Sunday, July 11, 2010

Musings Concerning "The Table" and the Elusive Blueberry Muffin Recipe

Every now and then I will write a post that doesn't include recipes or pictures. Today's post will be one of those posts.  Well, maybe I'll sneak in a picture....  Here are the beautiful blueberries I purchased for my blueberry muffins:

Seeds of this post were planted as I was reading over my last post. When I wrote it I purposely left out specifics about the event and the people there because it is important to me not to plaster pictures of myself and my friends all over this blog. This is mostly because I am fairly private about my own life and also because I want to respect the privacy of others. But in addition to these things, I want this blog to be accessible, one that is about food and the universal shared experience of food...not just me and my experience of food.

I was telling one of the guests from last Sunday about this omission of the people and personal specifics from my post because leaving these things out had made me feel as though I had somehow misrepresented our evening.  A description of the evening without alluding to those gathered came up short because the gathering of all of us together was the event—food (which was the focus of my post) was just one part of our evening. So I thought I might bring some completion to my previous post by posting a few random thoughts about these intangibles of "the table".

M.F.K. Fisher put it best: "There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine is drunk." This is so true. We are spiritual beings and the table as a gathering place is a place where we commune as people. When we gather with friends, the food is important (I wouldn't be a chef if I didn't believe that), but it is not paramount.

Good food does not automatically produce a happy and memorable gathering. There is a proverb that says "Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred". I have experienced what it is like to be in paradise on earth, eating the finest food imaginable and not being able to enjoy it because of the presence of an undercurrent of strife and discord. On the other hand, even if the food is perhaps not so fine, a gathering can be happy and memorable if laughter, peace and good conversation are at the table. Although the food was very good at the dinner I posted about, one of the things that made my fourth of July so very special is that I was staying with a friend whose very nature exhibits hospitality, joy and generosity.

Since a well-prepared meal can only enhance a gathering, being able to prepare good food is important. One of the reasons that I teach cooking classes is that I want people to cook good food for their families and friends. I'm sure I have written this before, and it will probably show up over and over on my blog, but I want the things I post to not only encourage and inspire this, but to make it possible. I love hearing back from people that they made something I posted about—or that it motivated them to cook for someone.

A common lament among chefs is that often people are afraid to cook for them. Apparently the fear is that what they prepare will not be "good enough" for a chef. But cooking for another human being is a gift to them. I am always touched when someone makes the effort to cook or bake for me—even more so since I knew they had the "cooking for a chef" hurdle to surmount before they did it.

I will admit that I am a perfectionist when it comes to food that I prepare—it is important to do everything with an eye towards doing your best. I had planned to post about blueberry muffins today. But although the muffins I made were good, they could be better. I am on the hunt for a perfect blueberry muffin—sweet and tender (with a muffin- and not a cake-like texture) where the muffin would be fine without the blueberries, but is even better with... The muffins I made weren't quite there, so I didn't want to post about them because I hold out hope I'll come across, or come up with, that recipe. But, even though they were not "perfect", I would not hesitate to share the ones that I made with family and friends over the Sunday morning breakfast or brunch table.

Since there are fine recipes for blueberry muffins everywhere...and we are in the peak of blueberry season...I encourage you to let this post inspire you to make a batch. Make them with love, doing your best. Then, serve them to your family or friends for brunch or a snack...take them to work for your co-workers to enjoy with their morning coffee (instead of the normal industrial fodder that is eaten in offices everywhere)...give some to a neighbor... Feed yourself and others with something that you have made and you will be filling more than just someone's belly. 

As for me, I returned home well-filled after my visit with my friends.

Quotes from: The Gastronomical Me, by M.F.K. Fisher and Proverbs 15:17, The New International Version of The Bible


Katrina said...

Super great post, Paige! All so true. And I'm glad I'm one of the ones who 1-told you when I made your recipes and how good they turned out and 2-baked you some goodies to share--that really was "scary" the first time!
Anna at Cookie Madness is always looking for "the best" of things and recently posted some blueberry muffins (and I know she has lots more on her blog as well). You can check hers out.
Get this, I just bought 25 pints of blueberries yesterday. Yep, 25 pints! I've been freezing them like crazy and we've been eating them like crazy and some friends just showed up for blueberry crisp!
Seriously great post!

Paige said...

Hey Katrina,

Thanks for the link to Anna's post. I will definitely check it out.

Wow! 25 pints of blueberries! Blueberry crisp sounds great. You should also make a blueberry buckle--a streusel-y cake with loads of blueberries in it (so many that when some of them collapse the cake "buckles" on the surface).

Unknown said...

So many blueberries! Wow!! I posted some muffins a while ago, that I use for whatever mix-in I feel.. Love them!