I've been taking a food writing class on Tuesday nights at Stanford for the past month. It's a five-week class and this coming week will be the last in the series. Our homework is to write about a recipe from our childhood.
This is a timely assignment, as I am spending the weekend at my mother's, affording the me the opportunity to talk about childhood foods and recipes with her in person. Between chemotherapy, her first blood transfusion, and everything that goes along with all of that, it's been a tough few days. Talking about food is a nice break from reality.
I had been reflecting on things I remember eating growing up. Doing so brings me back to my childhood kitchen: a long, narrow corridor between the mud porch leading running between the back door and the living room of a victorian house built around 1917 in Washington state. It seemed gigantic when I was little. White cupboards and stainless steel countertops lined one side, while the other was filled with a round wooden table, a hot water heater, a stove, and a refrigerator that would be considered positively retro compared to today's typical stainless steel behemoth, possibly even referred to as an "icebox." Open shelves lined the majority of the cupboarded wall, displaying pretty dishes: amber and turquoise goblets, delicate china depicting birds and flowers, intricate crystal dessert dishes.
I thought I remembered roosters on the wallpaper, but my mom wasn't sure, so we dug out an old photo album with pics from my first year of life. In addition to confirming the roosters on the wallpaper, the photos revealed other treasures that were too buried in my memory to recall. For example, a giant porcelain turkey sitting on the counter, which it turns out was actually a goose - Mother Goose - a cookie jar from my mom's childhood that also appeared in mine, but then broke at some point between then and now. The wallpaper contained bright red, green, and blue shapes against a light background: roosters, cherries, salt and pepper shakers, apples and pears. Red and white checkered towels added additional bursts of color against the pale cupboards.
When I think back to foods I ate in this kitchen, I remember quite a mix of things: pot roast, cabbage and noodles, or mexican straw hats for dinner, bologna and hot dogs that I would sneak, raw, from the fridge for a snack, peaches & cream oatmeal that I would climb up on the counter to retrieve and make myself. For homework purposes, I need something transportable; part of the assignment is to actually make the recipe that we write about and bring it to our last class as a sort of celabratory feast.
A consideration in addition to transportability is time. I don't get back to SF until Sunday night and likely have a long work day in front of me on Monday to make up for my days out of the office, which leaves Monday night to make my homework. I had been thinking of cookies, in particular, Corn Flake oatmeal cookies that always turn out perfect and are almost healthy enough to eat for breakfast (or so we've always told ourselves). But then my mom reminded me of another easy to make transportable option: Malto-O Meal "magic muffins". Bingo.
I'm not sure why they are magic, but that's what the recipe on the side of the box calls them. I remember eating these muffins on weekend mornings while watching cartoons. My mom generally made one of two variations: filled with raspberry jam or mixed with blueberries. She'd let me stir. This morning, I did a test run of the blueberry version (which I plan to make again on Monday night for class on Tuesday). I've switched out some of the original ingredients for healthier alternatives. They turned out as yummy as I remember: a pleasant, sandy texture due to the Malt-O Meal, just a tad sweet, with a juicy burst of blueberry in every other bite. It was also a great excuse to reminisce with my mom this morning - of both my childhood and hers. Here's the recipe for the muffins that accompanied our conversation:
Blueberry Magic Muffins
Adapted from the Malt-O Meal box
1 1/4 c. flour (I used a mix of whole wheat and all purpose flour)
3/4 c. dry Malt-O Meal cereal
1/2 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. rice milk
1/4 c. coconut oil, melted
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a muffin pan with muffin papers. If using frozen blueberries, run under cool water in a strainer to thaw.
Mix all ingredients except blueberries in a large bowl until well combined. Gently fold in blueberries. Scoop batter into lined muffin pans until 3/4 full. Bake 20 minutes, or until golden. Enjoy warm, topped with butter or cream cheese.
One year ago: beet ketchup