It’s strange to feel wiped out at a time when I’m almost always home, my evenings are always free, and work isn’t particularly crazy. But I’ve felt amazingly tired this week, all the same.
Part of it is an accumulation of failed recipes, which always knocks the wind out of my sails. But I think that I’m being impacted by my environment, too. My days are very routine, and they’re peaceful in many ways, but there’s still the weight of changed lifestyle and reality to cope with. When I focus on simple household tasks, I feel calm, but there’s always a lurking anxiety about the current circumstances—worry for my mom, worry for loved ones—and so many questions about when and how we’ll start to recover as a society.
Given that I’ve had essentially no human contact in eight or nine weeks, my loneliness is manageable. It comes and goes, but I have plenty of virtual contact, and that helps. Even so, I’m starting to get restless. I miss my city. I miss being out, walking into coffee shops and restaurants, grocery shopping without a sense of urgency and the need to hurry home.
I think the only way to cope with this is to acknowledge that it’s there. I can’t and won’t operate as if the pandemic isn’t happening and daily life hasn’t been fundamentally altered. It has been, and I’m affected by what’s happening, as we all are. I’m often unmotivated. I’m not being very productive with this time at home. My mood is unpredictable; fear comes and goes.
It’s OK. I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other and focusing on the present. The latter is what seems to help me most of all. I feel the calmest when I take each hour as it comes and resist speculating about what’s ahead. When I adopt this posture, I’m able to breathe, to complete one task at a time, and to savor the little things.
What definitely doesn’t help is experimenting with overly ambitious recipes. Ambitious is a relative term, of course: when I’m calm and centered and energetic, there are a lot of recipe projects that turn out to be fun. When I’m anxious and glum and unmotivated, it’s not the time to experiment with an elaborate new cake, which is what I spent three days doing this week. In my defense, it’s my mother’s birthday and Mother’s Day this weekend, and I wanted to observe them in style. But I probably should have stopped after only one failed attempt, rather than a few.
Intuitively, I knew that I’d cheer up if I baked something that was a success. Instead of overreaching, I decided to make a recipe that’s relatively close to other recipes that I’ve made and loved. These corn and jam muffins are it. I love cornbread with jam, so it’s no surprise that I think they’re delightful. And the jam is a surprise, a little pocket of sweetness that you find when you open up a muffin or bite into it to eat.
“Jam-filled” sounds kind of fancy, but the muffins really aren’t hard to make. The batter is basically cornbread batter. You scoop it into a muffin tin, add a dollop (a scant tablespoon) of jam on top of each mound of batter, and then top that with a little extra batter. The muffins bake up into golden perfection, with the jam hiding inside them. It’s sort of the same principle as a self-saucing pudding. Except I’ve never tried to make one of those, and this won’t be the week that I experiment 😉
Here’s the muffin recipe.
If you happen to be baking for a mom in celebration of Mother’s Day this weekend, these muffins are fun and sweet and festive, yet pretty simple, all things considered. And they’re great with brunch. If you’re baking virtually with or for someone, they’ll be a fun little Zoom project. If you’re not celebrating Mother’s Day, but you could use a homemade muffin, they’re waiting for you. Whatever you’re up to this weekend, if you feel like baking, I hope these will bring you a little joy.
And speaking of the weekend, I’ll be back on Sunday for weekend reading.