Walk around feeling like a leaf. Know you could tumble any second. Then decide what to do with your time.
—Naomi Shihab Nye, from the poem “The Art of Disappearing”
Today is Sunday, and this morning we ran out of milk—so I drove to the corner market to buy a gallon. Instead of a typical weekday morning of quick breakfasts, bolting to the kids’ bus stop and then racing to work a half hour away, I meandered out of the driveway alone and drove slowly to the shop.
We’re lucky to live near a body of water over which eagles, seagulls and herons dive and swoop; today Canada geese were resting silently on the water, beaks tucked into their wings. Leaves of trees lining the street have turned outrageous shades of orange and lime green, colors reserved only for fall.
I walked slowly through the small shop, past video rentals and potato chips, and picked up the milk. It cost a dollar more than in the regular grocery store, but I didn’t let that bother me. I was having an ordinary moment in an ordinary shop, and even overpriced milk wasn’t going to get me down.
There is something beautiful about the ordinariness of things. Looking at the plastic gallon of milk in my hand, for example, I felt its liquid heftiness. Its curved handle is cool to touch and I see its velvety whiteness as my son pours yet another glass.
After a week of worry about my job and upcoming elections and the fine art of relationships, I want to write about the ordinariness of things and hold them close. What is really important may not always be about achieving and striving and driving, it may also be about sitting quietly, watching geese sit on the water and seeing that the leaves have changed their colors and will tumble at any time.
Popovers are quite ordinary. With only four ingredients usually found in the pantry and refrigerator—except for when your teenaged son drinks a gallon of milk every other day and you run out—popovers are easy enough to make for breakfast or dinner. You can buy a fancy popover tin, but my muffin pan works just fine. Add Parmesan cheese for a savory flavor; I’ve made them for Thanksgiving dinner and served them like Yorkshire pudding.
Although the recipe is simple to put together, popovers undergo an extraordinary transformation when they puff up in the oven and their tops turn beautifully brown and crusty. When you pull them out of the oven (they will deflate slightly) you will feel like a magician, pulling a bouquet of flowers out of your sleeve.
Popovers, adapted from The Joy of Cooking
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 and ¼ cups milk
1 tablespoon warm melted butter plus more for greasing the muffin pan
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Grease a 12-muffin pan with butter.
In a large bowl, whisk flour and salt together until well blended. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and melted butter. Pour the egg and milk mixture over the flour and stir together until just blended. A few small lumps may remain. Fill the greased muffin pan with batter two-thirds to three-quarters full. Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees, and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees for 20 minutes more, until well browned and crusty. Do not open the oven to check the popovers until the last five minutes to avoid deflating them.
If making cheese popovers, grate a half-cup of Parmesan cheese. Divide half the popover batter among the cups and fill them about 1/3 full. Divide the cheese among the cups and cover with the remaining batter. Bake as directed above. Makes 8 large or 12 medium popovers
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