I was a kick-butt Girl Scout. Slap that hefty badge book down in front of me, and I would crack that baby open and go to town. I loved how each badge ticked off the tasks to complete until, TA-DA!, you earned one of those knobby round disks. To earn a “Camp Together” badge: plan a campsite with a list of necessary equipment; learn about possible poisonous plants and biting insects; prepare a safety kit; create a day’s worth of nutritious, camp-appropriate recipes; teach yourself a new outdoor skill; explain “leave no trace” camping to your troop. Check, check, check, check, check, check, BADGE!
The X+Y=Z of badge-earning thrilled me. So clear-cut, so systematic. I tore through page after page in the Girl Scout handbook, knocking off badges that my mom could wobbly attach to my green polyester sash. (Honestly, I’m not sure how I earned that sewing badge. No one in my family sewed and to this day, I will take a popped button to the dry cleaners and happily pay $3 for reattachment. Then again, there appears to be a cat perched on the sewing materials in the badge, so maybe it was in taxidermy, not stitching?!) I still remember that swelling of accomplishment when the troop leader would distribute my latest milestone. Job well done.
Alas, I quickly learned that real life was not like Girl Scout badges. For years, in many areas, I searched for the “tasks” I could complete to emerge as a successful caterer/government worker/lawyer/teacher/girlfriend/daughter. Where was that big endpoint?! What was the formula for success?! I bobbled along trying to fill others’ expectations and rarely feeling any real fulfillment. Nothing seemed to fit.
I needed to throw away my (mental, fabricated, metaphorical) Girl Scout handbook. You see, the problem with earning those badges is that they weren’t unique. Other girls pinned those very same icons on their sashes. (Holler!, Jenny H., who I’m pretty sure needed a second sash by our 3rd year of scouts.) They also didn’t bring much joy, or even functionality, into my life. (Besides that taxidermy/sewing badge, the camping badge and horse-lover riding badge are all things I would avoid like the plague today.) As I tried to fulfill my own “adult” handbook, based on others’ rules and expectations, I found myself more and more bewildered by life.
The day I decided to ditch the handbook and live my own life was like the moment just before a kite breaks loose. The strings tying it down go very taut. There is resistance. Then, SNAP, it’s free. Floating through the air, drifting on it own currents, carving its own path. Two years ago, that’s what I did. I stopped trying to follow someone else’s instructions and started listening to me. And my current career in food education creates that sensation of flying, a lightness in my belly and an openness in my brain where creativity grows. The best part- I know every turn I take is mine. No one else is following the same instructions.
I was a kick-butt Girl Scout. Now, I’m a kick-butt MJ. And there isn’t a duplicate anywhere.
Adapted from a recipe in “Simply in Season” by Mary Beth Lind & Cathleen Hockman-Wert
Let’s give it up for rhubarb and strawberries! A delicious seasonal combination of tart and sweet. I’m going to lay out a recipe, but I want you to feel free to follow your own rules! Recipes shouldn’t be a handbook, but more a starting place. Cut the strings and float on your own intuition to create a final product.
2 1/2 cups flour (I used all whole wheat, but you could do almost any ratio of white flour to wheat)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used kosher because I like that nice salty taste; you can use table salt if you don’t!)
(You could also experiment with adding 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of a favorite spice here.)
2 cups diced rhubarb and strawberry, total (You could use chopped fruit of any kind or a combo of 1 1/2 cups chopped fruit and 1/2 cup chopped nuts)
1 cup buttermilk (substituting plain yogurt is fine, too)
3/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil (or coconut oil or melted butter or any other favorite fat or even applesauce)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup sugar (you could use brown sugar, as well)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon flour (whole wheat or white, you choose)
1. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with butter or cooking oil or line with papers. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder and soda and salt. (And your spice, if you use one.)
3. Toss fruit (or fruit/nut) mixture lightly with flour mixture.
4. In a large bowl, combine buttermilk, brown sugar, oil (or substitute), egg and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.
5. Gently blend flour/fruit into wet ingredients with a spatula.
6. Combine topping ingredients in another bowl with a spoon.
7. Fill 12 muffin tins with batter. Sprinkle topping over the top.
8. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool completely in the pan to make them easier to remove.
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