Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I don’t think I’ve ever told you how much it meant to me when you’d wake up early to make us muffins in the winter. It’s one of my favorite childhood memories. Thank you and I love you.
Huckleberries are an important and much loved berry of the Pacific Northwest. They’re “in season” for only one or two weeks of the late summer and they don’t grow just anywhere. In fact, part of their appeal is that they refuse to be domesticated. Scientists/botanists have tried to domestic the plant to no avail. Thus, if you want to enjoy the ruddy purple berry you have little choice but to pack a picnic, pack the kids, and head to the mountains to find a good patch.
In the late summers my own family would spend an afternoon picking in our own carefully scouted secret patch. Mom would pack a picnic of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while dad clumsily lathered his three daughters in sunscreen. Then we headed up Vulcan Mountain in search of treasure. The car carefully wound up the dusty dirt road as we climbed out of the Curlew Valley to over 5,000 feet above sea level. We’d eat at least as many berries as we picked but somehow we’d still manage to come home with two or three gallons of huckleberries. Some of the berries were used immediately as topping for shortcake or ice cream. The rest were placed in the freezer to be made into jam or to be carefully rationed out over the winter.
Because, you see, winter in the Northwest kind of sucks. And huckleberries were my mother’s secret winter-morning weapon.
Six-thirty in the morning never comes easily when daylight is still an hour away and at a time of year when daylight doesn’t guarantee sunlight—for days. Toss in a school morning and you have a recipe for three little girls who will fight to stay in bed under the warm covers. Mom usually had to threaten us out of bed on such mornings, but on the occasional Northwest winter morning—we never had advanced warning—my sisters and I would wake up to the smell of something glorious baking.
Something extraordinary to start an ordinary, cold, dark, and harsh winter morning.
And in the place of threats, negotiations, mumbles and grumbles, in the place of cold cereal or oatmeal, the cold and dark morning would become punctuated with the sound of three sets of excited little feet racing to the kitchen, shouting: “Get up! Get up! Mom’s making muffins!”
And there was never any doubt as to what kind of muffins they’d be, for there was only one kind: Huckleberry.
And 6:30 a.m. would become easy. Treasured. Magical. Nothing could go wrong, the weather be too cold, the morning too dark, on huckleberry muffin mornings.
To me, early morning batches of huckleberry muffins are still an ultimate expression of love, devotion, and solidarity in that, hey, sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed. And they’re one of my most treasured childhood memories. So if I happen to get up extra early, no matter the season, and if I happen to offer you a cup of my precious winter stash of huckleberries in a batch of muffins, then you should know that I love you. Dearly.
And I want your day to be extraordinary.
Bonnie’s Huckleberry Muffins
Make these for your mom as the perfect breakfast-in-bed treat! Makes 12 muffins
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
1 c. oatmeal
1 c. milk
¼ c. oil
1 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
2 t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
1 c. huckleberries (or blueberries/raspberries/strawberries)
Combine oatmeal, milk, egg, and oil. Set aside for 15 minutes.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients. Add oat/milk mix until moist, mix will be lumpy.
Bake 18-20 minutes.
Darla Antoine is an enrolled member of the Okanagan Indian Band in British Columbia and grew up in Eastern Washington State. For three years, she worked as a newspaper reporter in the Midwest, reporting on issues relevant to the Native and Hispanic communities, and most recently served as a producer for Native America Calling. In 2011, she moved to Costa Rica, where she currently lives with her husband and their infant son. She lives on an organic and sustainable farm in the “cloud forest”—the highlands of Costa Rica, 9,000 feet above sea level. Due to the high elevation, the conditions for farming and gardening are similar to that of the Pacific Northwest—cold and rainy for most of the year with a short growing season. Antoine has an herb garden, green house, a bee hive, cows, a goat, and two trout ponds stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout.