This may have been my longest hiatus from Feast, but I promise it’s for a good reason! I’m pregnant, just embarking upon my second trimester. Jonji and I could not be more excited! Unfortunately, though, that’s meant that for the last couple of months most food smells have sent me into a spiral of nausea. I haven’t cooked a meal for approximately two months which, as a clearly food-obsessed person, has been torture. Our garden is producing beautiful greens and endless tomatoes, but I haven’t been able to stomach much, if any, of it. Like I said, torture. On the other hand, our baby seems very healthy! Hopefully the nausea will abate within the next week or so, which is what happens with most pregnancies. Perhaps then I can heat up a pan without wanting to throw up. A woman can dream.
Along with the recent heat wave that scorched California, we got a tropical lightning storm, which violently brought on fire season earlier than usual. This time, the fires are closer to home than they’ve ever been in my lifetime—most of the Santa Cruz mountains and surrounding areas have been evacuated, with people we know already losing homes. Looking down my parents’ street, all you can see is the ominous orange-grey smoke, choking both vision and lungs. Ash rains down, cloaking the streets and exacerbating the fear. (If you’ve read Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, I think I finally know what their world looked like. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend the series.) There hasn’t been much fire containment so the land continues to burn, devouring homes, poor animals, and hope. It’s tragic, and frightening, and altogether unfair. All we can do is thank the firefighters and hope for a better future in which we will be better prepared.
My dad, a retired firefighter, is pretty sure the fire won’t jump into the city, but he’s been preparing nonetheless. A few days ago, after observing whole charred leaves littering the ground, he cleaned the gutters and trimmed tree branches too close to the roof. He set his old turnouts and fire boots by the door, and made sure there was enough hose to cover the whole roof. The danger will be large, flying embers that can burn a house down if not put out right away. I hope it won’t come to that—him, up on the roof, facing down a glowing sky, determined to fight one more fire so that we don’t lose our home and family history, those thousands of photos and old toys we hope to share with our children one day—though I know so many are facing that reality and many have already lost the battle.
(If you’d like to help, there are so many donation options available for those who have lost everything. Every little bit helps. This website is just one of many places to find that information.)
Comfort, in a time like this, is more important than ever. First, COVID came, encouraging us to stay inside, isolated and afraid. Then just recently the heatwave really forced us to stay inside, using ice packs to find any relief. Now smoke clogs the skies while fire swallows trees and homes, forcing those who can stay inside to do so, while others flee to shelters. It seems like the earth itself is in revolt. And so, we do what we can. We check on family and friends often, we gather belongings, just in case, and, if we can, we cook to feel normal, to feel the joy that good food can bring.
I can count on one hand the number of things I’ve cooked in the past ten weeks, and these muffins are one of them. Yes, pumpkin is notoriously a fall flavor, but let’s not lie to ourselves and pretend we can’t get good quality canned pumpkin any time of the year. If you’d rather wait until the festive feeling starts, by all means wait for this summer heat to die down. But if you feel the need for something a little comforting right now, this will do the trick.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes 12 • recipe adapted from Julie Gransee
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup finely shredded coconut
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp fine salt
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)
1 15 oz can pumpkin purée
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease (using butter or a cooking spray) a 12-cup muffin tin.
In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, both sugars, shredded coconut, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt. Mix in the chocolate chips, if using. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin purée, coconut oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until well combined.
Using a large rubber spatula, mix the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined, or until the flour is totally absorbed. Don’t over mix, or you’ll get tougher muffins.
Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling them right up to the top of the tin.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean but still moist. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer the muffins to a cooling rack.