The one good thing about being sick is getting well again, seeing with new eyes all you took for granted. After gingerly eating unbuttered toast, applesauce and chicken noodle soup, you foray back into the world of food, beginning with more substantial soups and buttered rolls, then moving to small portions of meatloaf or candied sweet potatoes, relearning to eat what everyone else is having.
It’s a lot like being a child again, when you’re promoted from milk to pureed vegetables to little bites of normal bread or fruit. Each new food is a taste you’ve not had, a flavor you’ve lived without. And that first bite of banana is so interesting, so different, the feel of it on your tongue, so exciting, that you are thrilled with a world of possibility.
One thing you can say for a banana: it sticks with you, even when you’re coming off a horrible, horrible stomach cleansing. This week, I’ve eaten one almost every day. And, for someone who usually finds the texture of bananas rather unappealing, I really mean that bit about them being exciting now. After 24 hours of nothing special, a banana (and for that matter, a saltine cracker) seemed heaven-sent, which got me thinking: Maybe I should give bananas, in other forms, another shot.
So for a little while this week, I’ve let myself think about a fresh, hot-out-of-the-oven banana bread, soft but sturdy, with substantial slices you could hold in your hand. It would be a tender loaf, cake-like, sweet with the strong, unmistakable flavor of bananas.
Then, appropriately with The Joy of Cooking as my guide, I made one. And from the moment it came out of the oven, as perfect as I had imagined it, all was well again.
I ate a thick end slice immediately, then two more for breakfast, then another the next evening. In fact, I liked the bread so much, I just might scratch what I said first in this post. After all, Banana Bread, this illness brought me you.
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
5 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup mashed, very ripe bananas (about 2)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8.5-by-4.5-inch loaf pan (or, what I did, line it with parchment paper, letting the paper drape over the sides; this makes removing the bread from the pan very easy, as you just lift the paper, bringing the loaf with it).
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together thoroughly the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar, beating it on high speed until the mixture turns lightened in color and texture. Add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar until the consistency of brown sugar.
Gradually beat in the two lightly beaten eggs. Fold in, until just combined, the mashed bananas.
Scrape the mixture into the pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes (mine took the full hour). Let cool in the pan on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes before unmolding to cool completely on the rack.