My mom always kept bananas in the house when I was growing up. None of us were particularly fond of the fruit but it was her go-to answer whenever someone asked for a sweet treat after dinner.
“Have a banana,” she’d suggest.
“I don’t want a banana,” I’d grumble.
“Then go do your homework.”
Every few months, the bananas would lose their battle. Sitting under the morning sun in an antique scale by the window, we would all bypass the offering. As the golden skin transitioned to muddy brown, I got excited. You see, you need exactly three overripe bananas to make banana bread, the culinary conversion of healthy fruit to sinful indulgence.
Amongst the clutter of my mom’s cookbooks sat a publication from a local Jewish organization. A group of congregants pooled their favorite recipes and then hocked it for cash. God I love my people. Anyway the best banana bread recipe was tucked in that book. Every time I made a loaf, people gobbled it up before it had time to cool.
But the last time I made banana bread, things got a little messed up. Okay fine, it was a complete catastrophe. I pulled the cookbook from the shelf, mixed everything together and then slipped it into the oven. One hour later, I went to poke a toothpick in the center and found the contents of the loaf pan to be in the original soupy state. I closed the oven door and checked back later. After four hours of trying to set the bread, I realized I had forgotten to fold in the dry ingredients. Meaning I had been boiling the wet ones for the better part of the afternoon. That was 1989 and it was the last time I made banana bread.
“I’m craving a banana,” I said to my coworker Tuesday morning.
“Darn, I picked one up at WaWa on my drive in but I already ate it,” she said with a sigh. “I have three at home but they’re way overripe. Like they’re starting to smell,” she said with a squinch of her nose.
“Oooh, banana bread,” I swooned, my mouth watering at the mere thought of the delicacy.
The next morning I got into work and found three overripe bananas on my desk.
I didn’t leave the office until around seven o’clock that night. Before turning off the lights and setting the alarm, I packed up everything I needed to take home including the bananas. I stopped around the corner to drop an UPS overnight envelope. I detoured to Barnes & Noble to purchase a few books. And then I went to Wholefoods to splurge for dinner.
An hour after leaving the office, I was in my kitchen. I plugged my laptop into an outlet and set it atop my microwave. A quick search led me to a recipe and I got down to business. Kanye and Mandy, Sarah and KT serenaded me as I multi-tasked the oven. I mixed ingredients while searing my steak. I sipped wine while alternating my focus between sauteing chopped zucchini and folding chips and walnuts into the batter. And as I harmonized with Eric, I staggered half buzzed to the oven and slid the loaf pan onto the middle shelf. With an hour until the bread was to be done, I dumped everything in the sink, dimmed the kitchen lights and retired to the sofa with my dinner and third glass of wine.
If someone asked me today to note my biggest fears, I’d list obvious things like not making it as a writer or not sharing my life with someone who sets my belly aflutter. Or maybe I’d say seeing my dad succumb to his illness or receiving a phone call that Leslie is gone. All of those things would devastate me. But I’d be remiss if I failed to note my fear of cooking banana bread. My last effort left me shamed and the more time that passed, the more I became convinced the flour mishap wasn’t the rare occurrence but instead the norm. For a foodie, this is a hard truth to accept.
If you couldn’t tell from the last few posts, I’ve been in a little bit of a gray state. I’m happy but I’m anxious. Every evening that I come home, I rush to my mailbox and fling the door open with the hopes of finding an acceptance letter. Every morning that I awake, I feel unsettled and tired, my puffy eyes and tense neck evidence of my desire to have the future all sorted out. But as I sat on my sofa scanning the pages of a book, I melted as the aroma of buttery banana bread filled my apartment. And when I got up to remove the loaf pan from the oven, I lowered my nose closer, took a deep breath and filled my lungs with the sweet smell of happiness. That’s when the gray lifted. That’s when I knew that no matter what comes down the pike, everything will be just fine.