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Tears and Bloodshed and Blueberry Pecan Bread

August 8, 2012

Blueberry Pecan Bread

There’s a light breeze blowing this morning. The humidity is low, and it’s cool enough to enjoy a cup of coffee on the deck while I write, which is to say that it’s an all too rare, comfortable summer morning. I’m hunkered down to share a story with you about blueberry bread. It’s a recipe I found in my mom’s recipe box, but one I can’t ever remember her making. Turns out, it’s a delicious bread and it’s perfect with my coffee. I’m thinking about mom, wishing I could ask her where the recipe came from. I’ll never know how she feels about my replacing the vegetable shortening with butter and the sour cream with yogurt. My thoughts are interrupted by a nearby chickadee: fee-beee, fee-beee. The black-capped male bird is perched on a cottonwood branch somewhere above me.

Fee-beee. Fee-beee.

I feel a little like whistling too. Our sweltering summer has offered few mornings as lovely as this one. I scan the branches searching for the bird that’s serenading me and think about my blessings.

Fee-beee. Fee-beee.

I head to the kitchen for a second cup of coffee, my pace slow and leisurely. I’m in no hurry for this morning to end. The chickadee is still singing when I return to my chair and a cardinal has joined his band: purdy, purdy, purdy. I open my notebook to a new page and add this blank slate–this fresh start always filled with possibility–to my list of blessings. Before I can mar the whiteness I remember the golden zucchini sitting on the kitchen counter waiting to be sliced and roasted for yet another Pan Bagnat. This summer all baking and roasting must be done early before the inevitable heat of the day sets in, but I’m reluctant to move from this spot. Thinking of my promise to Greg that I’d make our favorite sandwich for tonight’s picnic dinner gets me moving. We’re spending the evening at Ravinia, our local outdoor music venue. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a starry night, the man I love, good food, and a special occasion bottle of wine–yes, it’s going to be a good day indeed.

Steam is rising from my coffee as I push the chair back from the table. I’ll have the zucchini slices in the oven in short order before my coffee even has a chance to cool. In the kitchen, I’m whistling my own summer song as I slice the bright yellow squash on my mandolin. The squash makes a rhythmic melody too as it glides along the steel.

Whoosh. Whoosh.

And then, in an instant, in a whoosh, my soundtrack comes to an abrupt end. My hand slips off the squash and my thumb slides along the steel. I pull my hand away, too late. I race for the paper towels. It’s bad. I know this before I can muster the courage to look at it. I’m sweating all over. I peek at my thumb; the chunky tip is still attached like a flap though a big sliver of my nail is gone. I’m firing the f-word over and over again so rapidly that it’s hard to tell where the word starts or ends. It’s difficult to tell how bad the cut is–there’s so much damn blood. And now I’m crying, hard, because it really f#$@ing hurts. I want my mommy in the worst way, a feeling I seldom own. In the midst of it all I’m back to thinking about mom. When was the last time I really ached for her?

Greg is at the office. If he were here he’d be a nice consolation prize, but only after I endured a condescending lecture on the finer points of using the mandolin. A lecture isn’t what I need. Then again, I don’t know what I need. Stitches maybe? Should I call Greg? What if I pass out? Who would know?

I manage to pull myself together even as I’m still sobbing. No, Greg can’t help me from his office and hearing my voice thick with tears would only cause him to panic. My heartbeat is pounding in the tip of my thumb. It’s so intense I’m reminded of Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart, and I hold my thumb to my ear. It’s silent. I pull the towel away to see if the bleeding has stopped. Nope. Damn. How can such a tiny digit give up so much blood? The “urgent care” clinic up the street will be an all morning affair, because no one on staff there ever moves at a pace that might suggest urgency. Scratch that.

The bleeding continues but I’ve finally stopped crying. I’m surprised by how cathartic it felt to cry that hard. When was the last time I had a good cry? Hmmm. I wrap a clean paper towel around my thumb, secure it with masking tape and squeeze my hand into a rubber glove. The kitchen is quiet as I pick up what remains of my pretty squash and slowly guide it down the mandolin with my shaking hand. It moves so slowly across the blade that it doesn’t make a sound. No whoosh. No whistling. I finish slicing without maiming myself and thoroughly wash the squash slices. Olive oil. Salt. There, done.

