Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Orange and Blue and Greedy Too

In Food, My thyroid, Politics on June 19, 2012 at 11:13 pm

The University of Virginia is becoming the train wreck from which I can’t look away.

I am a UVa alumnus. It’s where we went to medical school. And though most people feel their truest affinity towards their undergraduate institution, it’s not that way for me. Even though I didn’t start there till graduate school, I really love UVa, and I feel very much that it was the defining university in my life. I realize that part of my affection for “The University,” as it’s obnoxiously called, has nothing to do with UVa itself. It’s the place where I met my husband, where I made wonderful friends, where I experienced some of the most concentrated personal and professional growth of my life. And it’s located in Charlottesville, Virginia, which is unarguably charming. But part of my feeling toward UVa very much is due to the characteristics of the place itself. It’s a school with rich history (the beloved pet project of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson) and talented and generous faculty, and an institution that generally has had high standards for excellence (it routinely ranks as the #1 or #2 public school in the United States.) I was proud to have been a child of UVa, where I genuinely felt (at least in the School of Medicine, which is the only department to which I can personally speak) that the faculty and staff truly wanted each of us to succeed, and cheered us on when we did. And I was pleasantly surprised by the doors that UVa opened.

Over the past nine days, however, UVa has been in the public eye, and not for anything good. A quick recap, for those of you far and wide who may not have heard this story: Two years ago, UVa’s popular president of 20 years, John Casteen, retired. An extensive search was conducted for the next president, and Teresa Sullivan from the University of Michigan was selected with much pomp and circumstance as the first female president of UVa. (Shameful fact: women weren’t even admitted as full students to UVa until 1970.) By all accounts she did well. Then on June 10 an announcement was made by the head of the Board of Visitors, Helen Dragas, that, by mutual decision, Sullivan was submitting her resignation after less than 2 years. In that resignation, Sullivan attributed her leaving to “broad philosophical differences” with the BOV. This was a shock to everyone — staff, students and alumni — as there had been no indication there was anything wrong. Dragas implied in her statement that the board had unanimously agreed to remove Sullivan. Rumours abounded. An e-mail was accidentally leaked later that night from Peter Kiernan, a member of the board of UVa’s Darden School of Business, indicating that Helen Dragas had contacted him months earlier to work on a special, secret “project”: taking down Teresa Sullivan.

Reporters then discovered that, far from being a unanimous decision of the governing Board, a formal vote had never actually been taken. Dragas had simply, over a period of months, gone behind the scenes to individual board members and drummed up support for removing Sullivan, and she did that until she had enough votes to support her. 3 of the 16 members did not even know a campaign to eliminate Sullivan was going on. Further, Dragas selected a time for the meeting to make this announcement that seems suspiciously self-serving: it was a summer Sunday when many students and faculty were gone, the governor of Virginia (who appoints the members to this board) was out of the country on state business, and the 3 board members who were kept in the dark and were apparently supportive of Sullivan were known to be unable to attend (one was recovering from surgery, for example.) Additionally, she called it an emergency meeting, which does not require the 3 days’ advance notice a regular meeting does, presumably so it would be more likely to slide under the public’s radar. However, this announcement doesn’t exactly meet the requirements of an emergency meeting, making this whole shebang possibly illegal.

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that a firestorm has erupted on UVa’s campus. Students and faculty alike are outraged. The Faculty Senate has passed a no-confidence vote in the Board of Visitors. The Honors Council and Student Council have released calls for action. The Provost of the university said in a speech on Father’s Day that he wanted his sons to see him act in a courageous manner, so he was going to wait to see what the BOV did over the next few days to decide whether UVa was still an institution he wanted to help lead. Multiple faculty members have resigned or threatened to resign, stating that they don’t want to be part of an institution where such a backroom coup d’etat could occur without consequence. Several prominent alumni have halted their donations until Dragas and her right-hand man, Mark Kington, resign or a full explanation is provided. Peter Kiernan, the hapless author of the e-mail bragging about “explaining” his role in the situation, was forced to resign.

