I wouldn’t say we were poor growing up, but my brother and I never had what the other kids had. My parents were Holocaust survivors who came out of the camps with just the rags on their backs and managed to put their lives back together one day at a time. They both found their way out of the ruins of Europe and settled in Sweden, where they met and married. Together they saved up to immigrate to New York where they made a home, created a family and were just happy to live out an existence which was meant to have been extinguished by Hitler. And yet here they were, given a new chance. Money was tight and they weren’t going to let my brother or me waste their hard-earned security on narishkeit.
So what did narishkeit mean in my parents’ world? I’ve touched upon it before when I was denied what I felt were my inalienable rights as a child or teenager. When the Mister Softee truck came tinkling its tune down the street, all the kids had a quarter for a cone. All the kids but me. We never owned a car, so I missed out on those Sunday birthday parties all my classmates attended . As I grew older it meant I didn’t have any spare change for some hot chocolate at the synagogue-sponsored ice skating party on Chanuka. I really felt left out, and nowhere did I feel more left out than at the snack bar, or the ice cream truck. When you’re the only kid without a bucket of popcorn at the movies, it hurts.
When I started to earn a little money of my own I would always spend it on junk food. It was the most amazing feeling being out with friends and not being the only one without a slice of pizza. “Money burns a hole in Miraleh’s pocket,” my mother used to say, and she was right.
I didn’t even need to be among friends for that wonderful rush of buying narishkeit. One of my favorite times was a free hour in between classes at Queens College. I would head over to the kosher cafeteria and spend wonderful minutes deciding what to buy with the $10 an hour I earn teaching kids Hebrew songs and folk dancing at the local community center. One of my most favorite snacks in-between classes was a toasted corn muffin spread with yummy melting butter and a large mug of hot chocolate. I was on top of the world. And even then I was very much like my parents — it didn’t take much to make me happy. Just give me a little foodie freedom and I’m flush with contentment.
Corn muffins is one culinary experience that has never made it to Israel. Thankfully, I can recreate the experience at home. Toasted, served up with some of that sweet and delicious Israeli butter, a large glass mug of hafuch (the Israeli version of a latte) on the side, once again, I’m flush.
This recipe comes from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. The Magnolia Bakery must be one of my most favorite bakeries in the world, although I’ve never been there. If you’re a foodie or love New York, you must have heard of the Magnolia Bakery. I just recently found out that they now have a hechsher, and a pretty good one at that, so you can be sure that the next time I’m in New York I will be one of those standing in the line that stretches all the way down Bleecker Street.
The recipe below is dairy, but I make my corn muffins parve. I also usually double the recipe. Whatever doesn’t get eaten right away freezes beautifully!
One last thing, read through the recipe first before you decide to make it, you don’t want scrambled eggs!
- 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal (in Israel you can find this in the couscous section of your supermaket)
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 1/2 cups milk (I use soymilk)
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks, or 150 grams) butter (I use evil margarine), melted and cooled slightly
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (170 degrees C).
- This is the time to melt the butter.
- Grease well 9 cups of a 12-cup muffin tin. That’s what the recipe says. I make smaller muffins (not minis), using a #4 cupcake liner. I can get about 20 medium sized muffins out of this.
- In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients, making a well in the center. Stir in the liquid ingredients until just combined, being careful not to overmix. The batter may be lumpy, don’t worry about that. BTW, this is why I told you to melt the butter first. The very first time I made this recipe I was full of hubris and just went ahead without reading it first, didn’t see you had to use melted butter, and did that at the last minute. Pouring the hot butter on top of everything else scrambled the eggs sitting in the liquid in the dry ingredient well. It wasn’t pretty. I almost cried.
- Fill the muffin cups about three-quarters full. Bake for 18-20 minutes (medium muffins need just 15 minutes) until lightly golden or a cake tester inserted into the center of the muffin comes out with moist crumbs attached.
- Do not overbake.