I've heard it described before as the Peanut Butter Principle*. You know, when you take a good look at life and wonder how in the world that person or structure or family or system is still standing when math, when science, when hope are all against it? What exactly is holding it together? What is it that somehow makes it all okay in the end?
In a Tom Robbins-ish way, I like to think of it as magic. Not magic in the casting spells, bubbling potions kind of sense, but rather magic in the sense of a little extra mysterious good in the air. Magic as in a knowing and trusting that the stars hidden behind a blinding darkness will eventually, one night, bring light. Magic as in being beaten down by hate but still choosing love. I like to think of it as magic because in a silly way, like peanut butter, it makes it all easier to explain.
But really? Magic is just my word for human strength and love and goodness (and maybe just a touch of coincidence and pig-headedness). It is not a fairy godmother who keeps hurt at bay, nor is it a Tomten who keeps the proverbial barn from falling in a storm. In the end, isn't it just us, simple human beings and our choices, that make or break the day? We are the ones who lift each other up. And where do we find the strength to keep on walking through pain and sadness and despair and fear? We find it in our hearts and souls where we've been slowly growing it, with the help of mums and friends and dads and strangers and wives and teachers and husbands and poets. In the end, we are what somehow make it all okay.
Please be warned – these muffins are not dainty or delicate. They are not a fluffy cloud of pastry to carry you through the first hour of your day, but more of a hefty pillar on which to rest your 15-mile run, work in the garden, or raucous morning in a first grade classroom. Chocolate chips are optional, but highly recommended.
BANANA OAT MUFFINS
¾ cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 maple syrup
2 eggs, at room temperature
¾ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 6-cup muffin tin*. Place walnuts in a small pan and toast in the oven until golden and fragrant, about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, salt, and baking powder. In a large bowl, mix together the bananas, oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gently add in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Stir in the walnuts and chocolate.
Scoop the batter into the muffin, filling each home 3/4 of the way full. Sprinkle each muffin with oats and turbinado sugar and bake for about 25 minutes, or until a sharp knife comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
*We like to use our 6-cup tin here and make fewer, larger muffins. Feel free to use a standard tin to make 12 more manageable muffins, if you prefer.