I’m thinking a lot about beginnings and endings these days, and their co-dependent relationship. We can’t have one without the other, and all the space that exists between them is a blank slate, our story to craft as we wish at least to the extent life’s exterior forces allow us.
I’ve been writing online, sharing my life through food for longer than anyone I know personally. 20 years to be precise. Before starting my blog In Jennie’s Kitchen, I wrote a column called the Main Ingredient for a short-lived food site called Taste of Brooklyn, started by Lenny Zenith and Anne Karle-Zenith.
We met at a party Judy, the local wine whisperer, threw at her house on Bergen Street. The internet was still a very new thing back in 2000, and dial-up was the norm since I’m not sure wireless even existed (someone fact check that for me, okay?). Julie Powell of Julie & Julia fame hadn’t even started her blog yet; that would come two years later.
Anyway, Lenny and Anne heard I was a personal chef and born and bred Brooklyn gal. They asked if I’d be interested in writing about my favorite Brooklyn foods and sharing some recipes. Taste of Brooklyn lasted a year, or so. The site itself is gone but one lone page of my column survives here.
My life has changed much since those words were written. The boyfriend referred to became my husband, and we grew a family in that same Brooklyn neighborhood. It was a good life. It’s only nine laters after his death that I’m able to see that ending as a beginning.
For all of my life, I’ve been someone else’s…daughter, girlfriend, wife, mother and widow. But the space that exists between being a wife/mother and widow is vast. I’ve learned a lot about who I am these last nine years, and continue to be a work in progress much like my early writing from 20 years ago.
Foundations have been built, demolished and rebuilt. I’m still here, still writing, still cooking. And people are still reading. My words may not be loudest ones on the internet. My recipes, as reliable and beloved as they are by many, don’t rack up millions of page views. I live with a lot of doubt, wondering what I could’ve done differently. Did I share too much, and do I continue to share too much is a question always present in my mind.
When I’m honest with myself, I realize I’ve shared exactly the right amount at the moment in time that’s captured with each word. Hindsight is 20/20 but courage in the moment is less clear.
I’m not certain what fate lies ahead for In Jennie’s Kitchen. Has it run its course in its current state? Do I want to keep feeding my site search engine content that is laden with ads? In case you didn’t realize, it's costly to maintain a site with 10 years of content and images. Do people even care what I have to say anymore, or do they just want the free recipes? And if they just want free recipes, do I want them as readers?
That is a risky and tricky question to ask myself. Do I have the courage to continue forging my own path? If I decided to create new content for subscribers-only would people be willing to pay for recipes? When did we evolve into a society where everything is expected to be free? Amazon grew into the giant it is because people don’t even think shipping should cost a cent.
The internet is also the wild west when it comes to sharing original content. Stuff gets used all the time with no permission or credit, and I’m really over the lack of ethics surrounding it all.
It’s all these thoughts co-existing in my mind right now that led me to call this new venture Simmering. There’s always something simmering whether it’s in my mind or on my stove. I hope you’ll join me on the journey to see what it becomes. Will the recipes eventually live behind a paywall for subscribers only? Will I use this space to write more freely, with a renewed sense of purpose, and post recipes to my old site, directing you there with a link? The answer to both is maybe but I don’t really know yet.
For now, I’ll leave you with a recipe for my new favorite blueberry muffin. My feelings about muffins have changed a lot over time, and while I realize there’s room for them to all co-exist. Crumb toppings will always be my first love but a fast dump, stir and bake approach is what my life needs currently.
You could go with just melted butter here (that would mean a total of 8 tablespoons/112 grams melted and drop the oil) but I like the addition of a little bit of oil here. I’ve not tried them with all oil yet, but very curious and intend to test it out in the near future. I’ll report back once I do.
The Best Blueberry Muffins
2 large eggs
⅓ cup (70 grams) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (56 grams) butter, melted
2 tablespoons neutral oil (I used sunflower oil)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1¾ cups (262 grams) flour
½ teapsoon (2 grams) sea salt
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (237 ml) whole milk
1 cup (127 grams) frozen wild blueberries
Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with butter or use paper liners.
Add eggs, sugar, melted butter, oil and vanilla to a medium bowl; whisk until glossy and thickened.
Add the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and milk. Whisk until combined (it’s okay if there’s a few lumps).
Using a rubber spatula, fold in the berries, then spoon into the prepared muffin tin (I like using an ice cream scooper to do this).
Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (okay if there’s some blueberry on it), about 30 minutes. Set the tray on a wire rack, and allow muffins to cool at least 10 minutes before serving. For a longer rest/cool, I like to transfer muffins to a wire rack to prevent them from getting soggy.