Cooking for One: The Giant Muffin

03Jul06

One of the more difficult parts of cooking for one’s self is the economics of scale. Despite all of the idea of having a free capitalist economy where competition drives prices down and quality up, it makes sense for certain industries to be dominated by a small number of firms. For example, it’s typical for a single energy company to serve an entire metropolitan area, or even an entire state. This is because it would be prohibitively expensive to have several companies laying down parallel gas and electrical lines, it simply doesn’t make sense to have competition. The same goes for goods such as cable television (though some competition comes from satellite broadcast) and mail (barring UPS and similar companies). Econometrically, the marginal cost for additional units is much, much less than the capital investment to enter the market.

This idea can be scaled down to daily meals.  The marginal cost of producing an extra serving of a meal once you’ve already committed the time and tools to cooking is very small, assuming you have the capacity. This is a natural thing. One can’t even purchase a single meal’s worth of poultry at Safeway, you either have to buy for a family-sized meal or freeze a week’s worth of chicken for another day. (If the latter is the case, then freeze each serving separately so you don’t have to re-thaw multiple times.) Do you buy individual pinches of salt, or cubes of sugar? Of course not. It’s no problem to stick in another few pieces of chicken into a larger bowl or to prepare an extra few servings of rice. You end up having to spend an extra few minutes on top of the hour or so you’ve committed to preparing, eating, and cleaning. This is part of the reason why there are so many coops here (that and the number of hippies).

Anyway, I repeatedly butt heads with this culinary version of the economics of scale.

Today I wanted to have a muffin. I have muffin mix (far cheaper than buying muffins). Unfortunately, I don’t have a muffin pan and didn’t think it was worth $3 at Goodwill to purchase a muffin pan that I won’t use again. $3 is a scoop of gelato from Naia, just short of a round trip bus ride to the Berkeley Marina for 4th of July, or a cup of white hot chocolate at Au Coquelet; so I’m adamant about saving the money on principle.

So, today I made a giant muffin in a glass bowl.

I actually made two giant muffins, but the other one wasn’t as pretty. This doesn’t actually solve my economics of scale problem–but I did manage to make a very large single muffin that, had I the appetite, I could have eaten in one go.  My giant muffin is 6 inches in diameter and 1.5 inches deep.
There isn’t much of a moral to this story, other than that one doesn’t need fancy things like muffin tins to make delicious muffins.

If you’re interested in making a giant muffin, please remember to bake them at a lower temperature for a longer amount of time.




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