Just as promised, the rain returned on Sunday. With my mind in a slight funk due to the lack of sunlight, I stood at the kitchen counter and stared out the window. Out at the flooded lawn and out at my sweetie, in the torrential downpour, hauling bag after bag of my unused potting soil to place along our driveway as makeshift sandbags. I glanced up toward the thicket of trees that just a few weeks ago, or so it seemed, had been bare and now were full and lush. Their leaves dripping with water…rain forest style. For a minute, I allowed my mind to wander. To think about the 7-year old boy who had vanished Friday morning from an elementary school just down the way from us. Was he out there in this weather? Lost? Trying to find a place to stay dry? For a brief second I imagined that the tables were turned and that was my child. Choking back the lump in my throat, I shook the unspeakable images from my mind and with a heavy heart, took out a recipe for strawberry and rhubarb muffins.
There isn’t much in my children’s lives that I can control. Of course, they don’t know that yet or at least, not fully. But I do. I can’t control the stock market, who decides to kill who, or environmental disasters. I can’t always be there to protect them from harsh words from other children or whether they are chosen for this team or that. I can try my best to guide them but can’t control whether they choose to always make the right decision for any given moment. I can’t control the unspeakable situations that sometimes befall the lives of sweet, innocent children. I can, however, choose and manage what I feed them and even though that may seem simple or even old-fashioned, I believe that it’s one of the greatest gifts that I can give them. What they eat affects their health, their well-being and it brings us together around a table…even for a few brief minutes…before they fly out the door.
I mixed my hood strawberries and my chopped up rhubarb in with the flour and egg mixture. Then, dropped a spoonful of batter into each little paper cup, popped them in the oven and set the timer. Heading out of the kitchen to tackle some chores while the muffins baked, my littlest one called after me, “Mom, my lego store is open. Come see what’s for sale.” Torn, I slowly walked over to where he was and sat down next to him. I listened to him rattle off this “fact” and that “fact” about his ships and knew he was simply making things up just to keep me there. I felt restless. Wanting to get back to what I felt I needed to be doing and yet, what if one day, he just wasn’t there? And so, I sat and I listened and eventually his “sales pitch” was over and off he ran with a big, goofy grin on his face. “Bye, Mom.”
Recently it seems, I’ve had many people saying to me, “You must spend hours in the kitchen.” The truth is, I don’t spend hours…well, except for the occasional rainy, Sunday afternoon where I’ll tackle a new, fairly involved recipe simply because I find cooking relaxing…on a regular basis, I don’t have hours. Our fast paced lives don’t allow for hours but I do make it a point, most evenings, not all, to take a half-hour to an hour or so to cook for my family. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to have them sit down to a meal that is not only delicious but also, nourishing. I love that I can do that for them and the beauty of cooking is that it can be shared equally by men and women, boys and girls, young and old. I don’t know. Perhaps it’s my little way of supplying them each with a bit of certainty in this chaotic and unpredictable world.
Long after the strawberry and rhubarb muffins had been devoured and the day’s activities put to rest, I found myself with my youngest one again…curled up on his bed, pulling him extra close to me, kissing the top of his head and breathing in his sweet smell. “Mom, let’s read “The Tub People” again for stories.” I opened the book and began, “The Tub People stood in a line all day on the edge of the bathtub.” As I read him the story, I thought about how during times like these, when something so incredibly horrific happens, everything takes on new meaning, even seemingly innocent moments like story time. I managed to read, “The Tub Mother pressed her face to the grating. She looked and looked for her Tub Child. But she could not see him.” But, I couldn’t help my voice from cracking when I read, “Come home now,” the grandmother whispered. I had to stop a minute to collect myself. My sweet little boy patiently waited…as if he knew. As if he knew that sometimes, you ache so deeply in places and for people…you never knew existed.
Please take a minute to look at the pictures and read the information about Kyron Horman, the sweet 7-year old boy who disappeared from Skyline Elementary School in Portland, Oregon, last Friday. With everyone looking, perhaps one of us will be able to find him and bring him home to his family. We can hope.
I would put these muffins in the “morning bran muffin” category as opposed to the “decadent, almost cake-like, lemon poppyseed muffin” category. They’re a little heartier than your average muffin but the bright bits of strawberry and rhubarb make them quite delightful and help to life the spirits.
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 stick melted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
optional: 1 tsp grated orange rind
1 cup chopped rhubarb
1 cup sliced strawberries
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix wet ingredients separately. Add wet to dry. Carefully stir in berries and rhubarb. Spoon into greased or paper lined muffin tins. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Be careful not to over bake or the muffins will turn out dry. Enjoy straight from the oven while warm….a little bit of butter spread on a sliced muffin is quite tasty as well.
Yield: A dozen or so
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010