There was a drawer in my childhood kitchen. If it wasn’t made of actual walnut, it was definitely made of walnut-veneered wood, and sat beneath the silverware drawer, which sat beneath the mustard-colored formica countertop. The drawer had no heft and seemed to always be falling off its tracking likely due to the many dozens of times a day we’d open and close it.
My mom kept a strange array of items in the drawer — there was a basket where she stored her onions and garlic. In the corner, wrapped in the coil of its wire, was the electric hand-mixer that matched the countertop and that I still use every Thanksgiving to whip warm milk into mashed potatoes. (Unlike me, my mom does not update for the sake of updating. She uses something until it’s broken.) And on top of all these items were any number of boxes from Grand Union’s baked good aisle. Which shouldn’t be confused with the actual bakery, which would indicate that something fresh was involved — not that the term “fresh” meant anything to me in 1983. Entenmann’s was, of course, king of the drawer, with its sour cream chocolate chip nut loaf, buttery pound cake, thick, fudge-frosting-spackled sheet cake, and chocolate-frosted doughnuts that remained slightly crunchy in all the right places even after a generous dunk in milk. Nine times out of ten, if you opened The Drawer, you’d find one of these products. But, depending on who accompanied Mom to “The Grand,” as she called it, you might also find Freihofer’s cupcakes, glazed pop ‘ems, a box of Drake’s Yodels or Ring Dings, Nabisco Nutter Butters and Fudge Stripes, Fudge Sticks, and Vanilla Cream wafers, or my favorite, Thomas’s Toast-R-Cakes in Blueberry or Corn. Still to this day, on the rare (read: glorious) occasion I find myself eating a Nutter Butter, I somehow taste an infusion of onion and old wood. There was never any talk of calories or trans fats or additives or chemicals or dieting. Why would there be? If it was USDA-approved it couldn’t be that bad, right? Plus my brother, sister, and I were all two- and three-sport athletes. I could eat anything I wanted and still barely hold down a movie theater flip seat with my own body weight.
The Drawer in my house today is not so much a drawer as it is a ceramic bread crock, and one look at its contents would be enough to measure how much times have changed since we were kids. Right now, inside the crock, there’s a single bag of Trader Joe’s mini-bagels. But this doesn’t mean we don’t give in to baked-good temptation every now and then. (Here is where I will also conveniently glaze over the chocolate-covered everything syndrome in our pantry.) Lately, I’ve been into making blueberry-corn muffins, which is not only a more wholesome update of those heavenly Toast-R-Cakes I loved so much as a kid, they also happen to be a hybrid of the two muffins my daughters love and gobble up for breakfast or after-school snack. And by adding a handful of fresh blueberries (right after the stick of butter and half cup of sugar) I have no problem whatsoever convincing myself that they’re healthy.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted