So that was the Lighthouse, was it?
No, the other was also the Lighthouse. For nothing was simply one thing. The other Lighthouse was true too.
―from To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
One crisp autumn day long ago, my high school English literature teacher, Mr. Duffy, went around the classroom to assign a word to each of the twenty students in the room. We were to take the word with us, use it to guide us through our class assignments. An enlightened and fun teacher, he made everything we studied personal and alive. To the blonde-haired boy with the deep voice, he gave the word business, while the fashionable girl―with her rich brown Louis Vuitton bag and golden shag haircut―was assigned domestic. There was the curly-haired girl with the owl-shaped glasses, who had the courage to bring in Stairway to Heaven as an example of modern-day lyricism during the poetry unit. On her, he bestowed connection. When my turn came around, introspection was assigned. I’m not sure if it was because I was so quiet or because of the surely clever analysis I gave to To The Lighthouse in my first paper, but he was right on. I was always looking inside back then, always trying to sort out who I was in the context of a chaotic home life. I am no longer that teenage girl, my home life now is full of calm and love, but introspection still serves me well. I have changed but my younger self was also true.
It is no accident that I recently revisited To The Lighthouse. The Ramseys and their guests― vacationing at their summer home on the Isle of Skye, where the lovely Mrs. Ramsey served boeuf en daube, knitted for the lighthouse keepers’ boys, where time passed―are an introspective and fully engaged group, focused as much on the meaning of the sound of the lark as on what constitutes a perfect English meal. I love the Ramseys. I relate to their joys and their sorrows, I accept all their imperfections along with their triumphs.
Many of you know I am dealing with some darkness within now. It doesn’t just feel bad or frightening, rather it feels human and full of possibility. It’s helped me connect with many of you―I am overwhelmed with your generous response to my most recent post. Thank you.
The darkness is real but the light will filter through much as it did on this crisp day when the first leaves of fall made themselves known here in New Hampshire. Glorious crimson. Fantastic yellow. A spot of green here and there. The leaves stood up, called us to take notice. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring. Will it be fine? Perhaps a trip to the Lighthouse?
This simple Autumn Pear and Maple Loaf is worthy of a gift to Mrs. Ramsey. If I were invited to her cottage on the island one early fall day, I would bring this cake. It’s elements are simple: ripe pears tossed with a bit of butter and maple syrup are wrapped in a moist, gingery buttermilk batter. But there is nothing simple about the combination of the flavors and textures of this cake when paired with a glorious fall day. I like to think Mrs. Ramsey would serve it for tea with a bit of clotted cream and some fresh fruit alongside. I like it for breakfast with hot coffee and nothing else. How will you serve it?
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.
PS For those of you following my husband's publications, for any of you who enjoy short fiction, The Temporary Assistant Postman is a story you won't want to miss. I describe it is a quiet story about what happens when a postal worker in a small New England town finds old undelivered letters hidden at the post office. Others describe it 'like watching a fireworks display while wearing ear plugs...a story rich with emotional color..." Read it and enjoy!
AUTUMN PEAR AND MAPLE LOAF
Yield: One Large Loaf, About 8 Slices
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature (plus a little more for the baking pan)
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- 2 large eggs
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 large, ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into large chunks
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Line a 10-inch loaf pan with parchment paper and butter generously.
- In a large bowl, beat together the butter and maple syrup until fully combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until they are fully incorporated.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
- Add the sifted dry ingredients to the butter/maple syrup/egg mixture. Mix together, gently, just enough to combine. Add the buttermilk. Mix again, just enough to combine, then add the pears. Toss them into the batter until they are evenly distributed.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and set in the oven.
- Bake until the loaf is golden and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the loaf, about 40 minutes.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool a little before removing the loaf from the pan.
- Serve warm.
- This cake is best eaten right away, but will last 24 hours if wrapped tightly with foil or placed in an airtight container.
- It freezes well, so consider doubling the recipe to have one on hand for later.
- Serve it for breakfast along with a bowl of hot oatmeal or Homemade Yogurt. Pack it for a snack at school or the office, or serve it for dessert with some ice cream and maple syrup.
- Apples can be used in place of the pears.