There is a polluted creek near my house teeming with wildlife. Red-winged blackbirds, geese, muskrats, turtles, ducks. In late spring we’ll hear bull frogs, or bow-ing frogs as Half-moon used to call them, when we bike over the wooden bridge.
Across the street from the creek there is a house with three bird feeders. In addition to filling the bird feeders, one of the home’s tenants scatters seeds all over the ground making it a popular dining destination for the resident mallard ducks. In the last week or so I’ve made it my life’s work to collect duck data at this site.
This morning Half-moon woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I crouched in the kitchen mind-numbingly scrubbing the white cupboards, engaged in a losing battle with a four-year old over the importance of being “easy-going.” Defeated, I walked to my bedroom. Jeans, hooded sweatshirt, winter hat, vest, 15-year old green and yellow tennis shoes, open the front door, shut it behind you, breathe. I walked to my destination where I collected this morning’s data: Ten male ducks, zero female ducks (and two squirrels, one particularly bouncy.)
No toilet paper, no school. No waitressing shift on Tuesday, cross it off the calendar. No income, no gospel brunch. Count the ducks. No Bob Uecker, turn off the radio. No nine-hour road trip, no pimento cheese at the picnic table in the brewery’s parking lot. No newspaper to write for, keep your thoughts to yourself. No spring soccer league, no summer writing camps, no more nights without social-distancing nightmares.
Count the ducks.
Start jogging again, eat potatoes with butter. Listen along as your parents read Winnie-the-Pooh stories to your son over the computer, drink tea, eat ginger snaps. Attempt to meditate, “fail,” try again. Celebrate your son’s imaginary friend’s birthday tomorrow, she’s a diesel-train driving squirrel. Cry at the kitchen sink, promise to try harder the next day. Do yoga in your bedroom while Daniel Tiger sings a song about going to the bathroom from your living room. Pour a beer, look for the puzzle’s border pieces, curse at your cat for eating puzzle pieces. Listen to Dolly Parton, sing camp songs. Enlist husband to make corn bread, eat it with black bean soup by candlelight. Count your blessings, count the ducks.
Original recipe is from Food52.com
1 cup (140 grams) finely ground cornmeal
1 cup (128 grams) all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/3 cups well-shaken buttermilk, at room temperature
1/3 cup (71 grams) dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
8 tablespoons (1 stick, 113 grams) unsalted butter, divided
Turn on the oven to 400°F. Stick a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron pan inside.
Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir until combined.
Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a small pot or the microwave. Combine the buttermilk, egg, and both sugars in a small bowl. Stir with a fork or whisk until smooth. While stirring, pour the melted butter into the buttermilk mixture. Keep stirring until smooth.
Pour the liquid ingredients on top of the dry and stir until smooth.
Use oven mitts to pull the cast-iron pan from the oven and set on the stove over medium heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the pan and let melt until it just starts to brown. Pour in the cornbread batter and shake gently to smooth out.
Bake the cornbread for 20 to 25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean and the sides are beginning to pull away from the edges of the pan. Cool at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving.