-Whisk buttermilk, butter and egg in medium bowl to blend.
-Add to dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
-Fold in grated cheddar cheese.
-Divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups.
-Sprinkle black pepper and sesame seeds on the muffin tops.
-Bake muffins until tops are golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
-Cool in pan on rack 10 minutes.
-Serve warm or at room temperature.
-Don't forget to enjoy!