Picture if you will, at the village school, some forty low-tech games of skill for kids of every age--Mikado for giants, hay-pitching, a wandering comedy and music-making duo on wheels, an obstacle course hung with little bells, coordination games made of hand-cut wood, and decorations in primary colors. The canvas set up behind the raging tug'o'war (above) was made earlier in the day by hurling (real) eggs that had been filled with paint; the resulting "fireworks" bloomed on the canvas and a screaming good time was had by all. Imagine kids pedaling like lunatics to nowhere, their leg power making a paper arrow swing over an old map--a metaphorical Tour de France. The photos I took are by no means prize-winners, but in the general hilarity I'm frankly surprised they turned out at all; I hope you get a feeling for the bubbling merriment. There was cheering and a helping push or two for the soapbox derby.Then there was a rollicking five-instrument band making folk music in French and the deep dialect of the region. The kids held sway for the first hour, twirling and stomping, swinging and parading, shining eyes and flush-faced to a one, from the three year olds to the fifteen year olds.
Of course, a kid needs some victuals in the course of all this excitement. As did many other parents, I brought a few liters of crêpe batter for the buvette, or food/drink tent. I also brought these muffins. Like the photos, they aren't beauty contest finalists. They won't make you want to eat your screen, either--if you've never had them before. Fine-textured and light, infused through and through with inviting clove, banana and a touch of citrus, they're a simple riff on the classic banana bread, rendered more toothsome with just a bit of whole wheat flour. They're what my nine year old wants to make (yes, that easy and quick...), when sunshine and exertions call for something that'll make you feel good.
Muffins à la banane et clou de girofle (Banana Clove Muffins)
Makes about 16 muffins.
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 whole wheat flour
2/3 (scant) cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup smushed ripe bananas (squeezing them in your fist is messy but effective)
1/3 cup room-temperature butter, chopped or olive oil
2 tablespoons bottled orange or multifruit juice (it's thicker than fresh squeezed)
between 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
2 tablespoons finely minced orange zest (no bitter white pith)
2 large eggs
optional: 1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger, or nuts, or apple
Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Lightly grease two 8-cup regular-sized muffin pans.
Combine all ingredients except eggs and the optional addition in a large bowl. Beat on low speed until flours are blended, then add eggs and mix at highest speed for a couple of minutes. Stir in the addition, if desired.
Fill greased muffin cups half full and bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick, placed in the center of a muffin, comes out clean. Allow to cool at least ten minutes before removing. Should be stored in an airtight container, where they will keep for three days, although they've never stayed around that long in my kitchen.