STEINBERG: Making English muffins a respite with rewards

Columnist Neil Steinberg made English muffins from a reader's recipe. | Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times

Maybe we’re doing this whole Trump thing wrong.

Maybe liberals — horrified, rapt, gazing fixedly at each new jaw-dropper through latticed fingers, only tearing our chalky faces away from the endless slow-motion train wreck to grab each other hard by the shoulders and screech, “Can you believe this?” — have fallen into a rut.

Shock gets old. On Monday, President Donald Trump lied that former President Barack Obama never called families of fallen soldiers. On Tuesday, trying to wriggle out of that lie — or sincere delusion, what does it matter? — Trump asked whether Obama called Gen. John Kelly after Kelly’s son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, using his chief of staff’s personal heartbreak as a tissue to blot the mendacious froth from his own lips.

And by the time you read this, Trump probably will have sailed off into new territory with some unimaginable false tweet, callous remark or cruel policy.

Must we flinch at each one?

OPINION

Maybe we need to step back, breathe, take a break, consider the big picture. Yes, this is an ordeal. We’ve also sailed off someplace strange and have to live there for the foreseeable future. Exiles in Crazyland. Everything this president says is still important, but not in the traditional, reflect-reality sense of importance. It’s important in the yet-more-evidence-of-unfitness sense. But who really needs more evidence? At this point, either you get it or you don’t. I certainly get it, and bet you do too. If you don’t, well, instead of writing to me in all caps shouting how much you don’t get it, consider this: Just because you don’t perceive something doesn’t mean it’s not there. Can you get that?

For those who grasp what’s happening, a ball-peen hammer on our skulls, a thought: This nightmare is also an opportunity, a chance to be better people ourselves.

What should we do? Nurture your own non-Trump reality. Because otherwise he can poison your whole life and you’ll go mad, and there’s too much of that already.

Work at making your non-Trump existence richer. I did something recently that I’d never done in my entire life, and I would bet few of you have ever done it or even contemplated doing.

I made English muffins.

A longtime reader, Don Lennie, sent me a batch of English muffins years ago. They were really, really good. I meant to whip up a batch myself, but who has time? So years passed. Then recently he wrote me, signing his email, “The English muffin guy.” And I realized that I had been negligent.

The process took about five hours, including two long breaks for rising. I’d say it was a full 90 minutes of effort, from securing the yeast, gathering the ingredients and utensils, mixing, kneading, rolling, cutting, setting out to rise and cleaning the floury, dough-crusted kitchen. Finally — who knew? — frying the rounds on a griddle. English muffins are fried like pancakes. More cleaning. Wrapping the bounty.

So worth it. Lennie said he got the recipe from the Cincinnati Enquirer in the 1970s and has been perfecting it ever since. They taste so good, fresh and flavorful, with hints of cornmeal and a whisper of yeastiness. I ate some, froze some for later, and gave a few to grateful neighbors.

Life can be better than what we’ve got, but we need to work at it. There’s not much we can do about the president. He’s unfit, probably unwell, and until Robert Mueller lays out his treachery in stark detail we’re stuck with him. Maybe even afterward. Anything is possible, in the worst sense of the term.

But also in the best sense of the word. You aren’t stuck with the mediocre muffins sold in stores. You can make your own fresh, fantastic muffins. It’s permitted. I believe now is a time to make our own reality, to keep track, certainly, of the pickax strikes at our national foundation. But filtered. Because whether you are serene or disturbed, happy or anguished, it won’t take a second off of the daily disaster, the hourly horror unfolding in Washington. The president is not changing and his supporters cannot change. But we can change. In fact, we have to.

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