Dear Cornell Dining,
This semester, I have found that the muffin selection in most of the campus eateries has been substantially less diverse than in the past. This morning, I intended to take advantage of the Jumbo Muffin Deal in Duffield’s Mattin’s Cafe but found that all that was available were the following flavors: Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chocolate Chip and Blueberry.
Now, don’t get me wrong, these are all pretty tasty. However, the first ingredient in these, as well as in the Butter Rum, Peaches and Cream and most other varieties, is "vanilla creme cake mix" (aside, of course, from the chocolate chocolate chip, which had "chocolate creme cake mix" instead).
I am a bit of a baker myself and can confidently tell you that cake mix makes CUPCAKES and most assuredly not muffins. Now I would normally go for a Banana Nut or Pumpkin muffin in this case, but only because their slightly-healthier cousins, the Bran muffin and the Sunrise (is that what it’s called? It has carrots in it.) have not surfaced even once this year.*
You can see my problem here, dearest managing chef. I would really love to take advantage of the awesome Jumbo Muffin Combo. On the other hand, I would really like something with a little bit of fiber in it so that I a.) don’t feel hungry again in half an hour b.) take a little bit longer to eat it in the first place, and c.) avoid the massive sugar rush and low-grade self-loathing that comes from eating a cupcake the size of a softball.
Trust me, I understand that the pastry shelf is generally not the place to look for healthy options.
But I also know from experience that substituting whole wheat bread flour (which, in bulk, is insignificantly more expensive than white flour) for white gives many baked goods a dense, satisfying crumb.
Whole grains take longer to digest and to chew and sit a bit heavier in the stomach. This means that you could reduce the size of the cupcakes (née muffins) and offset the flour cost quite comprehensively.
I see the bran jumbo muffin as the absent king of the baked goods that Cornell Dining puts out. Sure, this muffin was a little bit smaller than the others — maybe it was a little bit less glamorous, perhaps even with a slight old-man stigma, but that thing sure packed a wallop. I could practically feel my iron count going up whenever I ate one.
Most of all, though, I would really like to see a re-labeling movement. Referring to a clod of chocolate cake embedded with chocolate chips as a muffin marginalizes both muffin-positive sentiments and cupcake empowerment.
Simply crowning a cupcake with sugar crystals rather than icing that does not strip it of its dessert status.
Rigging the system so that the single most economically sound breakfast decision is coffee and cake whispers of a sinister under-the-table deal between the dining office and the fitness centers.
I understand that the university’s economic belt-tightening has forced a necessary reduction in muffin beta-testing. Streamlining the variety of baked goods almost certainly topped the Bain & Co. list of money-saving changes for Cornell. But making giant cupcakes the most effective way of controlling the BRB burn is eerily reminiscent of the lack of inexpensive, healthful foods in the supermarkets of poor neighborhoods.
In summary, what should muffins really be made of? Sugar? No. Spice? Closer.
*Editor’s Note: Also, what happened to the Mint Chocolate Chip muffins? We love them. Please bring them back — we’re begging you.