Meanwhile, Sullivan, like a classy person, stayed silent and out of sight until yesterday’s BOV meeting to appoint a new interim president, at which she had asked to address the board. They agreed, but only in private (of course; secrecy is what this board is best at, no matter how much it’s beaten over their heads that secrecy comes with serious consequences.) She waited in her office until the appointed time, at which point she began her walk across UVa’s historic Lawn with her husband, a law professor at UVa, to the thunderous applause of a crowd of thousands that had gathered in her support and that parted like the Red Sea for Moses to allow her to pass, patting her back on the way. I so wish I could have been there for that. I love to see people supporting an underdog, which is sure what she seems like at this point.

Sullivan gave a 14-page statement that you can read in full here, which strongly defended her record and in which she said that other institutions “are setting aside funds now to raid the University of Virginia next year given the current turmoil on our campus.” In fact professors at UVa apparently do not make nearly as much there as they could at other universities, for various reasons including the fact that the state of Virginia does not provide as much financial support as other states do to their schools. This means that UVa professors stay because they love working at UVa. How long can that desire be expected to continue if the school is known to be run like a hyperactive guillotine, you ask? Well, not long, apparently, as William Wulf, one of the top 20 professors at UVa, has just publicly submitted his resignation. The faculty are circulating a petition to refuse to recognize the newly appointed interim president who is thought to be a mere pawn of the money-hungry BOV. If prospective students aren’t scared away by this debacle, I’ll be shocked.

Meanwhile, Dragas released her own infuriating statement, a hilarious version of which you can read here, if you feel confident in your ability to keep your lunch down (and if you can excuse the bad language.) She states she and the Board know how upset everyone is, and how we the people deserve the truth. She then proceeds … not to give it. She blathers on forever in executive double-speak in that wonderful way public figures do without actually saying anything, but she does make it clear that the BOV is not going to listen to the concerns of the people they serve, and they are still moving forward with replacing Sullivan. And she never comes out and tells everyone what they are demanding to know: why precisely was Teresa Sullivan fired?

Look, I’m not naive. I freely admit I don’t know much about Sullivan. Before last week, I’d have been hard-pressed to name her as the current president of my alma mater. For all I know, she could be a serial killer and Helen Dragas could be the brave princess protecting us all from Sullivan’s hungry pickaxe. But if that’s the case, then why not say so? The fact that the BOV is refusing to provide an explanation does not make them look like the noble protectors of Sullivan’s reputation, as they’re trying to make themselves out to be. It makes them look like villains who know they did something unethical and shady. Which leaves it up to journalists and the public to try to figure out the real reason why. Conspiracy theories are running rampant, but the biggest one is that Dragas and her cohorts wanted to allow an online-education company (think DeVry or the University of Phoenix) to use UVa’s name in exchange for a cash windfall, and Sullivan refused to cheapen the school by doing so. Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of Media Studies at UVa, has a fascinating Slate article on the businesspeople behind Sullivan’s ouster and their motives, and why it’s dangerous for the future of education. It is dangerous, and it’s frightening. Education is not meant to be run as a business, and it will never be successful in its goal of actually educating people if it is. It’s meant to be a public service. Not a free one, necessarily, and certainly not one that hemorrhages resources, of course — but its goal has to be higher than the bottom line, or only subjects that quantitatively make money will ever be taught. What is the human race without classics, Latin, or wildlife biology?

