I think I'd make a fantastic grandfather. I don't have a "walking three miles to school! in the snow! uphill both ways!" story, but I have a tale of effort and hardship almost as edifying-and-simultaneously-annoying. I like to call it the tale of the forgotten essay.
My students hear it so often that I'm sure they know it by heart. All I have to say is, "Have I told you that story--" and they all cry, "Yes!" I think they hope that this affirmation will prevent me from telling it again; alas, I always launch right in.
They'll be glad that I'm finally writing it down (if only so that they can print it out and ceremonially shred it).
I tell the tale of the forgotten essay for the same reason many other storytellers have told many other great stories: to inspire young people towards responsibility, honor, and success. And groans. And the occasional eye roll, apparently.
It also begins the way many other great stories begin: "When I was your age..." (Incidentally, it was at this point in the story recently when one of my students dropped his head into his arms melodramatically. I think he was overcome with excitement about the inspiring tale he knew was coming.)
See, when I was their age, I was a driven, successful student. Any grade below an A was unacceptable. I stayed up until 3 a.m. most nights working diligently on homework assignments or projects.
One day I walked into my first period English class around 10 minutes before the schoolday began. When I sat down at my desk and looked around, I knew something was amiss. My classmates each had a lengthy piece of writing in front of them. It suddenly hit me like a freight train: I'd forgotten to write the essay assigned for homework.
I sheepishly approached my teacher, who was monitoring the hallway before class. "Ms. S," I began, "I made a big mistake: I forgot to write the essay last night. I'm so sorry. Is there any way I could have a little extra time?"
I have to admit, I expected leniency. I was a superb student and tried harder than almost any of my classmates. I had never missed an assignment before. I always tried to go the extra mile.
Ms. S peered at me over her glasses and replied, "No."
I was crushed and admittedly a touch bitter, but I didn't have time to dwell. I walked back into the classroom and looked at the clock. There were eight minutes left until the bell would call Ms. S into the classroom. My bitterness was replaced by a rush of adrenaline and resolve. I took out a sheet of paper, grabbed my pencil, and began writing.
Eight minutes later, Ms. S stood at the front of the room collecting the essays. With a sigh of relief, I placed my work on the stack. She raised her eyebrows in approval.
Believe it or not, I got the paper back a few days later (oh, Ms. S, I now know what a miracle it was that you were able to grade papers so quickly) with a good grade scrawled across the top. I don't remember the grade exactly (like a striped bass, it gets more impressive every time I tell the story), but it was solidly acceptable.
...And now I can lovingly goad my students with this story whenever they have an excuse for not trying their best.
Truthfully, though, we all have times when we're in an unexpected pickle, and continuing to try can be daunting. Last Sunday I found myself in that position. I was supposed to make a special cake for a Mother's Day dinner, but for reasons I won't bore you with (I'll just cry to Byrd about them), I found myself unable to commit to a long recipe.
There was at least an hour where I lay curled up on my bed with Byrd, wondering how I could make anything at all. Finally, though, with Mike's encouragement, I began poking about online. As soon as I found a recipe for blueberry scones, I knew it was the eight-minute-essay of a dessert that I'd been looking for.
Thankfully, they turned out delicious. And even more lovely is the fact that I now have another story about determination to bore my students with.
When have you pushed past an obstacle to succeed?
One year ago: Coffee Mousse Filled Double Chocolate Chunk Cookie Sandwiches
Two years ago: Lemon Raspberry Cake
Blueberry Scones with Maple Glaze
Recipe by: Adapted slightly from Tyler Florence (scones) and Recipe Girl (glaze)
Yield: 8 scones or 16 mini-scones
These scones are delicious, quick, and easy. They can literally be mixed, baked, and glazed within 45 minutes -- perfect for my crisis Sunday! I love the combination of maples and blueberry because it reminds me of a sweet blueberry pancake breakfast.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing the scones
Maple Glaze Ingredients:
1/3 cup icing sugar
2 Tbs maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together (I usually do this on a piece of wax paper that I can then use as a chute to pour the ingredients into a bowl) and place them in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the cold butter into the mixture 6-8 times until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs (you can do this with a pastry cutter or two knives if you don't have a food processor.) Pour the flour mixture into a bowl and fold in the blueberries gently so as not to break them. Make a well in the center of this mixture, add the heavy cream, and slowly work the flour and cream together to form a dough, being careful not to overmix.
Lightly flour a surface and press the dough out (careful not to handle it too much; the butter should stay in tiny, cold pieces) into a long, skinny rectangle: about 12 inches by 3 inches. Cut the rectangle in half and in half again so that you have a row of 4 3-inch squares. Cut each square in half diagonally to form your scones (you can cut them in half on the other diagonal, too, if you want mini-scones.) Place the scones on the prepared baking sheets, brush on heavy cream, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden.
Let scones cool while you mix the glaze. Whisk icing sugar, cinnamon, and maple syrup together until smooth and drizzle over the scones. Eat immediately.