I came across an intriguing article last week written by Jen Rose Smith, a CNN correspondent. Part of my interest in the Internet lies in the wealth of trivia I am able to access through its ever-amazing portals. Smith’s article helped add to my daily trivia count and gave me some food for thought–Banana Bread!
According to her article, there has recently been a 54% increase in Internet users looking for time-tested homey food recipes. Baking goodies seems to be a coping strategy for many who are sheltering in place. Banana bread recipes head the list. There are, Smith posits, mental health benefits to be gained by the process of making and baking banana bread. The joy and comfort gained by spending time in the kitchen help in managing stress, she writes. The repetitive movements of cracking eggs, adding flour, mashing bananas, mixing and baking are calming and soothing to our minds and bodies.
When I was growing up, baking banana bread was not a common activity in our household. Pumpkin occasionally, and maybe a few other quick breads, made it onto our home goody menus but my mother’s main interest lay in the yeasty variety of breads and dinner rolls. I followed in her footsteps (or should I say floury hands) and have spent many a happy hour in my own kitchen kneading various bread recipes and cutting out cinnamon rolls.
Not all of my efforts were successful. Some of you may recall an article Connie wrote about the family cinnamon roll disaster that appeared in the Advocate when Joe Mc Cammon was owner and publisher. It offered quite a few laughs to readers and some embarrassment to my husband, Bill, and me. Most of the time, however, my baking efforts were fruitful. Looking back, I realize that working with yeast dough was a form of relaxation for me so I can relate to the banana bread bakers’ stress reduction choice.
For thousands of years, bakers had used yeasts to raise their breads. In early American baking, alkaline salts such as potash and pearash were used instead of yeast . This shortened the rising time somewhat. But baking breads really changed when chemical leavening agents were developed, such as baking powder (think famous brandname Clabber Girl) and baking soda in the early 1900’s. Both of these cooking aids were widely distributed and sold to welcoming American housewives because they shortened preparation and baking times. The homemade goodies were named quick breads for obvious reasons and were truly an American invention.
But what about banana bread? Here’s what I found.
By the time the depression occurred in the 1930’s, bananas were widely available as a cheap and nutritious food. Many recipes were developed using them and thus banana bread was born. Its ingredients were available, it was nutritious, it was quick to make and was extremely filling for families on a depression diet. As I write, this I can still remember: the heavy, cloying texture of a piece of homemade banana bread. It fills us up today just as it did years ago .
I don’t have a banana bread recipe to recommend as I must confess, I have not made the concoction myself lately. However, there is a multitude of such recipes to be found in old and new cook books or on the Internet.
In her article about the bread, Smith wrote that Chrissy Teigan, the well-known fashion model, recently traded a loaf of her homemade banana bread for a bunch of romaine lettuce. The lettuce, it seems, was sold out at the stores so she baked the bread and advertised on Facebook for a trade. She got her lettuce and someone got a loaf of banana bread ala Chrissy Teigan. Her recipe? It was a basic foundation but with shredded coconut, chopped dark chocolate and vanilla pudding as add ins.
Hmmm. How nutritious is that?
The word Yesterdish was coined for old recipes that we still use today. Banana bread is a Yesterdish. Next week I am going to feature another Yesterdish so watch for it. In the meantime, if you go right now to your kitchen and whip up a loaf of banana bread, you will be keeping up with the celebs and thousands of others of us who are in need of comfort food in these unusual times.
P.S. Yes, there is a National Banana Bread Day. We missed it. It was Feb. 23rd. Watch for it next year on the same date, 2021!
“The older you get the better you get, unless you’re a banana.” — Betty White