My freshman year of high school I played on the JV basketball team. I was slow and not terribly coordinated; to say that I was athletic would be a stretch. But on an island with only a handful of high school aged girls, coaches drafted my 5 foot 9 and 3/4 inch frame onto as many sports teams as possible. My rookie season I scored a total of zero points. As the team’s sole post player towering several inches over the other pubescent players, it really was quite a feat to manage to score nary a point. My secret? I never took a single shot. When the statistician - one of the few sports-aged girls who was even less coordinated than I was - totaled the points at the end of the year, she remarked on my notable absence of my scoring contributions. “Maybe I tallied wrong?” she wondered. I quietly slipped away without correcting her.
I tell you this in the context of muffins for several reasons which we will get to in a minute. But mostly to illustrate through my own personal humiliation the adage of that inspirational poster with the light shining through a gym window illuminating an empty basketball court that righteously proclaims: you miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
I have been prone throughout my life to avoid the possibility of failure by simply failing to make an attempt. In my consulting work I travel around presenting the value of “failing early and often,” and sometimes wonder if anyone is buying what I'm selling. Failing sucks. It’s hard and people laugh at you and you feel stupid and sometimes it scars you for years and years until you have to tell your therapist all about how no one asked you to dance at the middle school halloween bash.
Writing, at times, feels like a constant string of failures. I have found the writing process to be an effective but excruciating antidote to my deep seated perfectionism and fear of failure. It’s much easier to just not write at all than to try to get a piece publication ready.
Take last week for instance. My first magazine piece - on the power of goats to keep lawn maintenance down. No, seriously. You can’t make this stuff up. I wish I could tell you more but you’ll just have to wait for the issue to come out - was due last week. So what did I spend my days doing? Showering. Watching TV. Writing rambling blog posts. Checking Facebook. Doing my PT exercises. Catching up on email. Checking Facebook. Cleaning. Doing laundry. Taking another shower. Checking Facebook. For nearly two days I couldn’t bring myself to start to write even the first line. Someone was actually going to read this. I guess I managed to fool myself into forgetting you are out there behind this blog, dear reader. But this. This is going to printed be in ink on paper and preserved for posterity (because I’m certain that future generations will be dying to know the secrets behind ruminant-based lawn care). As much as I tell myself that you can’t be successful if you don’t try, I also have a sneaking reminder that you also can’t ever mess up if you don’t try. The truth is my 300 words on goats are going to turn out just fine. My editor is a much better editor than I am a writer, so whatever I manage to force down on to paper, I’m confident that she will ensure it’s a slam dunk before it hits the presses. I just have to start with a ‘shitty first draft’ as Anne Lamott advises. (I still take pause at swearing in public - I can just hear my mother intoning: Sarah Marie Barthelow we do not use that kind of language in this house. She managed to make my middle name sound like a bad word). Writing is all about getting out the shitty first draft. So is life. And so is cooking.
And now, for the muffins. I have spoken here before about my muffin-approach, which is more of a method than a recipe. Sometimes my muffins fail miserably, like this time. But some muffins, like my most recent attempt, are moist, and flavorful, and light with little nuggets of texture surprise. But if it weren’t for a string of muffin failures, I probably wouldn’t ever have come up with these. Muffins are the new basketball: maybe I am finally figuring out that if you don't give it a shot, there's no way to ever succeed.
Ginger Pecan Muffins
Makes 7 muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 t vanilla
1T olive oil
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup apple sauce
1 T honey
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup chopped candied ginger
Zest of half an orange
Add dry ingredients together in a bowl and mix all wet ingredients in a separate bowl.
Once both sets are throughly mixed, combine and stir until well mixed.
Add pecans, ginger and orange zest to batter and stir to combine. Scoop into muffin tin lined with papers.
Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until knife comes out clean when stuck in the middle.