I trade my makeshift Band-aid for the real thing and at last return to the deck. My coffee is cold. The chickadee is gone. And so is the cardinal. My head is heavy from crying. I pick up my pen and face the blank page. It alone is unchanged, and it’s waiting for me.

Blueberry Pecan Bread


    1 1/2 cups pecans, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
    1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
    3 cups white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)
    1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
    4 teaspoons baking powder
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
    1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
    3/4 cup milk
    2 eggs


1 large loaf pan (9 by 5-inch) or 4 mini loaf pans (5-3/4 by 3-1/4-inch)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat the inside of the loaf pan(s) with cooking spray. Evenly sprinkle a 1/2 cup of pecans over the bottom of the pan.
  2. Gently toss together the blueberries with 1/4 cup flour.
  3. Combine the remaining flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Whisk together melted butter, yogurt, milk, and eggs. Add yogurt mixture to flour mixture. Stir until just combined. Don’t over mix. Add the remaining pecans and blueberries. Spread batter into prepared pan.
  5. Bake for 75-90 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. (Adjust the baking time if you are using smaller loaf pans.)
  6. Let pan cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
  7. Remove warm bread from the pan and allow to cool completely before slicing.

Makes 1 large loaf or 4 small loaves.

Oatmeal Fig Bread Try my other favorite quick bread: Oatmeal Fig Bread

13 Comments leave one →
  1. August 8, 2012 3:24 pm

    Perhaps go to the hospital? This happened to a guy at work with a mechanised food processor… it was funny in his case… I’m sorry to hear about your thumb. Still… this bread looks amazing 😀

    • August 9, 2012 12:25 pm

      Thanks Frugal. Hubby said I should have gotten stitches. He put a big bandage on it for me when he got home from work. It will be fine–bleeding has stopped. I never knew how much I used my thumb until now.

  2. August 9, 2012 1:32 am

    You capture an ugly moment so beautifully. I hope your finger is ok.

    • August 9, 2012 12:27 pm

      Aww shucks, thanks Emmy. The thumb hurts like heck still, but it will be fine.

  3. Kristen permalink
    August 9, 2012 11:33 am

    Yikes! I hope your finger is healing nicely! Thanks for the fabulous recipe. The timing was perfect — I needed to bring something to a potluck breakfast at work this morning. Made 4 mini loaves last night and it’s been getting rave reviews from my coworkers today. Bake time for the mini loaves was 40-50 minutest (closer to 50 for me, but my oven runs a little cool).

  4. August 9, 2012 12:29 pm

    Kristen–you made my day! So happy everyone enjoyed the bread. We’re working our way through another loaf today. It’s hard to resist since blueberry season is so short.

  5. August 9, 2012 7:09 pm

    “My heartbeat is pounding in the tip of my thumb.”
    Pure poetry! Hope you heal quickly.

    • August 14, 2012 1:32 pm

      Thank you! Thumb is healing slowly. I’m channeling Michael Jackson wearing a single glove to cook, shower, etc. Unfortunately, my glove is latex and not covered in sequins.

  6. August 13, 2012 12:06 pm

    What the hell!? Best to keep all your digits. Sorry I didn’t comment earlier, duty called. I’ve had the same, though less severe, problem with the mandolin myself. These are the type of accidents that mean a manicure is simply a change of bandaids….

  7. August 13, 2012 12:08 pm

    And two other things–the recipe looks wonderful, and I hope your finger is on the mend.

    • August 14, 2012 1:34 pm

      Thanks Melanie. In case you’re wondering, I think this recipe would work well with gluten free flour.

  8. August 15, 2012 2:56 pm

    Oh man, hope you finger is better. That sounds rough! I totally know the feeling of cathartic crying- I remember falling about 2 years ago holding one of my babies and in attempt not to drop her I twisted my ankle, gashed my knee open and all I could do was cry, cry, cry! The kids still talk about mommy crying. He he. 😦 The bread looks wonderful. I have been buying crates full of blueberries from the Farmer’s Market. Must try this one. Hope you are well (finger aside)! 😉

  9. Lee Grannon permalink
    August 30, 2012 3:38 pm

    Mandolins are scary! My wife, Kim (you used to work with her) bought one recently and the first time using it ended up with a nasty cut on her finger. That same night I cut myself on it while doing dishes. Since then the evil device has been banished to the back of the cupboard hopefully never to be seen again.
    That blueberry bread looks fantastic, I must talk wifey into making it 🙂
    Come and visit Kim up here in Canada one day, she would love that!

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