about bliss

Monday, October 20, 2008

twd: pumpkin muffins

an autumn still life

Something about this time of year, when the wind whips the remaining leaves on the hardwoods into a golden frenzy, when temperatures dive close to freezing at night, when I change my summer bedding for primaloft and flannel, when I hold more tightly onto pockets of sunny warmth and vibrant color makes me nostalgic.

Sunday afternoon I drove to S-town to purchase a few sundries from Target and to snap up any deals at TJ Maxx. Listening to Simon and Garfunkel's greatest hits as I drove down the highway, I noticed the increasing paucity of leaves and the unmistakable thrust of bare branches. There's no more denying that autumn is upon us, and, in this little corner of the world, about to succumb to winter. My mind started ranging over losses--far flung friends who I talk to sporadically, former friends who are now strangers, and those who have passed on. Suddenly I wanted to be driving to meet my best friend S. at Starbucks in Eastwood Towne Center. I thought of our Sunday evening rituals two falls ago when we would share tears as well as coffee as every week brought worse news about S's father, who was losing a battle with liver cancer. But, alas, S. lives a state and a half away, and that Starbucks was closed in the massive shop closure several months ago. Loss.

I wandered around the stores drinking a tall vanilla latte, my classic 'bucks brew, and stopped at my favorite grocery store to buy the Libby pumpkin and chocolate chips I needed to make this week's TWD creation, pumpkin muffins, courtesy of Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp. I drove home and returned to the prosaic act of grading student essays (rhetorical analyses, always a horror) to bring my thoughts away from Autumnal Sadness and into English Professor Confoundment and Indignation.

And yet, these autumnal tracings lingered, bouncing around my head in lines of poetry I still remember from Humanities class in high school, some 17+ years ago:

Spring and Fall, to a Young Child
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

And, tonight, as I baked the muffins after a frustrating day at work, Shakespeare's Sonnet 73, a favorite from Dr O's class at A. College:

THAT time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day 5
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, 10
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

I mixed together the muffins as I talked to a colleague about foodie and English topics. I used white whole wheat flour--incidentally, you can replace it almost without altering the amount, with the only noticeable change being a bit more "crunchy" texture. And, following the suggestions on the TWD site, I used chocolate chips, the bittersweet Ghiradelli ones, as my add in.

The muffins are a delight--I baked them last year, using pumpkin I "rendered" from an adorable little pie pumpkin, and adding dried cranberries and candied ginger for jewel like touches. I like this year's version better--the consistency of the canned pumpkin is more to my liking (a difficult admission for this whole-foods slow-food foodie to make).

And lest you all be concerned about the melancholic turn of this post, and particularly the bittersweet poetry, fear not. Turning to poetry always signals to me a resurgence of creativity, a determination to seek out the best, to attempt new leaps of faith, and to revel in the beauty of the fleeting moment. As I watch the leaves cascade and the geese fly, I prepare myself for that first magical swirl of snowflakes, of floral frost etchings on my windows, of endless mugs of hot chocolate, soft fleece blankets, and a kitchen and pen full of inspiration.

the excess muffin batter in my favorite paper baking "pans"


  1. Your muffins look great but I think I like the loaf even more! Nice job!

  2. Anonymous12:04 AM

    It's hard to imagine autumn in Southern CA where its still {relatively}warm,but your post made it easier. I like the loaf.

  3. Yum! I was listening to a well-known Australian feminist Germaine Greer in a 1991 conversation with Philip Adams...a wise man of some note and Germaine was speaking about menopause... and talking about food and she said that at age 44, for most of us, food and the joy of eating it was far better than sex. I am inclined to agree with her. I am trying to remember the way she put it... a gastronomic orgasm...I think were her words... Food glorius food...

  4. I think this is a wonderful post. I love how you shared that part of yourself. Nostalgia is not a bad thing. It helps us to live our life as if there was no tomorrow and enjoy every minute possible! :)

  5. Anonymous6:29 AM

    that feeling you describe is the perfect and frequent fall feeling. i wonder why that is the case? i'm a psychologist, i should at least have a hypothesis. :) great looking muffins!

  6. I'm sorry your friend is so far away now. I know how hard that is. Your muffins look delicious and I'm glad you got to enjoy them! I loved mine and will definitely make them again :)

  7. I loved your post today. Good for body and soul. Throw in your Simon and Garfunkle and some yummy pumpkin muffins and I'm completely at peace with the world.

  8. i love the poetry you use. So baking can be part of a dramatic heartfelt experience. I feel you sista...

  9. Your muffins are lovely, and thanks for the fall poetry. It has been a while since I thought of that poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins -- I love it. Thanks for reminding me!

  10. I like that you made it into a loaf too! I "grieve" every Fall too -- thanks for sharing that poem. I'd forgotten about it.

  11. Love your reflective writing. Love your pumpkin muffins too. Awesome.