Crumpet Alchemy

Oh my darling, beloved crumpet. How tender your crumb. How moist your crannies, how golden your toasted exterior. How you shine, glistening with butter. How your acidity is tempered by the sweetness of homemade jam. Oh my darling crumpet, you practical, showy, contradictory creature. How I adore thee. Too late for Valentines Day, nevertheless I sing you this love song, belated, perhaps, but no less heartfelt for all that.

Made from the part of a sourdough starter that we are meant to discard with every feeding, this crumpet recipe is a cunning bit of kitchen alchemy. The fermentation process leaves the runny sourdough starter with an acidic tang, and the addition of alkaline baking soda makes for a lovely science project; when acid meets base, sparks (well, OK, gasses) fly. Remember those papier-mâché volcano projects we made in kindergarten? In the center of the mountain, we combined baking soda (sometimes dyed red, for the full lave effect), and vinegar; when they met, the volcano erupted, foaming and bubbling out of the lumpy homemade crater. It's the same scientific principle at work here, but beautifully, deliciously edible, and somewhat less volatile.

I once kept a sourdough starter going for months after I was burned out on baking bread, just so I could continue to make these breakfast crumpets. These days, for crumpet breakfast, raspberry jam suffices for lava.

The days are warming and lengthening, and after breakfast, we leave the plates sticky in the sink, to go out into the morning. As the sun is rising. As the buds are opening. As the seeds are sprouting and the air begins to hum with bees. We are here, breakfast in our bellies, the wide day before us. Sometimes I drop to my knees and pull weeds in the small moments between larger tasks; 10 minutes gleaned in the garden, before I drive the child to school, before I leave for work. Another precious hour at the end of the day, before the light fades and the bustle of dinner begins. These interstitial moments add up, working another kind of alchemy on my heart and mind. Kneeling on the earth, not in prayer, but in attention, and tender work...the distinctions start to fade between these words; kneeling is kneeling, and gratitude is gratitude. So what if I am pulling weeds? Is this labor less an offering than incense, or lit candles? It is labor that feeds us, but it is love, before that.

By Jessica Tunis