One of my new habits now that we’ve been quarantined for several months has become baking. Banana bread, specifically. And I’m not sure why. Yes, I like it well enough, but there are certainly other things I like to bake more. Maybe it’s because we seem to have a plethora of bananas at the end of each week — too soft and sweet to eat as is — and I feel as if I’m doing something virtuous by saving them in a loaf with sugar.
If there’s anything I’ve learned about these strange times it is that inexplicable things seem to be happening (beyond the obvious, that is). Like why are there painters suddenly painting the exterior apartment doors in our building? Why can I not stop watching Friends reruns every night — and why are there actually episodes that I’ve never seen before? Why is my supermarket out of garlic and gingersnaps? For weeks?
And so my banana bread chronicles have had their own strangeness attached — loaf by loaf. To wit:
Loaf #1 The Low-Fat Version You know how the first rule of Fight Club is “never talk about fight club”? Well, the first rule of banana bread is “never talk about low-fat banana bread.” At least, not the recipe I found. You know how really good banana bread is velvety and moist? Yeah, me too. But not this recipe. Moving on.
Loaf #2 Grandma’s Banana Bread My first clue should have been that I know nothing about any recipe called “Grandma’s Banana Bread.” My grandmother never made anything resembling banana bread — mandel bread, yes (think biscotti, sort of); sponge cake, yes; rugelach, sure. (I’m thinking that bananas weren’t a big thing in the shtetl world she came from.) So, not knowing what to look for, I ventured blindly into a banana bread fiasco that came out tasting blah. But with a craving for chocolate rugelach like nobody’s business.
Loaf #3 Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Okay, now we’re talking, I thought. The best banana bread I’ve ever eaten was in San Francisco, at a diner that served it prepared with cocoa nibs. Oh. My. God. On a scale of one to ten, a luscious 100. At any rate, after finding a recipe for chocolate chip bb (I feel like it’s okay to abbreviate, we’re all friends here), I baked what appeared to be an excellent loaf. It looked perfect — lightly golden brown — and smelled delicious. Ahh. But.
B: “I don’t taste any chocolate.”
Me: “What do you mean?”
B: “I mean, the banana part is good, but there’s no chocolate taste.”
Me: “Of course, there is. I put in almost a full cup of the really good chocolate chips.”
B: “Maybe they melted away? There’s no chocolate in here.”
Me: “What’s wrong with you? Of course there is.” (Taking a bite)
Me: (looking around wildly and spying the cup of chocolate chips on the counter) “Oh.”
Me: (in a small, quiet voice) “I forgot to add them in.”
Me: (in a not so small, not so quiet voice) “I. Forgot. To. Put. Them. In. OKAY?”
B: “Okay, okay! It’s still really good!”
Me: (tearing up) “No it’s not! It’s not chocolate chip banana bread!”
B: (pivots) “Look, sweetie, Friends is on again!”
Lesson learned? One, time for a new hobby, and two, the neighborhood bakeshop that we pass on our daily walks makes amazing banana bread.
You say banana, I say nirvana.
© 2020 Claudia Grossman