There have been numerous calls for Virginia governor Robert McDonnell to get involved, but he refused to “meddle” in the doings of an independent board. At first I understood where he was coming from, until I read a comment somewhere (wish I could remember where so I could give due credit) that him not getting involved actually is meddling, because it’s allowing a board to get away with illegal, dictatorial behaviour. Now McDonnell has released a lukewarm statement saying he wished things had been done a little differently, which is kind of like saying one wishes Enron had kept their books a little differently. If outright wrongdoing has taken place, and so far I have seen no evidence that it hasn’t, who is going to stop these people if not the governor? He also says people in charge often have to make choices that are “unpopular” with employees. Really, my friend? Thank you for opening my eyes to the ways of the real world! My beef, and I think the beef of most other people interested in this story, is not that the president was removed. It’s how it was done. There’s a difference, which we understand because we’re not, you know, four years old. And now there are rumours that McDonnell isn’t stepping in because he was involved in the takedown too.

Dragas (what an unfortunate name! Someone online has taken to calling her “Lady Draga,” which is rather inspired) has so far steadfastly refused to step down despite the growing demands for her resignation. Her crony Mark Kington just resigned tonight, but it’s not going to be enough. Last night after the marathon board meeting to pick the interim president, Dragas was apparently heckled as she walked to her car. She responded, “Don’t believe everything you read in the papers.” Who else can we believe, Helen dear? You haven’t told us a thing! Dragas supposedly pushed out Sullivan because she wasn’t making enough money for the university, but Dragas’ own continued presence on the board is causing faculty to leave and alumni to halt their donations. Now Dragas has hired a PR firm to repair her reputation. Guess who’s paying that bill, according to the Washington Post? The UVA Foundation, which is financed by alumni donations! My fellow UVa alums, WE ARE PAYING FOR THIS WOMAN’S SPIN DOCTORS. Am I right that we should no longer donate to our school until this disaster is rectified and an apology issued? I hate to do it, and not that the amount we can afford to donate would ever be missed, but money seems to be the only language with which to speak to these people.

The whole thing just smacks of Mean Girls-esque behaviour. Dragas apparently had it in for Sullivan from the first day she was hired. I don’t know why, because the BOV hasn’t explained any of their actions to us. But you could kind of tell even in that first e-mail they sent to us alumni, in which they repeatedly thanked “Terry” for her hard work and wished “Terry” well. I’m sorry, but when was the last time you heard anyone refer to former President Casteen as “John”? The current president’s name is Dr. Sullivan, and to deliberately use not just her first name but a diminutive to me seems intentionally patronizing and sexist.

So basically, I’m appalled. I keep waiting and waiting for the truth to come out and the Board to be forced to bear the public consequences of its actions, but I guess only time will tell. It’s at times like these that my love for the press, as a journalism major, swells my heart. Thank goodness we live in a society where, though imperfect, at least the press will demand answers. The WaPo and Charlottesville’s Hook have done great investigative pieces on this story, if you’re interested in more.

Admittedly one reason I’ve gotten so interested is because it’s an effective distraction from the fact that the next phase of cancer treatment started for me this week. On Sunday we took Peanut to meet her grandparents, so she can be away while I’m in isolation. I didn’t cry till after she left, so that’s an accomplishment. She’ll be away for two and a half weeks, which will be a blast for her as she splits that between both sets of doting grandparents, but an eternity for us. Yesterday I received my first Thyrogen injection, and today I received my second, as well as bloodwork and a test dose of radioactive iodine. Tomorrow I go in for a whole-body scan, and Thursday is my full dose of RAI. Thursday at 6 PM is also the moment when I am “released” from the dastardly low-iodine diet, which has forced me to sate my chocolate cravings with lumpy improvisations. I present to you low-iodine imitation brownies (try not to lick the screen):

Tonight is also my first isolation night in our basement. See my home away from home below (yes, that is my office, and yes that is our treadmill.) Cramped, yes, but just think of the quick commute!

So that’s what’s going on on this end. Hope you’re all well, friends. And hope our school will be too.


