Saturday, March 19, 2011

History - Anyone? Anyone?

In high school I took an advanced placement history class. It was one of the most boring classes I've ever taken. I struggled to stay awake as the teacher droned on and on about battles, land purchases, and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act (think Ben Stein in Ferris Buehler's Day Off and you'll get a pretty good idea of how stultifying the class was).

Once a week an essay was due on the material covered. I struggled mightily with those essays. For a competitive A student, it was a blow to my pride to have papers coming back with B's on them. There was a boy in the class whose older sister had taken the class two years previously and his papers came back with A's on them every week. It wasn't until much later that I learned he'd been handing in his sister's essays.

Sidenote: when I took the AP test, my score trounced his. Ha! Take that, M.W!

Not surprisingly, this class killed off any interest I might have had in history and made me break out in a cold sweat at the thought of ever cracking another history textbook. It wasn't until I began teaching my kids that I discovered that history isn't just dates and governmental edicts, it's the story of people and the ways they changed the world in which they lived. History, well told, is as exciting as any fiction novel; perhaps more so because it actually happened.

Recently I was offered the chance to review a book, For All The Tea In China. Normally I only do cookbook reviews, but since this one had tea in the title, I couldn't pass it up. I love tea.

What a wonderful book! If only my history teacher had the story telling skills of Sarah Rose, I might have been a history major in college. For All The Tea In China is the story of how one man, Robert Fortune, undertook a herculean task of corporate espionage, to steal the plants, seeds, and secrets of tea-making from China. First class writing and and a story worthy of a spy novel gave me much to think about as I prepared my morning cup of tea. There's a lot of history in that mug!

Although I drink tea all day long, I think there's something special about that mid-afternoon cuppa. It's a lovely break in the day, a chance to slow down, take a breath, and enjoy a moment of peace. And, of course, if you're having tea, you need a little something to go with it. I like something bready and not too sweet. These dainty muffins are perfect for teatime. Their subtle vanilla perfume blends particularly well with Darjeeling, but they can also match up well with my favorite, Earl Grey.

After you make the muffins and put your feet up for a mid-day break, might I suggest a book to read with your tea? I think you'll enjoy For All The Tea In China. Even if you had a horrible history teacher.

Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy of the book to review!

Teatime Vanilla Muffins
- adapted from America's Best Recipes
- makes about 3 dozen mini muffins

1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla extract

1- Preheat oven to 400 deg. F. Grease one (or several, if you have them) mini-muffin pan (s).

2- In a medium bowl, combine the sugar and egg. Beat well on medium speed of electric mixer.

3- In a small bowl combine the flour and baking powder and whisk to mix.

4- Add the flour to the sugar mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stir in the butter and vanilla.

5- Scoop the batter into the prepared mini-muffin pans, filling the cups two-thirds full. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and let cool on a wire rack.


Elle said...

Sounds like a wonderful read. I actually was a history major & the reason was because of the people stories, not the battles or treaties (although they are necessary to discuss and did affect people's lives profoundly), so I'm delighted that you are rediscovering the joys of history.
Those are the most darling little muffins...and I can smell the vanilla mingling with the Earl Gray's my favorite, too.

Unknown said...

Your tea is my wine...hehe, the recipe looks perfect for a nice pick me up.

Peabody said...

I hated AP History big time! I had to do alot of extra credit to get my A.
Nice muffins.

Adam said...

"Something D-O-O economics?" :)

I always hated history in school too. As you described, it's nothing but memorization of dates, which I was terrible at. Thankfully school didn't kill my fascination of it too much :).
And the muffins look perfect to enjoy with a good cup of coffee (I'm not a big tea fan :)), simple and pleasant. I may be making these soon since I've been on a muffin kick of late :).

Maria said...

Perfect little snack!

grace said...

history was my least favorite subject by far, and i still automatically shut off my brain when someone begins to talk about it. bad grace. bad.
love the little muffins, though!

kickpleat said...

These muffins look delicious and so simple to make. I've got to put my mini muffin pan to good use. And I always liked history but I think I just lucked out with amazing teachers.

Graciane said...

I loved your blog!
I'm from to Brazil and I'm come back always here to letter this blog. These muffins look delicious!
Graciane Ivanow.

Barbara said...

It's all in how it's taught, isn't it? History CAN be fascinating. Luckily, I had a couple great teachers.

Vanilla is by far my favorite flavor in cakes and ice cream. These look perfect, especially in mini form!

Unknown said...

OH, I hate that you didn't have a good history teacher! I HATE history class but my AP US History teacher was my FAVORITE teacher and prepared us VERY well for the test.