Living in New York City, and not having one of those swanky apartments with central air, I avoid cooking, and baking just about everything that has to deal with an oven or stove the months of May through August. It’s just too hot! And without the amazing myth of central air in your apartment, you might as well climb into the oven with that roast.
But, it’s finally fall. We’re halfway through September. The days are cooler, and shorter, the kiddos are back in school, and I can break out my knee high leather boots, sexy little black dress, and crank up my oven to full productivity.
It’s something I do every year. Fall comes around and I start baking. My friends love and hate that I do this, because unfortunately, I am a single lady living in the city, and my family, who would benefit most from my baking abilities, is non existent (yet) or are located a couple of time zones away in rustic Montana, thus rendering me unable to share my wonderful talents of making muffins, breads, cookies, pies, casseroles, and the occasional roast. But my friends, grin and bear it, because more often than not, what I give them from my oven, outshines anything they can pick up in a bakery. Mostly because it’s made with love.
Who am I kidding? Of course it’s because it’s made with love!
When it comes to my baking, I have my standbys, my regulars, the whole “it’s not fall without ’em” recipes. And my friends have their favorites. “Can you make [favorite baked good here] so I can bribe my mother in law to still like me?” It’s nice to be needed, and wanted. To tell you the truth though, I don’t get to experiment as often as I would like. It’s one of the downfalls of having so many “go-to’s”.
But there is one that always delivers, and is usually the first item out of my newly reinvigorated oven.
Grandma Addy's Banana Bread
The Chocolate Chip Muffin Variation
It is my standard. My go to. My “everything is going wrong so I need a little taste of childhood and home” comfort food. It’s perfect because at it’s most basic, it’s a slice of heaven in the morning, toasted with a little bit of butter. At it’s fanciest, it’s filled, and topped with chocolate chips in lieu of a cupcake. I’ve made full loaves, mini loaves, muffins, mini muffins, with & without chocolate chips, a gluten free version, one packed full of that gluten stuff. Any time it comes out the oven, in any form, I go home.
The recipe doesn’t call for anything overly crazy. There is no secret ingredient that would make or break the recipe. But I can honestly say, it’s my favorite banana bread that I’ve ever had, and the only one that I’ve ever made. It will probably be the only one that I ever willingly make too. I will grudgingly admit that should I ever find the love of my life, and their favorite recipe is a different banana bread recipe, I would make it. But only once a year for their birthday.
Everyone has their favorite family recipe. And everyone has their own version of that family recipe. (I can honestly say that my mother and I differ on one matter when mixing the batter: she uses butter flavored Crisco/shortening, I use the hard stuff – butter.) But the magic of the family recipe is not how you make it, or who originated it, but where the recipe has been, and where it takes you. There are moments of my life that are irrevocably tied to this recipe, and every time I think about baking it, I take a journey through my life. A journey filled with love, joy, heartbreak, reverence, and really good banana bread…
I am a small child sitting at Grandma Addy’s kitchen table, and getting my very own full slice.
I am five & sitting around dinner with my brothers, and eating a slice after finishing my entire plate of food. Dad got have his with butter, we kiddos had to suffer through the unadulterated goodness of plain old magic.
I am six years old & learning to read Grandma Addy’s cursive handwriting as I read off the recipe to my mom, as she teaches me how to make it. Grandma Addy had passed on; it is one of the only things we have in her handwriting.
I am eight, and making muffins of the stuff with my best friend Jennie, who lives next door. It’s an experiment. We do one batch with chocolate chips, one without. The chocolate chip ones are scientifically better.
I am sixteen and making it the first time without any help or guidance from my mom. I’ve watched her, and helped her so many times, it’s almost second nature. I pull out Grandma’s recipe on pink construction paper, and read it reverently as I follow the instructions.
I am twenty four, in my current apartment, opening a package from my mother. Inside is a small little dollar store memo book. It’s spiral bound and has a blue cover. On the first page is Grandma Addy’s Banana Bread recipe, written in my own mother’s handwriting. I smile, and start gathering the ingredients… The tradition continues.