Banana bread in my life

No matter how it’s made, it’s always wonderful

Photo Illustration by Tina Flynn

When I was a kid, black bananas in the fruit bowl meant one thing: banana bread.

The task of baking the delectable loaves fell to my older sister, who was, by eighth grade, our chief cook. When the banana bread batter bowl came around, I made sure to lick it clean.

There wasn’t much better than coming home and opening the door to run smack into the pungent aroma of baking banana bread. When it came out of the oven, hot and soft, we’d pull huge chunks out and slather them with butter, scarfing them down without compunction.

I don’t know where my sister got her banana bread recipe. Probably from our mother, who’d probably gotten it from one relative or another. Once my sister left home, I disconcertedly discovered I had to make banana bread myself if I wanted it. Consumed with pursuits other than cooking and baking, I made it only occasionally. After leaving for college, I didn’t bake it for years.

Then, I got married—and a dear friend gave me the quaintest wedding present: a heart-covered cookbook, in which I discovered the most perfect banana bread recipe ever. Banana bread once again created a reference point in my life. I baked it often when my son was young, and the scrumptious fragrance of baking banana bread worked its soothing magic.

Before long, my son started school, then I went back to school, and the afternoons of leisurely baking ended. Somehow, through multiple moves, a divorce and the rearrangement of our lives several times over, I lost the heart-covered cookbook. But every time I saw a bunch of black bananas, I would think of the small, golden loaves, the nutty taste, the satisfaction of making such a delicious and easy treat.

Everything cycles around eventually. My son grew up, and I moved on to new adventures. One day I realized I needed some new challenges. “I need a good cookbook,” I told a friend. “I need to get back into cooking and baking.”

Before long my friend brought me a wrapped package. “A house-warming gift,” she explained. I tore off the paper and found the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.

A few days later, I brought home a big bunch of bananas—a few too many. “I need to make some banana bread!” I said to myself.

Then I remembered my new cookbook, grabbed it and found a banana bread recipe—which, unlike my previous recipes, called for cinnamon. Since I like cinnamon, I added extra.

Before long, a heavenly fragrance filled the house. When I pulled perfect loaves from the oven, I knew I was connected to a long lineage of banana bread bakers.

I cut a messy slice and bit in.

Recipes may come and go, but certain foods give shape, definition and a thread of continuity to our experience. For me, banana bread is one of those foods.

Banana Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (5 medium)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cooking oil or melted butter or margarine
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Grease bottom and half-inch up sides of one 9 x 5 x 3-inch or two 7 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 2-inch loaf pans; set aside. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and 1/4 tsp. salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, bananas, sugar, and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened. Fold in nuts. Spoon batter into prepared pan(s).

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 55 to 60 minutes for 3-inch-deep pan or 40 to 45 minutes for 2-inch-deep pans, or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before slicing.