Thursday, January 21, 2010

Love Muffin

Today, I find myself about to wax surprisingly rhapsodic over another household staple around here--Cinnamon Muffins. I say surprisingly because I baked them for years without tasting them. Normally baking something without eating it, or baking something that I didn't want to eat in the first place, would be unthinkable, but I made them for my son, not for me or my husband. These goodies were produced not for consumption but to express motherly oven-love that had for many years been crowded out by hours of baking for pay and to wean him off PopTarts while humoring his simple palate.

My dear young man has always been a picky eater who knows what he likes. He started life by rejecting bottle feeding quite clearly. (Good thing I didn't want to go back to work.) Then, after a compliant infancy in which he would eat any fruit or vegetable baby food that I made for him (Isn't there some kind of award for making your own baby food? I'd like to win an award for something.) and any meat that I bought (Wait, there goes my award.), he proceeded to live on a diet of about five foods until toddlerhood. Once he broadened his tastes a bit, he still showed a marked preference for plain foods. He rejected both blueberry banana bread and chunky tomato sauce because they had "fruits" in them. (Apparently, he's brilliant, too. He knew tomatoes were a fruit before I did.) He never got into dipping foods in sauces like some children. He preferred just cheese pizza. He accepted no nuts in homemade brownies and carefully picked them off the packaged ones. He basically has a history of eschewing all chunks, condiments, extras, and toppings. His favorite ice cream flavor is--you guessed it--vanilla, and he still orders his burgers plain at fast food outfits.

I suspect parental payback here, because I was also a picky britches as a child. My idea of a sandwich was American cheese-like food and white bread--only. My list of safe vegetables contained just green beans, corn, and potatoes--not that the last two are even vegetables. I too rejected crunchy interruptions of smooth things like brownies and peanut butter. I was a senior in high school before I ate a salad, and there was probably more ranch dressing on my plate than salad.

Basically, I would have felt like a hypocrite if I'd given him grief. No one made me eat foods I didn't like, and I turned out to be a fairly adventurous eater. Why have a power struggle over it? I figured that with enough time and education he'd expand his menu choices on his own. So I preached the virtues of nutrition and variety, made sure there was something he'd eat on the table each night, and waited. He made it to ranch-soaked romaine way before I did and requested green beans for his birthday feast. My plan is working.

But despite the progress, he still leans toward plainness. When I was belatedly able to begin spoiling him while I still have him by replacing the offensive PopTarts with Mama-made muffins for breakfast, his choice of flavor was cinnamon. That's all. Just cinnamon. He wouldn't even go for chocolate chip, which I would have enjoyed, too. (Wait. He used to call his mother The Queen of Chocolate. Maybe he was just being brilliant again.)

I dug up a plain muffin recipe in a cookbook at the little bakery/cafe where I worked at the time and prepared it with a generous amount of added cinnamon. (It was, ironically, written plain to allow the baker to stir in additions. Shows what they know.) I don't remember even tasting them. They were for him. He liked them. That's all I needed to know.

All, that is, until we found ourselves here at the farm without our own stock of chosen edibles and with a need for a snack. Those muffins suddenly looked mighty interesting. Plain and designated for the child, yes, but at least scratch made and replaceable in my new free time. So hubby and I poured some milk, split one (I make the jumbo size since they're an athletic 16-year-old's breakfast entree), and were pleasantly surprised.

We both agreed that we had given these plain gems short shrift. I immediately elevated them in my mind from plain to simple, which is to me a virtue (This belief is probably why I'm garnish-challenged at school.) I was also gratified to note that they were sweet, but not too sweet--another virtue, since I contend that muffins should not be cupcakes by another name. And is there any homier, more soothing flavor than cinnamon? They were absolutely uncomplicated comfort food, a testament to the powers of the pantry. No wonder my son loves them so.

For now anyway. Another thing about my boy: he'll choose a food, live on it, and forsake it entirely when he's had his fill of it. Someday I may be nostalgically making these muffins for myself when I want a snack like a nap with blankey.

Cinnamon Muffins
Makes 6 jumbo or 12 regular muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar or brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup milk or 1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup oil
1 egg

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees (375 if you have a dark nonstick muffin pan).
2) Mix all dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.
3) Mix all wet ingredients in a small bowl.
4) Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones just until moistened.
5) Divide the batter between the muffin cups.
6) Bake for about 15 minutes for regular muffins or 20 minutes for jumbos.
7) Turn out and cool completely on a wire rack.

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