An engaged New York lawyer visits her grandmother’s hometown in Maine to deliver a letter to her grandmother’s high school sweetheart. But an unwise walk down a decrepit dock leads her to nearly drown, until a local handyman jumps in and saves her. Her sudden outburst of thankfulness with a kiss finds its way into the local paper, and Ellen tries to cover up her impulsivity, while uncovering her grandmother’s secret hobby and the life before she became Gran. After several other hilarious mishaps, Ellen unexpectedly finds the possibility of a new life, as well as a new taste for blueberries. The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe is a hilarious look at the choices that drive our impulses, and a glance at a grandmother as a young woman.
In her letter to Chet, Ruth told him that “I still think of you whenever I see blueberries.” Ellen’s Gran used to make blueberry muffins with “the tops just a little bit crunchy while the insides were perfectly moist.” She also sprinkled “the tops with cinnamon and sugar.” The Blueberry Cafe painting by Ruth Goddard won a first place in a contest.
Blueberry Muffins with Buttery Cinnamon Sugar Crumble
- 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup light brown sugar, divided in half
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup vanilla bean whole milk Greek yogurt, at room temperature
- 2 2/3 cups, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries, stems removed
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned regular rolled oats
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Preheat your oven to 350° F. In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, cream together 1/2 cup of brown sugar, the granulated sugar, and one stick of the butter. In a separate bowl, sift together two cups of flour and the baking powder. To the bowl with the blueberries, gently fold in the teaspoon and a half of flour until all berries are coated. Be sure to do this gently either by hand or with a soft rubber spatula or tablespoon so the berries aren’t crushed.
- When the sugars and butter are combined, add the two eggs to the bowl, one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract and Greek yogurt. Stop the mixer to scrape down the insides of the bowl. Turn the speed back on to low and slowly add the flour mixture in three to four installments. When all ingredients are combined, use a spoon or rubber spatula to gently fold in the blueberries by hand; do not use a mixer or it will smash the blueberries.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the remaining 2/3 cup of flour, the old-fashioned rolled oats, the 1/2 cup of brown sugar, the other stick of butter, and the cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut them together with a pastry blender until you have the mixture is crumbly and a uniform, light brown color. Into two paper-lined cupcake tins, drop the batter and fill each cup two-thirds of the way up, leaving room for the topping. Crumble the topping over the top of each muffin until it there’s no more left. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean of raw batter.
- Enjoy with a glass of milk and, if desired, a small pat of butter, whipped cream, or clotted cream on top.
Similar Recommended Readings:
The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton is about a woman who grew up with an embarrassingly eccentric grandmother and her hippie friends. But death brings her back to a small town to learn about the woman she hardly knew and that woman’s long lost love.
First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen is filled with old family secrets discovered by a young woman, along with scrumptious foods and comical, eccentric family members.
Ellen found a copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez on her grandmother’s nightstand, which is also a story about family history and family secrets.
- Roy was convinced Ellen was just another big-city lawyer who’d made the world into a place where no one accepts responsibility for their own actions anymore. That it’s always somebody else’s fault, and that she was going to sue him. What misunderstanding led him to think this about her?
- In the upstairs room of Gran’s old home in Beacon, somebody had put drywall over the plaster on the walls. What did it uncover in the old house? Why might someone have covered up something so beautiful?
- Ellen chose to stay longer in Maine because she had “uncovered a window into my grandmother’s life.” What were some of the secrets she uncovered, and why do you think her grandmother lived her whole life this way?
- Gran taught Ellen that in photography, “the most important thing of all is composition—what your eye chooses to photograph. What stays in, what goes out.” Did Ellen believe she was right? Why?
- What other hobby did Ellen have that she’d never shared with her family or her granddaughter? Why do you think she gave it up? Was photography perhaps another way of keeping that passion alive for her, as an outlet for her creative side?
- Gran told Ellen that “there are so many different ways to look at the same thing.” Was she only speaking of photography, or might she have been speaking about other things as well?
- What was the painting of that won Ruth Goddard first place at the Beacon Festival of the Arts in 1950? Why might she have chosen that place as her subject? Why did it come to mean so much to Ellen?
- Ellen wondered if “you could ever really get your true home out of your system.” What places were in Ellen’s system, or Gran’s, or Roy’s? What makes each of us so attached to a certain childhood home, or the home of a grandparent?
- Why didn’t Sugar want Ellen to have the paintings done by Ellen’s grandmother? What did Hayden do about it?
- What miniature item did Roy make for Ellen, and what was its significance?