Hunt for Fed October

In Baby Howie, Canada, Food, Peanut on October 27, 2011 at 7:49 pm

It’s my favourite month of the year, friends. (I know, and it’s the 27th day of that month, but let’s put those blinders on.) I’ve always loved October. It’s the month most closely associated with my favourite season, autumn, and I can never think of October without thinking of brilliantly-coloured leaves flaming forth from trees and blanketing the earth. The air is crisp and cool, with the muggy hair-ruining days of summer behind us and the snow-shoveling days of winter still a safe distance ahead of us. It’s the time of year when it’s not only acceptable to start thinking of ways to combine pumpkin and chocolate, it’s unacceptable not to. For some reason, October always makes me think of home.

I’m unreasonably nostalgic about everything. Because my family moved from Canada to the U.S. when I was 17, and I fought it the whole way, Canada and my entire childhood have taken on a utopian tinge in my feverish mind. Although we moved several times within Canada too, the house where I lived from the ages of 7 to 17 is unquestionably home for me. On nearly every trip back we have parked outside that house and sat in the car just looking, and no doubt attracting the suspicion of local authorities. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the nerve to knock on the door one day and ask to see the inside again; probably not. And maybe it’s better to remember it the way it was, and not see it filled with other people’s mismatched bedroom furniture. (I want my old mismatched furniture!) But anyway, back in the day, behind our house was a creek and a forest. The forest has long since been cut down and a townhouse development has been built in its place, but when I was a kid there was something so poetic about that view. It was something so romantic in the Anne of Green Gables-sense of the word, where romance doesn’t connote a relationship between lovers but a sense of being in the presence of something large and mystical. So often the weather in October would be cold, grey and rainy, and it was so cozy to come in from that weather to our warm house, an afterschool snack (ah, Jos Louis), a good book, and that view.

October is also home to my favourite holiday, Halloween. I was obsessed with Halloween when I was little. My Halloween costume-planning began sometime soon after Labour Day. I was able to come up with marginally original ideas, but alas I am no artistic genius, and thus the execution of said costumes usually left something to be desired. Among other things, I was a blob of paint, a bunch of grapes, the aforementioned-Anne of Green Gables, and a bag of trash. My cousin Ronnie, after moving to the area, often got roped into these shenanigans. Along with Baby Howie, the three of us would doll ourselves up, then go trick-or-treating for hours around the neighbourhood, occasionally making pit stops at home to empty our pillowcases and make room for more loot, and eventually come home to settle in for the next phase of the night: sorting through our bounty and trading with each other for the best stuff. We had a very elaborate value system assigned to each type of candy. I don’t remember much about it except that Coffee Crisps were at the top of the pyramid, with one of those babies being worth about 42 of anything else, and any item that could be even remotely construed as having some health value (raisins, I’m looking at you) being used as hamster cage lining. We did this until I was sixteen. That fact doesn’t even embarrass me.

An ACTUAL bag of trash may have been more appealing.

This year will be the first year that I am the parent of a trick-or-treater on Halloween. The Peanut is two, so still not really old enough to understand what’s going to happen next week, although she knows she’s going to be a lion and is taking every opportunity to practice her roar. Because, as previously mentioned, I am not all that crafty, I can’t rely on myself to make any halfway decent costume, so I have to go with what’s in the stores. But I am going to enjoy this time while I have it, these years when I am still bigger than P and can wrestle her into the ensemble of my choosing. And I’m probably not going to feel very guilty about it.

Exhibit A.

Through my extensive research, I have also learned that October is National Pork Month as well as 3D Ultrasound Awareness Month. So there you have it. 31 days is hardly long enough to cram in all these celebrations, especially if you’re getting a late start like me. Only 4 more days to find some bacon and an ultrasound technician. And to stuff myself with candy. I’ll keep you posted.


In Christianity, Food, Peanut on April 21, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Things have been crazy-busy here at Casa Much, so just a short post today to commemorate the importance of this weekend to us and to millions of Christians around the world.  The death of Christ on Good Friday has been brought to life in many books and movies (remember The Passion of the Christ?  Too bad Mel Gibson turned out to be clinically nutso) in a way the oral tradition never could, and I think we’re lucky to have them.  It’s humbling and sobering to remember the depth of Jesus’ suffering and to realize that we were both the cause and the reason. 

