I bought four pints of blueberries from a coworker whose father grows and sells them. It was an impulse buy. I was thinking about delicious blueberries and picturing a little old man with a big floppy sun hat working out in his garden, picking fruit and throwing them into a gallon milk jug cut up to be a berry bucket. I was not thinking about what I was going to do with four pints of blueberries.
There are lots of things you can do with blueberries. You can just eat them straight, or you can do smoothies or pancakes or shortcakes or muffins. You could make a pie or scones or one of those American flag cakes (provided you also have some kind of red berry). I like all those things. Unfortunately, my partner in eating is a little more cool to fruit-based desserts. When you are cooking for only two people, both people have to like the food or it won't get eaten.
Josh does not like fruit pie, or rather, it's not his favorite. The basic problem is that he doesn't like fruit that has been cooked. If I were to make a blueberry pie, I could expect to eat it all alone. Part of me likes that idea, but the rest of me knows that being forced to eat a whole pie by yourself before it goes bad just sort of ruins the idea of pie for you. I would never, ever want to ruin the idea of pie for myself. So no pie.
He does like fruit shortcake. If asked, he raves about it, which leads me to believe that someone in his family made a really good one once, maybe on a day that he got a new puppy or something, so that he has very strong happy associations with shortcake. Whenever he mentions how much he likes shortcake, I go look up a recipe. Every time my man goes on and on about some kind of food he loves, I feel compelled to create the experience for him. Maybe it's love, or maybe it's me trying to convince him that there is no reason for him ever to venture outside my house in search of fulfillment of his desires.
HOWEVER. I have been down that road before, I have made him a shortcake. It was lumpy, but tasted the way it was supposed to. Yet again, I was forced to finish most of it myself. I could blame it on the recipe. Perhaps it wasn't as good as the new puppy shortcake. I should try a different recipe, right?
No. Absolutely not. It will be the same all over again. It will be me eating shortcake, and frankly, if I'm going to have to eat most of a dessert, I'd rather eat pie. I remember being very frustrated by the whole shortcake experience. You said you loved shortcake, I made you a freaking shortcake, now you're gonna eat it all while I stand here and glare at you.
The problem was not the shortcake. It was actually a problem in communication. Though Josh said he loves shortcake, that's not exactly what he means. After years of studying the Joshua in his native habitat, I have finally figured out what he is actually saying, as opposed to what it sounds like he's saying. Here is a little translation guide, in case you should ever find yourself with a Joshua and a lot of extra berries.
What he says: I love shortcake.
What he means: Shortcake is very good for a dessert that doesn't have chocolate in it. I would happily eat a piece of shortcake. If it is a particularly good shortcake, I might eat yet another piece tomorrow.
What he says: I love chocolate.
What he means: I must have chocolate or my life will spiral into despair. I could eat two or three slices of chocolate pie every day for the rest of my life. The same goes for brownies or chocolate cookies, or just straight squares of bar chocolate.
I honestly only figured this out recently. Silly me, I had been taking him at face value! He was not trying to deceive me. He just didn't realize that to me, a person who has a sane and normal relationship with chocolate, the world of desserts is not automatically split into chocolate and everything else. No matter how much he likes shortcake (or any kind of non-chocolate dessert), it is not on the same level as a chocolate one. So if I make such a dish, I had better be prepared to eat most of it.
I don't mind this limitation. Now that I understand it, I can work with it. The realization gave me peace about the shortcake incident (which had gone from "the time I made shortcake" to a full-blown "incident"). It was not my shortcake, it was the fact that all shortcakes since the beginning of time are inherently inferior to anything at all that contains chocolate. I had been trying to build a repetoire of dishes to make for him, because there are many desserts that I love, and I enjoy the variety. He loves a variety of chocolate desserts.
Back (finally!) to the four pints of blueberries. Last night, I made muffins. I picked the recipe with the most five-star reviews and made it. I tell you, I was kinda ho-hum about fruit muffins. They're okay, I guess. But that was because I had never had muffins like these. These were more like coffee cake with fruit inside. This is what all fruit muffins aspire to, it's why fruit muffins were invented. These are new puppy muffins, but you don't have to put down any newspapers! I ate three of them last night, and then another two for breakfast. Five muffins in twelve hours. If someone had asked me yesterday morning whether I liked blueberry muffins, I would have shrugged and said "Sure. Everyone likes muffins." Now, my answer might be more like "I love some blueberry muffins, but a lot of them are crappy. Those muffins do not deserve to be in the same room as the good ones. It's like comparing chocolate to shortcake; it's not even close." Then that person will never ask me a question again, and they surely won't be offering me any baked goods.
Josh agrees that these are about as good as fruit muffins can get. In the middle of his muffin, he said, with his mouth full, that this was going to be our muffin recipe, for now and all time. And then he finished his muffin, got up and got himself a brownie.
The only change I made was to substitute brown sugar for white in the topping. I also only had to bake them for 18 minutes.