When it comes to love, there is no money back guarantee, no list of ingredients, no reliable recipe for success. Not when we're talking about the complicated organ that is the human heart.
But that's why I love baking! With baking, my prized KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer carries a money back guarantee, there's always a set list of ingredients and my reliable recipes work every single time. There's something reassuring about that level of certainty in a complicated world gone mad. With massive earthquakes rocking Haiti (check out my charity project), health care reform on the brink of collapse and Jon and Kate's divorce finalizing (oh, the horror!), it's nice to have something you can count on.
If you mix the right ingredients together and heat them in the oven, bread will rise, muffins will bake and chocolate croissants will get all gooey and flaky, just like they do for Jane, Meryl Streep's character in Nancy Meyers' newest flick, It's Complicated, when she bakes them for Adam (Steve Martin) at the end of their date. I just watched this film over the weekend and was struck by how Jane is always baking or cooking for somebody, be they her kids, her ex-husband or her new lover (Adam). Everything from glorious roast chicken, to buttery croque-monsieur to chocolate croissants - heck, the woman owns a bakery for crying out loud. Yes, we knew Julie & Julia (interestingly, also Streep) would be about food, but I'd argue that it plays an equally large role in this film.
So what is Meyers trying to say about food, and even more to the point, love? Does Jane bake for the same reasons that I bake? For certainty, for reassurance, and most importantly, to give love to those around us? I often argue that baking (and cooking) is an expression of the purest love. When I'm upset or angry, I literally cannot bake, no recipe works, no dish comes together. However, when I'm joyful and in love, my food like my heart is a glorious thing to behold.
But maybe Meyers has an even simper, possibly cruder message, too. You know that old adage, "the fastest way to a man's heart is through his stomach?" Well, that holds true here, too. What Jane's ex-husband Jake (Alec Baldwin) seems to miss most about her is her cooking. In his new marriage to a PYT (pretty young thing), he gets plenty - in fact, too much - sex, but he's forever griping that while his new bridge may be midriff-baring hot, she cannot cook worth a damn. In one scene, Jake waxes poetic about his yearning for Jane's roast chicken, and in another scene, he looks on jealously while Jane prepares croque-monsieur for new lover, Adam. Thus, the ability to cook outlasts sex as the enduring quality you want in a wife.
In this film, as in my life, food and love are inextricably mixed, just like when you mix up a big batch of muffins. The ingredients will never be separated again, but when combined, they become something wondrous that's bigger than the sum of the parts. So yes, it seems that Meyers is telling us that while love is complicated, there may be a secret recipe for it, one that we can always count on.
And what might that recipe be?
To cook for him (or her), of course!
You can start by baking my famous Apple Walnut Muffins!
This recipe has been featured by Meatless Monday and is one of my most popular. These muffins are easy to throw together, healthy as can be, and positively scrumptious! They're high in fiber, low in sugar, vegan (but you won't know it) and loaded with fresh fruit and walnuts, an omega-3 packed superfood. Even better, I promise that special someone in your life will fall in love with them.
I'll even offer a money-back guarantee.
IT'S COMPLICATED Apple Walnut Muffins
Serves 5 people (makes about 8-10 small muffins)
Cooking time: 30 minutes
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour (I recommend whole grain spelt flour)
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup rice or soy milk
1/4 cup canola oil or olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 apple, diced (with skin on)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, baking powder, cinnamon and salt). In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients (vanilla, rice milk, oil) and whisk together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring to combine, but be careful not to over beat the mixture.
Add the apples and walnuts and mix them into the batter.
Oil a muffin tin and then spoon the mixture into it, filling each slot. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown. Enjoy!
Alright, I fooled you. I'm not going to suggest wine, or any alcohol for that matter, to pair with muffins. Instead, I recommend a pot of green tea such as Mighty Leaf's Tropical Green Tea. The tropical flavors should go nicely with the fruity, nutty muffins, plus green tea boasts a plethora of health benefits.
Also, don't forget to click click click away on my blog Domestic Divas! In conjunction with Blog Away Hunger, I'm donating 100% of my January ad revenue to the World Food Program's disaster relief efforts in Haiti. So browse through my archives - the more you view, the more money gets donated.
About the Author
JENNIFER DAWN ROGERS … A graduate of Harvard University and a former film development executive, Jennifer cooks and writes in Los Angeles. In 2009, she launched her blog Domestic Divas (www.domesticdivasblog.com), which focuses on local, organic cooking and wine reviews. She is currently writing her first novel.