On a sultry summer afternoon, just before the clouds rolled in and the sirens wailed and that maple tree in our backyard suddenly became our neighbor’s, a storm of an entirely different sort was brewing in my kitchen. My wife, who is a significantly better mother than meteorologist, began to bake muffins from scratch as an after-school snack for our kids, entirely unaware that the storm of the decade was advancing like a giant rolling pin from the west. What she was aware of as the wind began to pick up was that some of the ingredients she needed for her most cherished recipe were not on the shelf, while a couple others were irrefutably over the hill.
☞ MAKE THE RECIPE: BLUEBERRY-PECAN MUFFINS
Apparently, when life hands you tornadoes, you make slightly different muffins. As near as my wife can recall, the muffins that resulted from the “recipe” that follows were awaiting my sopping wet babes when they stumbled through the front door shortly after our house was surrounded by twisters. It’s a muffin that is, in equal parts, a mother’s tenacious love and a good cook’s high-wire resourcefulness. It’s not a recipe for the faint of heart. However, not only is it not necessary to follow this recipe to the letter, it would probably be truer to the spirit of the recipe if you didn’t. Whether you eat them in brooding darkness by candlelight is entirely up to you.
Step 1. Notice the sideways trees and preheat the oven to 400°F.
Step 2. Process the news that your kids’ school is closing early and whisk together 3 cups of flour, which is not quite enough, plus 1/2 cup of wheat flour to make it so. Add 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1 1/2 cups of finely ground almonds in place of the pecans you don’t have that the original recipe is imagining you do.
Step 3. While a 300-year-old oak is crashing into your friend’s sunroom, casually crack 3 large eggs into a large bowl and whisk. Slowly add 3/4 cup of sugar and keep whisking until it’s a pale yellow color. Like the sky.
Step 4. As something wicked this way comes, whisk in 1 cup of cold milk (or 1/2 cup of milk plus 1/2 cup of yogurt, if that’s all you happen to have), and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Stir in 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Feel the pull of maple syrup and add 2 tablespoons now.
Step 5. Admire how the air-raid sirens can be clearly heard over the wind that’s playing your house like a harmonica. Blithely add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir. When nearly mixed, fold in 2 cups of fresh or frozen blueberries.
Step 6. To a vision of groundwater rising in your sump pump, carefully spoon the batter into the well-buttered cups of a muffin tin.
Step 7. By the light of snapping power lines, calmly slide the muffins into the oven.
Step 8. Abruptly notice the time and the raging tempest outside. Put two and two together. Leap into your car to rescue your kids and four of their soaked, screaming friends, all of whom appear as though they’ve gone through a carwash. If you can arrange it, completely lose power in your house at about this time.
Step 9. Arrive home. Wrap your kids in big bath towels. Light some candles and suddenly remember those muffins that you put in the oven awhile ago.
Step 10. To your utter astonishment, remove 6 inexplicably perfect muffins from the oven. Serve them warm, by candlelight. As the storm passes and you pass around the cold milk or hot tea with honey, by all means, count your blessings.
Beautiful, gripping, loving story. One that pulled me in and made me wish for a wild storm to surround my home just so I can make these muffins. Agree with Dianne – more, please.
On one hand, Jamie, you are supposed to seek shelter when the clouds are trying to kill you. On the other hand, these muffins are so good! Please use your best judgment and thanks for your amazing note. –JS
Being a lifelong resident of the Land of Oz, I found Jimmy’s storytelling familiar and suspenseful. I, too, have done normal things while sirens blared, just because there was no way I was going to the spider-filled cellar unless things got dangerous. Glad all turned out well for his family, as it has so far with mine. To Blueberry Muffins—Long May They Rise! BTW, this week I made my favorite BBM recipe subbing Bing cherries I’d frozen, and they were fabulous.
Dorothy, I was just waiting for you to chime in! I knew you would. I should have bet Renee $100.
Thanks for your charming and empathetic note and also for sharing the image I now have of you debating the storm-versus-the-spidery-cellar option. Never easy. May the big winds keep missing your house and–if God could see fit–may they blow one of those cherry muffins my way. They sound amazing! –JS
I must say I reread this a few times and all I could think of was the closest I came to a tornado back in Iowa and how I was immensely scared. I cannot even imagine going through the experience above…yet I loved every second of the writing and cannot wait to make this recipe in a calm setting.
Two things come to mind thanks to your nice note, Sofia. First, taste memories are powerful. There are any number of delicious choices Amy could have considered baking that afternoon, but this terrific muffin is now indelibly etched in our experience. My other thought is how often adversity brings out the best in people. So many great foods owe their existence to difficult times. Another substantial topic courtesy of a great, humble muffin and your kind response. Definitely make these! –JS
Brilliant. Loved the suspense in the lead, the tight writing and timing, and the happy ending. More, please.
Lovely to hear that you found it to be brilliant, Dianne. Thanks for saying so. And as for “More, please.”? Those were exactly my words to the writer, Dianne. Exactly. Stay tuned….
Wow, quite a compliment coming from you. I think James should be quite content.
Thanks for your generous appraisal, Dianne. A terrific birthday present. js