Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cranberry Orange Muffins

I tried to make these muffins at the end of last Winter but I could not find fresh cranberries and I did not want to compromise and use dried cranberries. They make a better fall seasonal treat anyhow. Here is where I got the recipe.

     About a year ago, I heard on the radio that pie is going to be the new cupcakes. When I moved to Seattle I noticed that there was an abundance of cupcake enthusiasm and shops devoted to the mini cakes. I thought it was a Seattle 'thing', but it must have just been a coincidence that I moved up here right around the start of the cupcake trend. Since the radio article, I have noticed more enthusiasm for pie. I've seen a pie shop in Fremont (a neighborhood in Seattle) but I haven't yet tried it out. I like pie and will be happy if it gains the popularity that cupcakes currently enjoy, but so far, the prediction of pie's new prevalence hasn't panned out. At least in Seattle, cupcakes still remain the preferred sweet. What I like about the idea of 'pie' vs. the idea of 'cupcakes' is that there is something old fashioned about pies. They make me think of the 1930's. A kindly woman living on a farmstead bakes a pie and leaves it on an open windowsill to cool down. The steam billows out the window and carries the scent to a hobo with a grumbling stomach. When her back is turned the hobo, shamefaced but hungry, steals it. But the kind old woman doesn't really care, she loves baking pies and she knows the hobo is hungry. She knows the hobo use to be someone different who didn't need to beg or steal. She doesn't dare remind him of his loss by chasing after him or reprimanding him. Pie also reminds me of truck stop diners on lonely country roads. The trucker comes in after a long day on the road and orders a slice of cherry pie from a sweet faced waitress. Business is slow and the trucker and waitress chit chat while the trucker eats. They become friends over the piece of pie and the world seems less lonely. There are more cultural archetypes involving pie then cupcakes, which makes pie seem more rich with a back story and also more romantic.
     Anyway, all this leads me to muffins! Why can't muffins be the new cupcakes? They are delightful, miniature treats and are great for breakfast or for a sweet snack with tea. They share the whole 'cute food' quality that cupcakes have. I think part of what makes cupcakes so popular is the nostalgia wrapped up in the idea of them. Cupcakes remind people of childhood in a way pie doesn't (at least for most people.) Remember bringing cupcakes to school to share with your school chums on your birthday? Or helping your mom make cupcakes for a bake sale? But there is something nostalgic about muffins too, but in a different way. When I think of muffins, I think of that old nursery rhyme 'Do You Know The Muffin Man?' I specifically remember an illustration of the muffin man from some old book. He looked quite jolly. So I associate muffins with jolly bakers. Although, I guess this is less universal than the idea of bringing cupcakes to school on your birthday.

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