When I was growing up in my home church, we had a 6-hour Good Friday service each year that was, if I am to be completely honest, painfully interminable.  The church was packed, so you were hot and sweaty, starving, bored out of your mind and annoyed that you weren’t at home watching daytime TV.  At least two people passed out from the heat and the endless standing/kneeling every year (which did break the monotony for the rest of us, but was rather unfortunate for them.)  I remember my mom telling me that it was good for us to have some small measure of inconvenience and obligation to remind us of the large degree of suffering that Christ went through for us.  Now that we live far away and don’t have a church with that kind of Good Friday service, I have to admit that the import of the occasion doesn’t hit home for me in quite the same way.  Lent, and the sacrifice of something you enjoy in the weeks leading up to it (for us this year it’s been meat), is supposed to remind you of the season, but too often I focus on the specifics of scrounging together a vegetarian lunch (can you substitute tofu in a turkey sandwich?) and totally miss the forest for the trees.  

But despite that, Easter Sunday will come, and with it the remembrance of Christ’s rising on the third day and the fact that joy and salvation from sin has been earned for every one of us.  For me, and you, and everyone else.  What a gift, and all we have to do is accept it.  That, too, is humbling — and wonderful too.  Hope you all have a celebratory weekend!  (I plan to enjoy a good Cadbury Easter egg while hypocritically instructing the Peanut that candy is bad for you, so here’s some celery.)  Happy Easter!

When the Craving Hits

In Food, Medicine on March 24, 2011 at 4:21 pm

No matter what profession you’re in, you have your share of wacky work stories.  And medicine is no exception.  Funny medical stories are often difficult to tell because patient confidentiality is so important.  But humour does get you through the day, and with a little careful identifying-detail changing, presto, you have a tellable story! 

One of the craziest things that happened to me was when I was an intern, many many years ago now.  I was on overnight call and running around like crazy at 2:30 AM when I got paged by a nurse in a unit in an adjoining building.

“Can you please come see Mr. X?”

“Sure, what’s the problem?”

“He has our nurse manager in a headlock.”

Silence.  I was sure my fatigued mind was playing tricks on me.

“I’m sorry, he what?”

“He has our nurse manager in a headlock.  You know, like when you put both arms around someone’s neck –”

“Oh dear.”  Crap, I heard it correctly.  “Have you called security?”

“No, my supervisor wants you to come first.”

“Um, I’m on my way, but I should let you know — I’m five-foot-one.  Call security.”

I made the ten-minute run to the next building, all the while mentally scrolling through everything they taught us in med school about releasing staff members from headlocks.  Oh that’s right — they didn’t.  I arrived to find three uniformed police officers waiting outside the room for me to go in and defuse the situation.  (They wanted to make sure it was safe for their men.)  

I entered to find a 6’3″, 250-lb male patient who wanted to express his concerns about the hospital menu.   Was I aware that real butter was not being served with the rolls?  Or that dinner was being delivered at 5:30 PM when in Europe many people don’t eat until 9?  Or of the difficulty in obtaining a quality PB&J sandwich after hours?  No sir, I was not.  I wondered aloud, would he be interested in having the hospital dietician visit him on rounds with the medical team in the morning?  After some consideration … why yes, he would.

I escorted the unlucky (but unhurt) nurse out and assured the three hulking officers in the hall that it was safe for them to enter, now that they no longer needed to.  Did I mention that I’m five-foot-one?  Because I was.  And am.

(Apparently all went well with that patient after the next day.  He seriously was just trying to let us all know how much he wanted a PB&J.)

