If the shoe fits, wear it. If you happen to live in Seattle in springtime, I suggest rain boots.
For the past few months, my backyard has been a muddy swamp, much of which has been tracked indoors by two dogs: the Red Dog, who lives here permanently, and the Feisty Girl, who was supposed to be only a temporary resident but who shows no signs of having her own permanent home anytime soon. Her presence is a source of despair for the cats, who have not left my bedroom since Feisty Girl arrived, while her eventual departure is a source of distress for The Child, who has proclaimed Feisty Girl to be The Only Dog That Likes Me Most and is convinced that somehow, if we adopt her, it will all work itself out.
I visit the cats regularly during the day, because I miss them, but also because my bedroom window is the only spot I can observe my side yard, which doesn’t sound like a very interesting thing to watch unless you know that there’s a mountain range emerging there, at a pace much faster than glacial. The Himalayas are slackers compared to what’s going on in my yard, but then again, the Himalayas have to wait for tectonic activity to do its thing, and my yard has a decided advantage: one very active mole.
You can (and really, should) complain about me using this space to make mountains out of molehills, but please don’t – having to draw cat/dog Maginot lines is all I can handle at the moment. The battle rages inside and out: I tried mole repellent, which should have made the mole leave, but he merely chuckled at the effort (I heard him). I moved on to poison worms, which should have been the mole’s last supper, but he was either too full or the worms were not up to his usual culinary standards.
I fought the mole, and lost.
I finally google to find out what actually kills moles, and learn a very helpful thing: traps are very effective, but also illegal in two states, one of which happens to contain my lawn.
My neighbor helpfully suggests that it’s not like anyone would report me or bother me about using the traps – which one can buy anywhere, since they are perfectly legal to sell in Washington State, just not legal to use – but based on the fact that 80% of the drivers I pass on the roads are talking on handheld cellphones, yet I got pulled over for doing the same, I think my personal track record suggests I might be among the unlucky 20% who get caught and fined.
When life hands you lemons, you’re supposed to make lemonade, and maybe I should have, because the lemon buttermilk sorbet I attempted didn’t work out very well. Still, I ended up with a refrigerator full of leftover buttermilk and lemons, as well as an abundance of ginger from my love affair with Momofuku’s Ginger Scallion Sauce. As luck would have it, these are just the things I needed to make Marion Cunningham’s Fresh Ginger Muffins.
So, one sunny Sunday when I should have been outside enjoying a break in the weather, or, apparently, killing a mole with a shovel (which is legal in Washington), I made muffins. These are a wonderful way to start the day: Light and airy, lightly sweet, and brightly flavored with ginger and lemon. The muffins are studded with little bits of sweet, slightly crunchy ginger. They’re wonderful with a cup of coffee or tea and even better with some berries on the side. They don’t need anything extra, but some currants would be a nice addition.
I did eventually win the Battle of the Mole, by hiring a service that dispensed with the mole the same day they showed up. No, I don’t know how, and no, I don’t care. The battle inside the house rages on.
- 1 piece unpeeled fresh ginger (4 to 5 oz.)
- ¾ cup plus 3 Tbs. sugar
- 2 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¾ tsp. baking soda
- 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Preheat an oven to 375ºF. Butter standard muffin tins or use paper liners.
- Cut the unpeeled ginger into large chunks. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process until it is finely minced. You should have about ¼ cup.
- In a small saucepan, combine the ginger and ¼ cup of the sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar melts and the mixture is hot; this takes only about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool until tepid.
- In a small bowl stir the lemon zest and the 3 Tbs. sugar. Let stand for a few minutes, then add to the ginger mixture. Stir and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, stir and toss together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth. Add the remaining ½ cup sugar and beat until blended. Add the eggs and beat well. Add the buttermilk and mix until blended. Then add the flour mixture and stir just until blended. Stir in the ginger-lemon mixture.
- Spoon into the prepared muffin tins, filling each cup about three-fourths full. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes.