Plainclothes Feast

A weekly peek at one dinner table, in the heart of one home, in the center of the country


Fruit Cobbler


Recently, I did something I never thought I would do: I got a dog. Willingly. Of my own volition. On purpose.

I never expected to get a dog because I have always been, even before birth, quite essentially, a cat person. I was born to cat-loving family, grew up snuggling with our fat, grungy indoor/outdoor cat, Stinky. After he died, I talked my parents into getting me a kitten and, always the wordsmith, I named her Baby. But I don’t think she minded. As a kid, I wore cat-hair-coated shirts with cats pictured on them. I talked ad nauseam about all the cute things my cat did. I slept with her in the bed–sometimes even under the covers. For heaven’s sake, I even took my cat to college. If I had grown up in the age of online cute-cat collages, I’d have been utterly useless…or an internet sensation. Tough call.

In my transformation from newborn daughter to full-grown woman, one of the few identities I never tinkered with was that of cat-lover. I’m a cat person, and all of us everywhere know what that means. This is not a choice. Right? Right.

Then I fell in love with a man whose eyes swell shut if he touches a cat. Sometimes, when I’m taking my morning walk, I’ll see a cat and secretly squat down to pet it, and it will slither along my legs, rumbling with pleasure at my attentions, and I’ll allow myself a few minutes to enjoy its feline charms, and then I’ll come home and wash my hands thoroughly in an effort to destroy the evidence. With rare exception, my hunky hubby winds up complaining that he’s itching and congested and maybe he’s getting sick. I never fess up. (Sorry, hunky hubby!/?)

In any case, I love him, so I have, over the years, reconciled myself to being a cat lover with no cats. And I’ll admit it: Not cleaning up kitty litter and not removing cat hair from every corner is, well, not unpleasant.

But raising kids with no pets? It’s just too sad. I mean, my crazy, mud-bug, lovey-dovey, tree-hugging, indoor/outdoor (but mostly outdoor) children are just made to love critters. I didn’t want to deprive them of that.


Did I say mud-bug? I meant MUD-bug.


Little guy is drawing birds on the couch during his nightly TV time. He wants to be John James Audubon when he grows up. (Look up JJA, and you’ll understand why this is relevant.)

Enter: Woodrow.


I’m a cat person still–always will be. But that cocked head? Those loose curls? I’m dead meat. First he stole my heart, and now he steals my shoes. And my kids’ shoes. And my husband’s shoes. And any other shoes that find their way onto our floor. (Cats are far too smart to go around stealing people’s shoes. Just sayin’.)


I have only two complaints about this pup. 1) My gorgeous wood floors are constantly somewhere between all smudgy and just plain muddy. 2) He smells. Like a dog. I run multiple essential oil diffusers almost constantly–lemongrass, lavender, and peppermint; patchouli, cinnamon, and vanilla; eucalyptus and wintergreen; straight-up grapefruit–and I’m still suffering from the vague suspicion that my whole house has begun to smell like Woody. I definitely catch whiffs of him on my hands and my clothes when I’m out in the world. And I don’t have to go searching to find him: I just follow my nose. (Usually, he’s no more than a few feet from my nose, so I don’t need to follow it far.)

The best method I’ve found to minimize that wet-puppy (and dry-puppy) smell is baking. Plus, baking is fun. And it warms your house on bizarrely cold-and-rainy May days. And its results are delicious. And, well, I’m a cat person who got a dog and resolved (successfully) to love him, so I freakin’ deserve to eat dessert sometimes. Gimme a break, would you?


This was his first day home. If I say, “Oh, look how tiny he was!”…you’ll understand: He has activated the hibernating softie in me.

Here’s my cobbler recipe. Another constant in my life. This is the cobbler my mom made at least once a month my whole life, and it’s now the cobbler I make. It is seriously the easiest recipe in the world, and my attempts over the years to make it better by fancying it up have always failed. The two adjustments I have made over time are to use a smaller batter-to-fruit ratio and to use more butter. This gives me less cobbler, fruitier cobbler, and a crisper edge. Less cobbler so it doesn’t last past the weekend (good); fruitier cobbler (obviously good); crisper edge (duh). I eat mine warm with a glug of milk on top instead of a scoop of ice cream, which sounds weird but tastes perfect, and I’m not sure whether that’s because I grew up doing it that way or because it just really is better. But you should try it.

I would never use fresh fruit to make cobbler because it’s just not necessary: frozen works just as well. This is a dish to make when there is no perfectly ripe fresh fruit around. (Which reminds me: Big boy yesterday declared, with characteristic authority, “Strawberries are not a very reliable fruit because they don’t transportate very well. If you don’t eat them right off the plant, they go downhill.” Irrelevant here, but memories don’t “transportate” very well unless I put them into print. Consider that memory frozen for later use. Maybe I’ll make a memory cobbler.)

Fruit Cobbler


1 lb. bag of frozen fruit (I like blackberries best, but peaches also work well.)

Sugar to taste (maybe 1/2 cup for a nice, tart cobbler)

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup flour

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and put the 1/4 cup of butter in an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish. Insert the pan with the butter into the oven and allow the butter to melt while the oven preheats.  (This also preheats the pan, which helps with the crust crisping as well.)


2. Sprinkle the fruit with sugar and set aside.


3. Once the butter has melted in the pan, mix the dry ingredients with a whisk and then stir in the milk and about half of the butter (give or take). Don’t overmix it. It will be very thin and pretty smooth.

4. Pour the batter into the pan and then dump the sugared berries on top. Sprinkle with cinnamon. (I know: You put the berries on the top and they end up on the bottom. When I was a kid watching my mom make this dish, that used to confound me to no end.)

5. Pop into the oven for about an hour. Bake until golden and bubbly. And serve warm. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA