Monday, November 17, 2008


A can of self-defense pepper spray says it may
irritate the eyes, while a bathroom heater says it's
not to be used in bathrooms. I collect warnings
the way I used to collect philosophy quotes.

Wittgenstein's There's no such thing
as clear milk rubs shoulders with a box
of rat poison which has been found
to cause cancer in laboratory mice.

Levinas' Language is a battering ram—
a sign that says the very fact of saying,
is as inscrutable as the laser pointer's advice:
Do not look into laser with remaining eye.

Last week I boxed up the solemn row
of philosophy tomes and carted them down
to the used bookstore. The dolly read:
Not to be used to transport humans.

Did lawyers insist that the 13-inch wheel
on the wheelbarrow proclaim it's
not intended for highway use? Or that the
Curling iron is for external use only?

Abram says that realists render material
to give the reader the illusion of the ordinary.
What would he make of Shin pads cannot protect
any part of the body they do not cover?

I load boxes of books onto the counter. Flip
to a yellow-highlighted passage in Aristotle:
Whiteness which lasts for a long time is no whiter
than whiteness which lasts only a day.

A.A.'ers talk about the blinding glare
of the obvious: Objects in the mirror
are actually behind you, Electric cattle prod
only to be used on animals, Warning: Knives are sharp.

What would I have done without: Remove infant
before folding for storage, Do not use hair dryer
while sleeping, Eating pet rocks may lead to broken
teeth, Do not use deodorant intimately?

Goodbye to all those sentences that sought
to puncture the illusory world-like the warning
on the polyester Halloween outfit for my son:
Batman costume will not enable you to fly.

by David Allen Sullivan from Strong-Armed Angels

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Not-For-The-Kids Muffins

Every time I stop into a coffee shop or bakery, I am bombarded by oversized cupcakes, sans frosting, masquerading as muffins. As a discerning adult, this saccharine array of so-called muffins does not appeal to me at all. Rather, store-bought muffins merely appease sweet-toothed children. This, however, is a muffin that can be made any time for a very particular customer: a grown-up with grown-up taste.

Makes a dozen very grown-up muffins

Chop the dried banana chips with a sharp serrated knife, just as you would chop nuts. Don’t use a nonstick skillet to brown the butter. The dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to see when the butter begins to brown.

1/2 cup finely chopped dried banana chips (unsalted)
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon dark rum
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
pinch of table salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons dried tarragon leaves
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3 large, ripe bananas
1/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. FOR THE STREUSEL: Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl using fingertips, a pastry blender, or the tines of two forks to blend the butter into the other ingredients. The streusel will resemble coarse, irregular crumbs and there should be no visible lumps of fat.
2. FOR THE MUFFINS: Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin tin with butter.
3. Heat 6 tablespoons of butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling the pan until the butter becomes golden brown and gives off a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the ground cinnamon. Set aside for 12 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, add flours, dark brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, tarragon, and salt to the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend.
5. Dice 1/2 cup of banana into about 1/4 –inch pieces and set aside. In a food processor, process the rest of the bananas and cream until completely smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla and process briefly just to blend.
6. Once the browned butter has cooled for 12 minutes, cut the remaining 4 tablespoons of room temperature butter into 4 pieces and add it to the flour mixture. With a rubber spatula, scrape all of the browned butter and cinnamon mixture into the flour mixture as well as half of the banana mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate the batter. Scraping down the sides of the bowl, add the remaining banana mixture in two batches. Beat at medium speed for 15 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides once again and fold in the 1/2 cup of diced banana. Make sure the diced banana is evenly distributed by carefully folding the batter about five times.
7. Using a large spoon or an ice cream scoop, fill each muffin tin nearly to the brim. Then, sprinkle each muffin with a portion of the streusel. Bake for 24 to 28 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking time. The muffins should spring back when lightly touched or a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool the muffins in the tin for ten minutes and enjoy.

*** Because bananas are so sweet, it’s not necessary to add a great quantity of sugar to a baked good containing them. However, sugar makes baked goods tender. Many home-made banana muffins are heavy, sad looking things that seem too depressed to rise. To combat the weighty nature of this fruit, this recipe has a fair amount of baking soda to react with the natural acidity of bananas.
** By emulsifying the bananas, cream, eggs, and vanilla in step 5, you inhibit gluten formation in the batter and produce a moist and tender muffin crumb.
*Using heavy cream, which has 38% fat, rather than the more traditional buttermilk, that has less than 2% fat, also helps to achieve the melt-in-your-mouth texture of this muffin.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

Last week, Ludmilla Vasko, fell from her ninth floor balcony in the Ukraine, into an enormous vat of grapes. She survived, unharmed. The police said:

“She was absolutely fine apart from the shock. The grapes cushioned her fall.”

Apparently, Ludmilla saved the winemakers quite a bit of work by having crushed most of the grapes when she landed on them.

For those of us who like to drink our grapes rather than use them as landing devices, I've got a suggestion for you. I recently had a (few bottles of) very good and reasonably priced wine (under $20). It's available at many Whole Foods and wine shops. It's Yalumba's Bush Vine Grenache 2006. The person who (must don an ascot and monocles and) writes for their website claims that it's fragrant with "red fruits and spices with hints of violets and roses and also a savoury complexity", and on the palate it "shows richness and ripeness with textured layers of red and blueberry fruits and youthful tannins". I just think it tastes good and has a cool name - bush vines sound seriously serious. And finally, a BUSH we can all love. So cheers - to NOT falling off of very high buildings and into large piles of fruit. Personally, I find that alcohol does a far better job of giving me an undeserved sense of meaning and grandeur than falling on my keister.