21 March 2012

reading of books and eating of cheese

I've had a scattering of solicitous inquiries after my well-being. I am grateful for your concern and wish to reassure you that I've not, in fact, fallen off the edge of the earth, or into a hole.

What I have been doing is working very hard at my day job, which has been busy of late. Many phone calls and meetings. Much reading of other people's emails and documents. Much writing of documents and emails at my end.

And speaking of things into which I might fall, I'm trying very hard not to land in the 'writers writing about writing' trap because ... who wants to read that? I don't. I get a sentence or a paragraph or three into an essay, realise that it's about the writer's writing, and bail. Or I get a sentence or three into writing a blog post, realise the same thing, and bail again.

Not that I think these are bad conversations for writers to have, just that I think they should be conversations, had in workshops, or on internet message boards, or, better yet, over coffee or drinks. Essays are monologues, and declaiming a monologue on the writer's lot is self indulgent at best.

So I'm not doing it. Call me sometime, when you're in the area. We'll hit a coffee shop -- or a public house, you choose -- and we'll talk about the sins of the adverb and the voice of a retrospective narrator and cry in each other's beer if we need to. We'll listen and talk and feel better (or at least less alone) even if we don't solve anything specific about my novella (or my last docket at work) or your short story. If you give me a little notice I might even bring muffins. Little ones, just a bite or two, just enough to soften the landing of that mixed drink in your stomach.

The problem with muffins is that they're so often so very close to being indistinguishable from cupcakes. The problem with 'mini muffin' as a term is that it suggests both cuteness and sweetness, with a side of ringleted, be-ribboned girliness. These mini muffins, though arguably cute, are entirely distinguishable from cupcakes. They are not sweet. What they are, instead, are tiny cheese bombs, to be consumed by anyone, regardless of ringlet-and-ribbon status. I chose the mini muffin pan over the regular one as a form of portion control, but sometimes people eat them by the handful.

Like most cheesy things, they go well with tomatoes, apples, or anything else with a bit of an acid bite. I use a sharp cheddar in these but any sharpish cheese should do. They do benefit from sitting a day or two after baking in an air-tight container, but it's hard to hold off eating them that long.

Cheddar Mini Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
10 oz sharp cheddar cheese (about 3 cups shredded)
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 cup (1 stick, 1/4 pound) room temperature butter

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, combine flours, baking powder, sugar, salt, and red pepper and whisk to combine. Shred the cheese, add to the flour mixture, and toss to coat the cheese.

In a second large bowl, beat the egg and butter together until creamy. Add 1/3 the flour and cheese mixture, stir until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add 1/2 cup of the buttermilk, stir again until just combined. Add 1/2 the remaining flour mixture, and repeat as above until all the flour mixture and buttermilk are incorporated.

Line the cups of a mini muffin tin with papers. Fill each cup with about 1 tbs batter. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Makes about 3 dozen muffins.

John Heywood

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  1. I am so with you on the writing about writing nonsense. I have just had a short story published forthe first time. Apart from wanting to acost total strangers in the street to crow about this, I have no desire to write about it. Nothing to say except what's in the story. But yes, if I am ever in the area i will definitely call you up to talk about the troubles I have with the semicolon. Cheesy muffins - yum. C.x

    1. Semicolons are the most misunderstood piece of punctuation, I think. The muffins and I are here for you.

  2. From time to time, I meet aspiring writers who are stunned to learn that I'm almost entirely unfamiliar with the "writers writing about writing" genre. I've learned to respond very politely, because for some people the suggestion that one doesn't want or need such books is tantamount to telling them that no, you're not particularly interested in their religion...

    1. But have you accepted the personal metaliterary as your saviour?

      I think it's interesting that you've encountered interest in the genre more often in aspiring writers. That seems natural, in a way, though one also wonders about the 'experts' producing the books.

    2. Yeah, many aspiring writers imagine there's some gnostic secret to writing competently and getting published, but what I find depressing is the vast number of "experts" who prey on that naievete by writing guidebooks about writing or publishing or who somehow get gigs teaching "creative writing," even though many of them have never written or published anything.


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