As a totally unrelated aside, our heartfelt prayers are with all those suffering in Japan.  If you’d like to donate, go here:

Groceries Gone Wild

In Canada, Food, Tolkien on February 10, 2011 at 9:15 pm

Want to know a weird fact about me?  No?  Well here it is!  I really enjoy grocery shopping.  This probably has something to do with my passionate love affair with vittles, but whatever, I don’t analyze.  (Who am I kidding, I would analyze analysis itself.)  Tolkien, in contrast, hates grocery shopping so much that he actually volunteered long ago to forever do all the bathroom cleaning if I would forever take care of all the household food purchases.  Can you believe how thoroughly I got the better end of that deal?  After almost 6 years of marriage I’m still afraid he’s going to wake up with a start one day and demand a renegotiation.  So nobody mention it to him, you guys.

It has occurred to me, however, that grocery stores are required to be all things to all people.  I mean, they have to carry your upscale organic soymilk as well as your Uncle Cracker’s Fried Pork Rinds.  The Wall Street Journal alongside US Weekly.  Whole wheat fiber-enriched ditalini vs. Hot Pockets.  In covering this spectrum, a few outliers inevitably sneak in.  Join me, won’t you, on a tour of the bizarre at my local supermarket?

Please excuse my crappy camera quality and let me clarify for you that the label helpfully describes this product as “semi-boneless.”  Because fully boneless would just be gross.

Now, I love our British friends.  I feel a totally unwarranted affinity to them.  One time, upon meeting two women from England, I screeched excitedly “I’m Canadian!” with the full expectation that they would clasp me to their bosoms as a long-lost fellow patriot.  Their silent, politely disinterested looks coupled with the fact that they were quite clearly questioning the quality of my geographic education taught me that just because we both have the Queen on our currency, Brits don’t think of me as their cultural sister.  I’m still bitter about this harsh lesson, which is why I’m going to make fun of their culinary cornerstone.  Wikipedia tells me that spotted dick is a “steamed suet pudding,” and I think that’s all we need to know.

Wow, hope that advertising team got a bonus for coming up with this appetizing handle.

This is not sketchy at all!  The anatomically questionable drawing of a colon totally gives me faith in its efficacy!  Although I could see the appeal if you happened to sample that potted meat product.

OK, this is not a dubious product, but notice the price tag.  $14.99 for a kitchen timer!  $14.99!!!!  I made the mistake of dropping our timer on the floor the other day and apparently fatally injuring it, as it then would not stop ringing.  Off it went to the graveyard of broken household items, as I foolishly thought I could just replace it.  But fifteen dollars for a plastic timer?  Peanut can jolly well count on her fingers and toes and be a human timer if that’s how much it’s going to cost.  (Note to self: Teach Peanut how to count.)

My good mood was restored in the Nutella aisle, though.  I mean, I didn’t buy any, but I just stood there inhaling its luscious scent and feeling my endorphins surge.  Of course, to do that, I had to unscrew a few of the caps, and remove some of the safety seals, and then security got all mad, and now I’m no longer welcome at my neighbourhood supermarket.  So where do you guys shop?  Will you take me?  🙂

Addendum: Little Jewels Were Here (Although Not Any Longer)

In Food on November 18, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Nibble and Nosh

