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.


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.

About Jimmy Schwartz

Jimmy Schwartz is a freelance commercial writer as well as a food-loving, composting, chicken-raising, organic-gardening, mushroom-foraging, cancer-surviving, sustainably living, dedicated husband and awestruck father of two living in a sturdy brick house in the Midwest. In many ways, the luckiest man alive.

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  1. 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.

    1. 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