Rohrschach muffin

February 12, 1997|By Helen Chappell

OYSTERBACK, Maryland -- I, Desiree Grinch, proprietor of the Blue Crab Tavern, am all for a little excitement, but this muffin thing got way out of hand, and frankly, I am glad that what happened, happened when it did.

Beth and I had been making cornbread muffins early on a Friday, at lunchtime. I think there's nothing quite like cornbread muffins when you're serving kale-stuffed ham, which was the special last week.

''Desiree, come look at this,'' Beth says to me. Hindsight being 20/20, I probably should have told her I was busy, but I didn't. She was holding up this muffin that had just come out of the oven, and she says, ''What does that look like to you?''

''A cornbread muffin,'' I said, then I looked closer at the ridges and swirls, the golden brown nooks and crannies. It was one of nature's jokes; they came together and formed a face.

''Wow, is that . . . '' I asked.

''Newt Gingrich!'' Beth crowed triumphantly.

Well, somehow or another, the way the cornbread batter baked, you know the top of that muffin did look awfully much like Newtie. Or somebody. There was a face in there all right.

''Look, it's got them little chubby cheeks and that scowl and them shifty little pig eyes and everything,'' said Junior Redmond, who'd come around into the kitchen to see what the fuss was all about. ''Ain't that just about cute?'' He went to poke it with one of those big old fingers of his and Beth snatched it away from him.

''It look just like Bill Clinton to me,'' he mumbled defensively.

Well, I looked at it again. It did look like Bill Clinton if you looked at it one way, but then, it looked like Newt Gingrich if you looked at it from another angle.

''Don't you ruin this, Junie,'' Beth said, snatching the anthropomorphic baked good away from her brother-in-law. ''This muffin is a sign from God!''

Well, I cannot say that a face on a muffin is a sign from God, but Beth, who has been broody lately, took that muffin and put it under a glass pastry dome up on the counter. She hand-lettered a sign that said ''See The Celebrity Muffin'' and stuck it on top.

Faraday Hicks, who happened to be sitting next to it, eating a hot turkey sandwich, called to Ferrus T. Buckett and Omar Hinton down the counter. ''See that there face in the muffin?'' he asked with his mouth full ''Don't that look just like Sydney Greenstreet?''

Watch the birdie

Ferrus peered at the muffin nearsighted-like. ''Naw, it don't look nothin' like Sydney Greenstreet. It does look just like Brady Anderson, though.''

''Kyle Secor,'' offered Hudson Swann, who had just wandered in looking for change for the phone. He got right up on top of the glass dome and squinted hard. ''Yes, I'd have to say that muffin looks just like that there actor Kyle Secor. It's got his big ole nose and everythin'.''

''Desiree!'' exclaims Mrs. Carlotta Hackett. ''You've got zzTC celebrity muffin there that looks like Anais Nin. Can I have two cheeseburgers and an order of cole slaw to go?'' They're reading diarists at Great Books again, I thought, but that was about all I had time to think, because the lunch rush was pouring through the door like a herd of stampeding buffalo.

Omar Hinton, who is really tall, didn't have to push his way past the lunch crowd at the counter to get his look at the muffin. He just peered down over Miss Carlotta's great big blond bouffant. ''I'll tell you what that muffin looks like, it looks like E. Power Biggs.''

''Celebrity muffin? Lemme see?'' Parsons Dreedle, who's not so tall, snuck in under Huddie's armpit. ''It looks like somebody all right, but I can't . . . move, Ferrus, I want to see, too. Well, I'm damned! That muffin is the spitting image of Reba McEntire! Lookit . . . ''

Before I could stop them, they were all crowding around the counter, almost crawling one on top of another trying to get a look at the physiognomic muffin.

''Dennis Rodman!''

''Hannah Arendt!''

''Roger Tory Peterson!''

''Eunice Shriver!''

''Pope Leo VI!''

''Diane Rehm!''

''Mike Ditka!''

''Sherlock Holmes!''

''Joan Baez!''

''John . . . ''

There was a clatter as they swept salt shakers and silverware off the Formica. Small town, not much to do, but still and all, by noon, the next day, it was looking like a mini-riot in here, and someone had alerted the media, so that there was a couple of satellite trucks outside and about eleventy-seven people inside and more coming. This place can only legally hold about 50, and there must have been about a hundred West Hundred fools crammed into this place, all of them dying to get a look at the cosmic muffin.

''Edgar Allan Poe!'' said a tourist as he knocked my 12-point buck off the wall trying to get a picture. Everyone agreed it looked like someone; it was just that no one could agree on exactly who.

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