I stand with the refrigerator door open, lazily surveying the contents. There’s a very old rind of Parmesan in the crisper drawer (who put that there?!). A bag of baby spinach threatens to wilt, droopily, from the corner shelf. I take note of a handful of pistachios, a half-gallon of milk, and a lemon. A few strips of bacon are nestled up top next to a carton of eggs.
I reach for the most delicate-looking ingredients, the ones about to take a turn towards overly ripe and ready.
The oven is at 350 degrees, and the radio plays Frank Ocean. I slide the bacon in to bake on a parchment-lined sheet. This is a very clever way to make crispy bacon and avoid coating your stovetop in grease, because really who wants to clean that up at 11 PM in their pajamas? I’d much rather be finishing off a gin and tonic and eating a cookie.
The spinach is cooking over low heat with a pinch of coarse salt and pepper. I consider a splash of sesame oil, and instead coax a shower of cheese from that rind of Parmesan. I crumble the bacon into the spinach and slide it onto a plate just before it turns from bright to darker green. I add two crusty slices of sourdough bread, toasted until golden. A thin shaving of butter melts on each slice. Three eggs, soft-scrambled with milk, are next, covered with a whisper of Parmesan.
Then there’s the delicious moment before the first bite of a good meal, the pleasure to come unfurling before you, so quickly to come and go that you almost don’t want to begin.
But you do. One forkful, and another, until you scrape your plate clean and wander into the kitchen for dessert. Through the window you can hear taxis stopping, doors slamming, laughter drifting up into the inky darkness. Apartments across the street are lit up. It’s the time of day in a city when I most enjoy the nearness of so many other people: It’s fantastically comforting to think of us all shaking off the day, slowly, settling into the gentle evening rhythms.
In the freezer, I find a bag of blueberry muffins leftover from a batch of recipe testing. I split one open, toast it, and spread it with salted butter. Mumbling through a mouthful of warm baked good, I sing along to the Adele station that has come on, because an impromptu kitchen concert is probably just what my neighbors want.
But you know? Let’s be in favor of singing loudly when the music comes on, of finishing off the last inch of Champagne in the bottle, of buying the candy stacked up in the check-out line. Let’s be in favor of sticking with our gut instinct, of saying yes, of talking to the stranger at the coffee counter instead of checking our phone. Let’s be unafraid of being joyful, of allowing ourselves to think that maybe--just maybe--this string of gorgeous, shimmering, happy months is life, not a stroke of good luck.
Best Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom (optional!)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter (cooled slightly)
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons sparkling white sugar
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line the cups of a muffin pan with liners.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spice of your choice (if using. Totally optional, just depends whether you want to jazz things up a bit). Add the berries and toss to coat.
Whisk together the milk, melted butter, and eggs. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix just slightly with a fork. Don't overmix! It should just come together as a batter.
Divide the batter evenly between the muffin liners -- I like to fill mine about 2/3 of the way full, to get nicer domed tops. Using a muffin scoop (ice cream scoop works well) helps ensure that the muffins are uniform in size if ya care about that sort of thing. Sprinkle the sparkling sugar (this is optional!) evenly over the tops.
Bake for about 15 minutes -- it may take closer to 20. Start checking after 15 and remove from the oven once they are golden brown and nicely domed. Let cool slightly, transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling, then eat!