So we got the boys a wii for Christmas. We didn’t break down, exactly – it was something we’d talked about getting for a while. We’d been holding it out as a promise and a threat, just as it said to do in our parenting book; making the purchase of a video game system contingent on wildly unrelated behaviors that defied all reason, just because we could. “Honestly, if you don’t eat your soup how do you expect to be able to play on a wii?” I’m not sure that’s even the right terminology. Do you play on
a wii? Do you just play wii? Do you wii? Who knows! It’s not that I’m anti-video game, exactly, I just don’t like them. (I learned that logic from our parenting book, too! It’s called Parenting by the Irrational and Inconsistent Method: Raising a Confused but Biddable Child.) I’ve never wanted to play video games myself for more than five minutes. They seem like an epic waste of time, and they make my head hurt. But it was obvious that the boys didn’t share this view. And I was lying to myself if I thought they weren’t playing video games, anyway. They played on the computer, but they’d have to go one at a time, and oh! the tears and arguments that ensued because Isaac thought he didn’t get a fair turn. He has so much fun playing video games that half an hour passes as in an instant, the twinkling of an eye, and he squeals, in his indignant, ascending voice, “No! I only played for five minutes!” So now they play together. They have fun, they’re a team, they sit next to each other and giggle and help each other through the hard levels. And they’re playing lego Star Wars, for heaven’s sake, and lego Harry Potter, and Tintin, not World of Violent Wish Fulfillment Armageddon. So far, so good. But there’s still this nagging doubt, this feeling that they should just be playing with legos, not playing with virtual lego figures. I fear for their imaginations and their creativity, I fear that they’ll lose the ability to tell their own stories. Well! The other day I came home from work tired and discouraged. I looked through the window and saw them on the couch, seemingly deep in concentration. I assumed they were playing (on? at? with?) the wii. Not at all. They were bent over little blank books, drawing and writing. They’ve invented a world that they inhabit together. They have different names and powers and personalities, but they’re still brothers.
Malcolm is Charlie, and Isaac is Harry. They have a little brother named Johnny who grows at an alarming rate. They have a sister named Caty, and they have a dog who can fly. Of course they do! I should have known that nothing could dull the bright world of their imaginations, that no video game could dampen their creativity. It’s in them and it’s got to get out! They’ll talk for hours about the goings-on in Charlie and Harry’s world, with fervent glee. And they still play with legos – Malcolm made the most amazing little kitchen, with doors that open and secret cabinets that slide out. And pumpkin crumpets. Pumpkin crumpets!! Tiny little plastic pumpkin crumpets. What could be more fun to say? Or eat? So I decided to try to make some for really reals, in real life. I consulted my trusty Mrs. Beeton, and she said that crumpets are also called pikelets. Is that more fun to say? Pumpkin pikelets? It’s a close call. It turns out crumpets are fun to make, but a little messy. My problem was the rings. I had a pair that I’d gotten some time ago, but they didn’t work out too well. They were too small, and the crumpets stuck to them like a mother flipper. I made my own rings out of tin foil, because I’m crafty like that, and they worked slightly better. The crumpets are a little softer and denser and less chewy than crumpets from a shop. Perhaps this is the result of pumpkin puree? Perhaps it’s the result of my clumsy crumpet-making method? It was actually quite comforting and pleasant, though. I also tried not using rings at all, just putting the batter on the griddle. They were nice, too, but more like little yeasted pancakes. (You can see an example of one on the left in the picture) We ate a whole batch of crumpets in one night with some spinach, apple, avocado and ginger soup, which I’ll tell you about another time.
Here’s K’naan, with Dreamer.
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1 t yeast
1 t sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup pumpkin purée
1 t cinnamon
pinch each nutmeg and allspice
1/2 t salt
1 t baking soda
In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk and water. When the mixture is just bubbling on the edges – when it’s body temperature, take it off the heat. Stir in the yeast and sugar till they’re well-incorporated.
Transfer the milk/yeast mixture to a big bowl. Whisk in the flour and spices. You should have a nice smooth batter the consistency of heavy cream. Whisk in the purée. Cover with a damp towel and set in a warm place to double in bulk – about an hour and a half.
Whisk in the baking soda and salt, cover, and set aside for about another hour. At this point the mixture should be very foamy and bubbly.
Warm a griddle or skillet on low heat. The crumpets need to cook quite a while, so you don’t want the griddle to get too hot.
Pour a little oil in a shallow bowl. With a paper towel, lightly grease your griddle and your cookie cutters or crumpet rings. Place the rings on the griddle and fill with about half a cup of batter – you want it to come just under the top of the ring. If your batter has thickened too much mix in some warm water.
Cook for about five minutes, till the top is covered with bubbles and seems to have dried out. Carefully remove the ring, and flip the crumpet to just cook the other side. (I had the hardest time removing the rings, and had to cut around the crumpets and push them through with a spoon, which made them considerably less pretty! My home-made foil rings worked better, and I could pull them apart and take them away from the crumpet, which helped. But they weren’t perfect either! Good luck with this part!
Repeat with all the crumpets. When you’re ready to eat them, toast them and spread with butter.