Valentine’s Day Despite It All

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food writing muffinsThe morning started innocently enough. I decided to make Mark Bittman’s muffins as a treat, instead of the usual cereal or toast. After all, Valentine’s Day demands special effort for a special day.

But then I noticed I only had a half a cup of applesauce, and needed a cup, so I had to make more. I made my husband get up from reading the Sunday comics to stir.

And then I remembered I had made roast chicken the other night because Ruhlman said any idiot could do it, so I felt qualified. It turned out fine, but  I also discovered why I stopped making roast chicken at high temperatures: it throws fat everywhere and destroys the oven. Now the oven had to be cleaned, or it would smoke and perfume my special Valentine’s Day muffins with essence of burned poultry fat.

So while I prepped the wet and dry ingredients for my special treat for my husband, he cleaned the oven on his hands and knees. I was so distracted I forgot the sugar.

Finally, at 1 p.m., we sat down to fresh muffins, fruit and yogurt. I asked my honey if he liked the muffins. He said they were “okay.” We’ve been married so long (20.5 years) I knew what that meant.

Crestfallen, I asked if he would have preferred a big ham and cheese omelet instead of this healthy treat, which I realized appealed more to me than him. He said no. “Just next time, add the sugar.” And then he kissed me.

(Photo of sugarless applesauce muffins by Owen Rubin).


  1. says

    So is it wrong that this post made me laugh?? If so, I’m truly sorry, but the picture you painted of the two of you in that kitchen is absolutely priceless! My only hope is that I’m laughing WITH you!

  2. says

    Dianne – I loved this little window into your everyday life. What a funny and touching post. And you said so much in so few words! I am struggling with a submission for a website that needs to be max 300 words and I wish I had your knack for saying a lot without using many words!

    • diannejacob says

      Thanks, good to hear. Cutting, Mardi. It’s all about condensing and being as concise as possible.

  3. Erica Peters says

    I have to say, that in addition to the smile this brought to my morning, I also just love when talented cooks admit that cooking is not always easy. Writers tend to scold those who don’t cook “real” food every meal, without acknowledging that life sometimes gets in the way, that home-roasted chicken is easier to ruin than buying a rotisserie bird, and that clean-up (and do-overs) mean that “real cooking” can take much longer than “convenience foods” (especially for the inexperienced, but even, as in this story, for the very experienced). Life is short; some people love cooking; for those who don’t, a list of baby steps towards healthy eating can be more useful than exhortations to devote themselves to cooking. (Baby step we’ve adopted in my house: “If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re not hungry.”)

    • diannejacob says

      Thanks Erica. That is a good point, to not always tell people how easy it is, a trap that food writers fall into all the time.

      My next strategy is to buy a roasting pan. Maybe then my roast chicken won’t spatter as much.

  4. says

    I was laughing when you said you were married so long you knew what “okay” meant. My husband says things are “fine” and I used to flip out, but realize it’s his seal of approval.

    If it makes you feel any better, I once forgot the sugar in a chocolate cake made with cocoa. Ick…

    • diannejacob says

      He said they were dry also! Argh!

      Re your husband’s “fine,” I think that’s more positive than “okay.” “Okay” means he didn’t eat any more of them, but he was humoring me by eating one. They are almost stale enough to throw out now.

  5. says

    I’ve concluded the same about roasting chicken, especially at high heat, the results of which I prefer (crispy skin!). My solution is to roast them on my grill with a Weber poultry roaster. I’m sure there are other brands as well (I have a ceramic version for my oven by Chicko, although don’t think it would work on the grill). The chicken stands up on it, a la “beer can chicken,” with a receptacle for liquid (I add wine, rosemary, garlic) and a “plug” to hold in the steam. I keep my grill around 500 degrees, so the skin is incredibly crisp, the inside is falling-apart moist, and the whole thing is done in an hour. No mess (other than the roaster). I highly recommend, even in the winter!

    • diannejacob says

      Wow, that does sound good. We have a rotisserie as well for our grill, but Owen’s in charge of it. You do it yourself? Hey, I’ve got a secret for you. The only time I don’t cook is when Owen agrees to grill something. I’m not taking that over. But I will suggest it soon.