A Muffin from the Past
It looks like a cupcake . . . and in reality it is.
But it reminds me of a muffin.
The “Maple Brown Sugar” cake mix I bought at the store that sounded kind of delicious wasn’t supposed to remind me of something from years ago. It’s just a cake mix, after all.
The mix, however, bears a striking, if not exact similarity to a muffin mix that existed back when I was young, first met my then-girlfriend-soon-to-be-wife. At that time, the Robin Hood Flour company made more than flour. The company (which does still exist, though I only seem to see their website in Canada now) made all manner of cookies, muffins and other products. It may be what had them falter and disappear from American store shelves, I don’t know.
Back then, though, in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, they had a mix for caramel muffins. They weren’t caramel so much as loaded with brown sugar and flavor. I must suspect Andrea, my late wife, and I were the only ones who ate them because they disappeared from shelves.
I spotted a cake mix over the weekend, and since they’re relatively safe, easy, and tasty I grabbed this “maple brown sugar” one because it sounded pretty good.
When I made them, the smell of the maple cake wafting through the house, the kids were all aflutter with anticipation. I made frosting for them from scratch, adding some maple syrup to add to it just a little, and let them cool off to the side. It was after dinner and a trip to the park we finally bit into them.
I was transported back to what seems a million years ago to a tiny Craftsman home in Omaha. There was a blonde woman putting her chin on my shoulder and quietly asking “how much longer until they’re done?” The “cupcakes” had the same consistency, flavor and even smell as the muffins I used to make from that mix. It was uncanny.
“Wow, these taste like the caramel muffins I used to make for your Mom,” I told the kids.
My daughter started to agree until I told her they’d stopped selling the mix long before she was born.
“Well, I imagine it must have tasted this way,” she sputtered a bit meekly.
The kids loved them, smiling and grinning like their mother after the hot muffins would come out of the pan.
I know. It’s a lot to apply to a muffin. It’s not the muffin so much for me, though. It’s about the memory the flavor brings.
In the last few years the stark, constant, unwavering memories were bombarding us at nearly every second. You couldn’t turn a corner without seeing my wife, who passed away in 2011. Restaurants had memories and so did foods, events, movies, TV shows, songs . . . they all were like land mines, grief waiting to explode and tear us apart on a regular basis.
The constant bombardment has waned, though. I took a bite of this frosted confection and I didn’t feel sad. I could feel her chin on my shoulder, hear her voice asking if it was a good batch . . . and it just made me smile. In a time when the weeks have been difficult and cooking dinner has been and exceptionally difficult motivation the ability to have something new was nice for the kids, even if it was a cake mix.
For me, though, it was a wash of memories and they were good ones. I don’t get them as often, but when I do get them now it’s a lot different than it was three years ago.
When I get them now, I smile.