I should have worn my gumboots out today. I was distracted, walking through puddles, my breath still steaming at mid morning. It hailed and the sun came out and was so bright the streets went silver. For a second I thought this freezing cold was worth it, for that shining street. I’m hopeless in the winter, I whinge and whinge and whinge, until Sarah scolds me, and tells me to just please be quiet. Maybe for Sarah, the most irritating thing about winter is not the cold, but me? It seems though, there is forgiveness in an oven, and banana bread warm from it, spread with melting, salty butter.
I googled this recipe for banana bread at my grandmother’s house, the week after her death and before her funeral. I only have a vague memory of making it. At that traumatic time, as family members were gathering one by one, cooking was the only thing I felt that I could do to help. We all eventually came together in her apartment, surrounded by her things, and by her absence. Each family member was greeted with cups of tea, coffee and banana bread.
In Nigella Lawson’s Feast she has a chapter on funeral feasts that highlights the importance of cooking as a process of both mourning, remembrance and a celebration of life. She cooks Rosemary Remembrance Cake in honour of her grandmother. My bread is not so much in honour of my grandmother – it’s too homely a recipe for such a sophisticated woman – the banana bread was for us more about the process of dealing with grief.
I have made this bread many times since, for much more joyous moments, but it retains the ability to comfort. On a day like today, when my feet were icy and wet, I’ll take any excuse to put the oven on.
This recipe is not a blended bread style. I like my banana bread chunky with nuts and dates, so this version leans towards the cake.
1 1/3 cups of self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate soda
2/3 cup of dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 cup of mashed banana
2 free-range eggs
3/4 cup of sour cream
2/3 cup of dates, chopped
1/2 cup of pecans, chopped
Preheat oven to 180C. Sift dry ingredients. Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla and banana to sugar mixture, then when mixed add eggs and sour cream. Add dry ingredients and mix. Add nuts and dates and mix. Pour into loaf tin and bake for an hour and 10 minutes.