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I loathe cleaning muffin tins. So unless there are little paper cups, I opt to make a loaf instead. I figure it tastes the same and though cleaning a knife each time I want to eat some of it cane be a bit of bother, it’s less annoying than trying to clean the muffin pan.

This is sort of my philosophy when it comes to cooking in general. If I make chicken or salmon in the oven, I wrap it in tin foil. And as an aside, tin foil is one of those things The Mom is known for. She wraps everything in it, declaring that plastic wrap doesn’t do the job properly. I used to disagree then I moved to the UK and now I see where she’s going with that. The plastic wrap here only clings to your arm once you’re freed it from its horrible cardboard encasing. It will not stick to whatever it is you want to wrap up, so I’ve gone the route of tin foil. I do have plastic tupperware buckets, and I do use them, but you know, you can’t put a carrot muffin loaf in a plastic bucket. Well, I suppose you could, but you’d have to have one that’s big enough and I don’t.

So this is the thing. I wrap things in tin foil and then I cook them because I can then toss the tin foil away after. If it’s not gross or covered in meat juice, I’ll save it for another time. But it sure makes cleaning up afterwards easy. Just a quick swish in the soapy water and you’re done.

The problem is, as The Mom so rightly notes, is that when I’m home and my madeleine pan is about, then I want to use it. But cleaning it is a miserable chore. Those delicate sea shell shapes that are so appealing quickly lose their appeal after I’ve been scrubbing the pan for fifteen minutes.

We were raised on home baking due in large part because we couldn’t eat store bought things. So The Mom would make us homemade baked goods and it’s a tradition that we adhere to today. I always want to make muffins and sometimes think about buying a muffin tin but know myself and know that I won’t want to use it because the clean up is a nightmare. Everything has a price, right?

I can only imagine what it’ll be like when I go home for a visit this summer. Actually, it’ll be like every time I go home.

At some point, one afternoon, when I’m at loose ends, I’ll get the cupcake books out and start imagining at them.

“Ooohhh! Look! Ma, we could make cupcakes in the shape of a Van Gogh painting!”

The Mom will grip whatever’s nearest – a beagle, the counter, her wine glass – and do her best to not faint.

“We could…” she’ll say in that voice that means she wants no part in it, but since I’m rarely home is willing to humour me.

“It would be great. Imagine? We could invite the neighbours, make a costume party! Dress up the canaries even!”

The thing is, she’s never entirely sure how serious I’m being. Truth be told, neither am I.

“Or what about the partridge in a pear tree cupcake sensation? We still haven’t made that and I’ve had this book for five years!”

“It has been decided that the partridge in a pear tree is too complicated for us to manage. It will only end in disappointment and grumbling from your end.”

“What? We can totally do that.”

At this point she’ll usually announce that she has pressing business elsewhere. If I’m feeling particularly worked up, I’ll follow her around nattering on about how much better our lives will be with this cupcake extravaganza in our lives until she goes to her room and shuts the door.

“It will end in tears!” she’ll cry from the other side of the door. “My kitchen table will be covered in flaked almonds, stuck there with adhesive icing that will not come off no matter how much scrubbing we do! The food colouring will bleed into everything! The Pig will probably eat them all the moment we look the other way! Finding all these ingredients will throw me – to borrow your favourite phrase – into an existential malaise, the likes of which I shall never recover from!”

“You used to be fun!” I’ll retort and shuffle away back to the kitchen where I’ll consider making the cupcakes on my own, thus ensuring that she has no choice but to join me in my descent into poor life choices.

I’ll get the cupcake making things out – the old box of Betty Crocker cake mix which will be the wrong kind of cake, but at this point I’m willing to overlook things, to make it appear like a much simpler task than it actually is. And I’ll continue with these substitutions until things take a turn for the absurd. No liquorice for eyes? Use a line of ketchup instead!

I’ll wait until The Mom thinks the coast is clear, being as quiet as possible, maybe even opening and closing one of the outside doors to trick her into thinking I’ve abandoned the idea and gone out. When she strolls into the kitchen she’ll see the things I’ve gathered, sprawling out over the table and gasp in horror.

“But it’s almost dinner time,” she’ll say weakly.

“We can eat outside,” I’ll reply chirpily.

“You can’t put ketchup on cupcakes. I’tll taste awful.”

“Nobody will eat them.”

“Then why are you making them!”

This will give me pause, but only briefly. “I’ll take them to the pool after! To share!”

The Mom will sigh heavily at this point, realising there is nothing left she can do to quell my enthusiasm. “Fine, but you’re cleaning it up.”

“Of course,” I’ll say indignantly.

“Including the muffin tin. And by the way, there aren’t any of those little paper cups left,” she’ll add.

“Oh, no paper cups?”

She’ll shake her head.

“Never mind,” I’ll say. “I can’t be arsed cleaning the muffin tin. Giant pain in the ass.”

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