In Celebrity Obsessions, Food, Tolkien on November 11, 2010 at 5:16 am
Oh, food.  In general.  How I love thee.  I love anticipating food, shopping for food, preparing food (and eating food isn’t half-bad either.)   My love affair with food is long-standing.  It began somewhere around age 9 or 10 when my childhood pickiness wore off.  My love affair with cooking food is much younger — it began the day we opened our wedding gifts and discovered all the awesome kitchen accoutrements that lovely friends and family had given us.  Nothing is more of an inspiration to start cooking than shiny new tools and toys (although no longer having ready-made meals from the cafeteria of Mom and Dad helps … I find that a “love of food” is usually accompanied by an equal amount of “fear of starvation.”)
I was already a Food Network viewer at that time, but it was then that my fanhood kicked into high gear.  Rachael Ray, Ina Garten, Nigella Lawson and their expert camera crews with their gorgeous close-up food-porn shots all contributed to my epicurean education (and to the drool stains on our couch.)  My relationship with Rachael Ray grew into an obsession of sorts: I collected her books and DVDs, subscribed to her magazine, and, for my birthday one year, even dragged poor Tolkien to Chelsea Market in NYC in the hopes of accidentally bumping into her.  (Since Tolkien’s and my birthdays are only 3 days apart, we usually do a combined birthday celebration.  That year, he insisted on a do-over.)  My passion for the Ray cooled, however, once she got her network talk show and started getting that world-weary smugness all celebrities seem to acquire.  I haven’t seen 30-Minute Meals in ages, but the last time I caught a clip of it, RR seemed positively bored with having to share her fabulousness with her lowly viewers.  I’ll always have a soft spot for her, though, because she really sparked my interest in the basics of cooking.  I’m no expert chef and never will be, but at least now I see the joy in it (that is, when one has more than 3 minutes to spend on a dish because no Peanut is screeching for one’s undivided attention.)
(Notable story about Rachael Ray’s magazine:  For awhile, I was trying desperately to get tickets to be in her studio audience.  The waiting list was 2 years long!  However, I sneakily thought I could increase my chances by being a frequent commenter on her website.  One posted question to subscribers was “How do you celebrate special occasions?”  I wrote an innocent sentence or two about how I like to make and sample multiple desserts instead of eating a multi-course meal.  I pressed “Submit” while blithely ignoring the fine print that stated that my name and comments were now the sole property of the Rachael Ray empire and they could come and demand one of my limbs at any time, and promptly forgot all about it.  Three months later I was idly flipping through my latest issue of Every Day With Rachael Ray when I came across a reader response column to the question “How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?”  Some tool had written in, “My husband and I skip the meal entirely … and go straight to dessert!”  Imagine my shock when I realized that that tool was ME!   Now, I have a very unique name, but I still needed to read the tool’s hometown before I was convinced that this statement was actually being attributed to me.  I was mortified.  What if my family saw this?  Thankfully my family does not read Every Day with Rachael Ray, and neither does anyone else I know.  People found out about this humiliation through my own big mouth.  The irony is that a couple of months later, I actually did get selected for a pair of tickets to the show — and couldn’t go.  Cruel world!)
Anyway, while that experience taught me caution, it did not stop me from continuing to like food.  Therefore, whenever autumn rolls around, we all continue to look forward to my favourite pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.

Heavy on the chocolate, with an obligatory touch of pumpkin.

Chocolate is my absolute number-one vice — I have it with almost every meal.  Terrible, I know.  But if God didn’t want me to do it, why did He make chocolate taste so good?  I’ve even gotten Tolkien into this habit too.  (He, in turn, has gotten me to drink more water.  We’re totally even.)  And I thought of something that would make these little gems even better:


Nectar of the gods. No, I'm serious.

Frosting them with Nutella!  Creamy, ambrosial, hazelnutty Nutella is such a temptation for me that I am unable to buy any lest I eat it straight from the jar with a spoon.  I simply do not keep any in the house.  If you have never tried this incredible delicacy, I am exhorting you to run out and get some immediately.  You can thank me later.  Preferably with a jar of Nutella.

If you’re a normal person, you will actually need something on which to spread this delightful confection (thankfully I have never been normal) and therefore I am sharing with you my foolproof pumpkin chocolate chip muffin recipe (although plain bread or bagels or some such would probably work fine as well, not that I’d know.)  Enjoy!
Much’s Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins (adapted from
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chocolate chips (the success of this recipe relies on using decent chocolate, such as Ghirardelli)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line muffin tin with paper liners.
2. Mix sugar, oil and eggs.  Add pumpkin and water.  In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt.  Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and then add the chocolate chips.
3. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.
These go so quickly that I find it beneficial to double the recipe.  Give these only to people you like, because they’ll keep hanging around.  I may love food in general, but at this time of year I have to admit that these muffins might be slightly more loved than all the rest.