• Emily Neilson

5:03 p.m. on January 1

As I sat down to write this, still a bit sleepy from our New Year's Eve @home festivities last night, I checked the time and looked out the window. 5:03 and I could still see the inky silhouette of the maple tree in the backyard against a darkening indigo sky. Even though the last traces of light have now since vanished, and backyard shapes have become an indistinguishable blackness, I feel the delight in the light that was lingering at 5:03 p.m. 2021 is lighter and brighter already. I know for a fact I've never noticed something like that on previous January 1s, so maybe that very small, momentary observation about daylight indicates 2020 isn't so far in the rear view. Maybe it's my new view, and maybe it's a good thing!

There's just so much to see now, or at least soon once the pandemic ends, and the imagining of it all is sensational to me. I can't wait for dinner parties to return – and by God, have I been in training all year! Or to eat indoors, at a restaurant, on a Friday night and the atmosphere is velvety and vibrant – four tops and two tops and bars crowded with people in that joint vibration of love and life, friendship and fun and food. A friend's answer, which she shared immediately and without hesitation, was a music festival. Taylor (the Camera Man in BTV live cooking classes) answered he can't wait to travel. It was so easy to riff and to brainstorm the list of what we can't wait to do when the pandemic ends, and it was clear that what we are craving (and nearly ready for) is that first bite of life. The fullest color, the loudest song, the lushest flavor, the longest sunset, the broadest horizon, the deepest embrace.

Perhaps we have been preparing all year to experience the superlative; perhaps we are nearly ready.

Baking is pretty good practice for that, now that I think of it. I baked a batch of vegan banana chocolate chip muffins before writing (and what gorgeous little-littles they are). The recipe called for 20-30 minutes, with a tooth-pick test to test for doneness. At 20 minutes, they looked and smelled golden, but they needed some more time.

So do we, and boy have we learned to appreciate it.


Recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

(This is a fabulous book. Every dessert I've made has been excellent!)

250g all-purpose flour (get a scale; weighing flour is better for consistent volume!)

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

200g sugar

1/3 cup canola oil

3-4 ripe mashed bananas

1/4 cup water

1tsp vanilla extract

1 cup (or whatever you have) of vegan dark chocolate chips

1 cup (or whatever your have) of walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare muffin tins (with grease or with paper cups – I went cups!).

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together.

In another bowl (preferably larger!), beat the sugar and oil together, then add the mashed bananas. Stir in water and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Add flour mixture, along with chips & nuts, and stir to mix (but don't ooooover stir it).

Fill each muffin tin about halfway with batter. Bake 20-30 minutes, until they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack and enjoy!

Makes about 10-12 muffins.

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