The following piece is courtesy of Lauren Shuster, a participant in Indian Creek Nature Center’s Nature Writing series. This six-week series was led by Iowa Master Naturalist Molly Shedek. Participants in this series were involved in an immersive nature writing experience, taking them on the Nature Center trails and all around the property, inspiring their writing. Visit our public program calendar for a complete listing of our upcoming programs.
Recipe for a Mid-Summer’s Night Dream
by Lauren R. Shuster, July 2018
- Setting sun that tints the sky in shades of red, yellow, orange, purple, and blue.
- Warm air fragranced with meadow-sweet and fresh-mown grass.
- Trees with branches full of supple green leaves.
- Tall prairie grass.
- Milkweed with sweetly scented purple blooms.
- Firm stalks of red cardinal flower, purple coneflower, and lilac-colored bee balm.
- Subtle perfume of yellow and orange daylilies.
- Bright gold of black-eyed Susan, compass plant, and coreopsis.
- Delicate breeze—just strong enough to a wave a strand of hair across the face.
- Low moan of a bullfrog.
- Earful of birds singing, chirping, squeaking; ducks quacking and geese honking.
- The still steadiness of a deer.
Into a large mixing bowl, with sturdy finger-form-fitting handles, place drops of the setting sun.
Allow the sun’s bright, fingerlike rays to grow longer, filtering through nearby tree branches, laden with life-filled leaves, like a turned-on flashlight shining through venetian-blinds.
Gently add the warm, fragrant breezes a little at a time, like flour in a sifter. Allow this scent to settle into the bowl like feathers falling from a bird in flight.
Don’t stir yet! Pause to pick out the most attractive (to you) tall prairie grass, wildflowers, and milkweed.
Crush the chosen fronds of tall grass with dried seed pods of any spent blooms in a small bowl. This will be used later in the recipe.
Pluck the ripe, fragrant blossoms of the wildflowers and stir together in a bowl. This mixture should feel soft and moist like a midsummer afternoon in eastern Iowa.
With fingers, stir together the mixtures of crushed grass seeds and dried seed pods with the moist flowers. Notice the consistency of a coffeecake crumble topping.
Into this bowl, add one bullfrog moan, two red winged-blackbird squawks, one house finch chirp, and a cacophony of other birds heard—right now.
Before adding the colorful rays of the setting sun, take a breath. Smell the intoxicating mixture of the batter. Be still, as still as a deer plotting its escape into deepening shadows of protective grasses and thickets of trees.
Then, if desired, for extra flavor, sprinkle into the batter the snorting warning call of the deer as it tries to scare off an intruder.
Lightly butter and then flour the ridges of a Bundt pan with the remnants of cottonwood fluff.
Gradually pour the delicate mixture drop…by…drop…into the deep recesses of the Bundt pan until half-full. Then, pour ribbons of batter, long finger-like rays of sun melting into twilight.
Bake in a warm, not-too-hot oven until dark and fragrant. Check for doneness by looking for fireflies and stars beginning to twinkle and shine, like specks of glitter caught in rising moonlight.