"Make the Ordinary Come Alive" by William Martin + Apple Crumb Cake

Apple Coffee Cake | Eat This Poem

After many years of food blogging (seven if we're counting), I've noticed a trend. Whenever someone takes an extended absence, it often means one thing. I certainly haven't let the blog slip away entirely, but my entries have been more spread out since the year began. Perhaps you've noticed. And since I'm not one to bury the lead three paragraphs in, here you go: I’m having a baby! A boy! In October!

Although I'm not ready to share the details of our journey to parenthood (and I’m not convinced that my food blog is the best platform for this discussion), it's comforting to know that while the experience is different for everyone, the more people I speak with, the more I realize we're never alone and there are many roads to travel. Because for all the unplanned pregnancies and lucky first tries out there, there are far, far more of us who had to overcome something, large or small, to become a mother. I hope we keep talking about it.

Apple Cake Topping

In the mean time, there is food. Naturally, I’ve had some thoughts on the topic since becoming pregnant. It’s been interesting. And humbling. And empowering. And if I’m being honest, frustrating on more than one occasion.

For example, it was absolutely horrendous to be disgusted by my own kitchen for weeks. Weeks. Some days I could barely open the refrigerator to clamor for the water filter before smells escaped. My husband smelled none of them, of course.

I'll spare the details, but suffice to say I spent approximately six to eight weeks unable to cook as usual. Despite the temporary discomforts, I did learn something very important about cooking, namely how absolutely essential it is to me.

During two of the worst weeks we supplemented with boxed or semi-prepared ingredients, items that I haven't relied on since I was in college, and really only consider emergency food. But when I had no energy or drive to cook at the end of a long work day, soup with grilled cheese was our only option after take out pizza and Indian food, which a person can only eat so much of.

It took less than a week of boxed soup, crackers, and jarred pasta sauce for me to start reeling. So much of it was inedible. Although I saw these staples as beacons to guide me through a temporary setback, I quickly turned against them. And in the midst of everything, a profound gratitude settled over me. I have tools. I have hungers. I have a reasonable amount of capability and creativity to make meals from scratch most days of the week. And I don't compromise on ingredients. This is sometimes a more expensive choice, but it's important to both me and my husband, and never has it been more clear than when I couldn’t embrace food in my usual capacity.

One night I felt up for making something simple, and threw together a pureed tomato soup with the following six ingredients: San Marzano tomatoes, carrots, garlic, crushed red pepper, basil, and vegetable stock. It was sublime, and infinitely more layered than the boxed tomato basil soup we disappointedly ingested a few days before. That's the power of real ingredients and real cooking.

I’m happy to report that well into the second trimester, I’m feeling so much better. Well enough to bake a simple cake and share a little poem appropriate for the occasion.

Apple Coffee Cake | Eat This Poem

Make the Ordinary Come Alive

by William Martin

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is a way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples, and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

From The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

I love the sentiment in this poem because it doesn’t shy away from simple pleasures or difficult conversations. That’s life, isn’t it? We can’t protect our children from everything. We can barely protect ourselves.

I've always believed that we're better off living from a place of honesty. Embrace the juice of a peach, the sweetness of fresh tomato sauce in August, but don't turn away when our dog passes away, when grandparents die, or when a disappointment comes our way. These are the moments that make up our days, and like the poem reminds us, the extraordinary "comes alive" from the ordinary.

Everything we think doesn't matter truly does.

I know I'll have good days and bad days, but I'm looking forward to teaching my son about all of it.

Apple Coffee Cake | Eat This Poem


Adapted from Ellie Krieger

In reflecting on the recipes we remember, I often made these apple muffins from Ellie Krieger once I started eating healthier and incorporating whole grain flours into my baking. This time around, I was feeling like a coffee cake was in order. 

For the topping:
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/4 cup oats
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the cake:
1 cup spelt flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup brown sugar or raw turbinado sugar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
1 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces (I like Granny Smith)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch square baking dish and set it on a sheet tray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the nuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flours, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the sugar and oil. Stir on low speed until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating after each addition. Next, add the applesauce and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk, and stir until just combined. Gently stir in the apples.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and sprinkle with the topping. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 20-25 minutes.