Food by the Book

The power of moments can be intensified when we are aware of what we are creating. For a special breakfast try fig and goat cheese muffins suggested by author Amy Meyerson.

Food, music, books, and places all have the power to evoke visceral memories. Such is the fodder for two recent books, one a novel, “The Bookshop of Yesterday” by Amy Meyerson (Park Row Books, 2018), the other, “The Power of Moments” (Simon and Schuster, 2017), a business psychology study by brothers Chip and Dan Heath.

In “The Bookshop of Yesterday” teacher Miranda Brooks adored her Uncle Billy who created fantastic scavenger hunts to celebrate her special occasions. Equally memorable was Billy’s bookstore-cum-coffee shop, Prospero Books, where Miranda was allowed to pick out any book she wanted. Following her 12th birthday and an argument with her mom, her uncle disappeared, leaving Miranda bewildered. Sixteen years later, she learns he has passed away and left her the not-so-prosperous Prospero Books in his will.

But, Uncle Billy is creating scavenger hunts for Miranda even in death. With her mother distant and evasive, Miranda sets out to follow the clues her uncle left and learn the truth of his disappearance. Filled with references to books as only a book about a bookshop can be, readers will love this family mystery just right for summer reading.

Uncle Billy could not have done better if he had read Dan and Chip Heath’s new book, “The Power of Moments.” While many of the best times in life happen organically, the Heath brothers pose the question, why would we leave our most precious moments to chance? Highlighting four defining elements – elevation, insight, pride, and connection — the book illustrates how these can be used to create powerful, memorable experiences through real life examples.

One such example is YES Prep where administrators Chris Barbic and Donald Kamentz created a Senior Signing Day to elevate the experience of their mostly low-income, first-time college-going seniors’ college acceptances. Those moments were so powerful that three years later the event had to be held at Rice University’s arena, because it had also created that much pride and connection. “The Power of Moments” is an inspirational read for anyone who leads people, whether they are family, students, colleagues or clients.

How does food play into the power of moments? Dan Heath told me his mom used to make colored icings and let him decorate “rainbow cookies” with his vanilla wafers. The memory was so thrilling that he recreated it with his small daughter. Amy Meyerson suggested the fig and goat cheese muffins served at Prospero Books in her novel based on ones she actually tried in Philadelphia. Her memory is that they were delicious. Create your own moments with these ideas.

Fig and Goat Cheese Muffins

3/4 cup crumbled soft goat cheese or Neufchatel

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided

2 cups white whole-wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 large egg white

3/4 cup packed dark or light brown sugar

1 cup low-fat or nonfat buttermilk

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/4 cups chopped dried figs

3 tablespoons turbinado or granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners or coat with cooking spray.

Thoroughly combine cheese, honey, lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla in a small bowl. Set aside.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Lightly beat eggs and egg white in a medium bowl; add brown sugar and the remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla and whisk until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in buttermilk and oil until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined; do not overmix. Fold in figs.

Spoon half the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Add 1 generous teaspoon of the reserved cheese filling to the center of each muffin, and cover with the remaining batter. (The filling should not be visible.) Sprinkle the muffins with sugar.

Bake the muffins until the edges start to brown and the tops spring back when gently pressed, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Source: Eating Well Magazine, January/February, 2010.

Reach Melony Carey at foodbythebook@gmail.com or 918-683-3694.

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