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to understand, to be understood

Many things I do not understand.

Take wedding planning, for example. These unending decisions that I am facing these days are difficult in part because I never thought about what my future/potential wedding dress would look like, or what the little people in my future/potential wedding would wear, or what color string ought to be tied around the invitations (answer: whatever my brilliant designer-friend Emilie says), or how many old jars and vases are necessary per person in a centerpiece.

These decisions are also difficult, of course, because decision-making is not my forte. Surely my penchant for detail does not help, either, nor the fact that I have opinions on most things, even things I didn’t think I cared about.

But I do understand some things, thank heaven, or I would find myself flailing about in the wedding-planning world with every ounce of my confidence lost. I like to think I have a decent sense of style, and I am looking forward to working through the details of the ceremony itself (I do enjoy words, after all), but let me tell you, what I am very certain that I understand is FOOD. Last week, at the food tasting for our reception, which will take place at a great local restaurant, Ben, my parents and I polished off all of the delicious dishes that pranced across our table, plates wiped clean before they were taken away. As we rather easily pieced together the menu, I recalled that I am good at eating, and I can choose food, and I can, if I may say, assemble a pretty excellent menu. And this is worth something.

It is a helpful reminder that understanding, in any form, is not a given. And it is even harder to understand people than things. I’ve been thinking lately about that look of puzzlement we’ve surely all seen when trying to explain our thoughts or our choices or ourselves to someone — the blank gaze, or the furrowed brows, the brief stillness in which no one speaks. In my estimation, it means one of two things: either I didn’t explain myself well, or I, as a person, am simply not understood. And let me tell you, a communicator to my core with a tendency to feel insecure, I am not fond of that look. I want proof that I’ve communicated well. I want to be thought interesting and intelligent and reasonable. But I want, perhaps most of all, to be understood, and then accepted.

My fellow — that person I’m marrying, that sweet man named Ben — never responds to me with that blank look. It’s not that he always understands everything absolutely, nor do I understand him completely either, but there’s never a significant disconnect, never confusion that we can’t bridge. With a sturdy bridge. A pretty one, I’ll argue, the kind made with weathered, reclaimed wood and a handrail all the way across.

And that absence of misunderstanding confirms, for me, that I am with the right person.

We all want that, I think: to understand, to be understood. And so as I muddle on in these preparations for our wedding, and in planning those elements of our future that lend themselves to planning, and in the world, for goodness sake, I am grateful for Ben, and for food.

There’s not much more a lady can demand of life, I don’t think. Although, a sturdy-yet-delicate muffin to go alongside is a welcome addition. Have you had a sturdy-yet-delicate muffin? It is a very charming thing. And it’s appropriate in this context. Some have asked me about my cooking — so many baked goods on this site! Do I eat baked goods all the time? Do I cook at all? And the answers are: no, not constantly, just often, and: yes, most every night. But those dinners are only elaborate from time to time; they are most often simple: sauteed vegetables with a fried egg on top, a big salad and some toast, lentils, grains, that kind of thing. I’ll continue sharing these recipes, too, but I don’t anticipate that they’ll become my focal point, at least not right now — others are focusing here with unmatchable success, representing well my fresh-and-local, vegetarian palate.

But above all else, I share more baking than not because this is what I love — it is what I understand. Which is precisely the point.

Millet Muffins
From Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day

These muffins really are delicious — with a slight crunch from the raw millet and subtle sweetness from the honey and a bit of brightness from the lemon. They are wonderful with jam and/or butter, or even plain, alongside a cup of coffee or tea. Wrapped tightly when still fresh, they freeze very nicely.

2 ¼ cups / 10 oz / 280 g whole wheat pastry or white whole wheat flour
⅓ cup / 2 oz / 60 g raw millet
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup / 8 oz / 225 g plain yogurt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup / 120 ml unsalted butter, barely melted
½ cup / 120 ml honey
grated zest and 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a 12-cup muffin pan by buttering the muffin cups or lining them with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: the flour, millet, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: the yogurt, eggs, butter, honey, lemon zest and lemon juice.

Add the wet mixture to the dry, stirring until the flour is just incorporated.

Divide the batter among the muffin cups, scooping a heaping ¼ cup of batter into each one. The cups should be filled to just below the rims.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until the muffins’ tops are lightly browned and just beginning to crack. Let the muffins cool for 5 minutes in the pan, and then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 12 muffins

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