I adore muffins.

The reliably soft squidgy cake never fails to deliver, but the piece de resistance has to be the top! Slightly crunchy, somehow slightly sweeter than the rest.  Whenever I am sharing a muffin with my kids in a coffee shop (sharing is the law in my house and they can blame my mother for that), the battle lines are drawn over the muffin top.  Everyone pretends they are not really trying to get a bit more than their fair share, and that a larger share of the base can make up for a smaller share of the top, which of course is a ridiculous argument.

You can now buy “Muffin Tops’.  Now I know I said my favourite part is the top but this is a concept I reject, and is something I will never buy, because the entire enjoyment of the muffin is down to the proportion of muffin to muffin top. In fact, the ‘only’ reason the muffin top is so deliciously sacred is because you have to eat the rest of the muffin in order to have the top, and there is not that much of it! This to me is a metaphor for life.

Enjoyment and satisfaction is a relative concept. We need to feel cold to truly appreciate being warm, we need to work to indulge in the rewards, We need to feel sad to feel truly happy, we need a harsh winter to really enjoy the spring.  If our plates are only full of the parts of the meal we love the most, can we really appreciate them as much as when we have to savor them as a relative portion?

In some ways it doesn’t quite make sense.  Surely having exactly what we want, when we want it and as much of it as we want should be what satisfies us and brings us ultimate enjoyment.  But it isn’t, or at least, it doesn’t seem to be.

Maybe there are clues here within the ancient Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang are opposites within a relationship.  For example winter and spring, water and ice, heat and cold, work and rest. Relative levels of Yin and Yang are continuously changing and this is a harmonious change except when either Yin or Yang is out of balance, then it can create a state of imbalance resulting in a preponderance or weakness of one or the other.  In traditional Chinese medicine particular symptoms of illness may indicate an excess or deficiency of either Yin or Yang.  It’s a fascinating subject in it’s own right and if you are keen to read more……http://www.sacredlotus.com/theory/yinyang.cfm

Anyway, back to muffin tops! Our grandparents had no choice where this concept is concerned.  Even our parents lived through more frugal times and in some cases so did the generation I am part of.  Nowadays, in many cases in the Western world we have to enforce this concept because it is no longer necessary to feel hungry, to feel cold, to feel the tiredness of walking a couple of miles to school, to have a little of what you love.

‘Muffin Tops’ has become a metaphor in my house and my kids sometimes struggle with the fact that I won’t buy a second tub of Haagen Dazs, or take a taxi even if we can afford it, because I want them to appreciate, like I did, how much more special something is if you don’t have it all the time.

Now in case you are starting to think that I’m some vitriolic, self sacrificing saint I’d like to reassure you that I am in no way suggesting that we ‘have’ to ‘suffer’ in order to ‘enjoy’.  But, I am suggesting that as human beings we were designed to live a Yin and Yang life, a life of balance and that when we take the balance away our emotional and physical state starts to bear the signs of preponderance or deficiency.

I’m sure the great philosophers of our times would balk at my muffin top metaphor but it works for me!  It reminds me of the need for equilibrium, the need to work for what we have, the importance of something being a treat. A reminder that a free ride or a ‘pass to go’ on the Monopoly board is not always the gift it appears to be!

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